Thursday, December 8, 2005

Decorated hero leaves medals to museum

Staff Writer

One of Holly Springs’ offspring who fought in the Pacific theater in World War II found a home for his memorabilia.

William T. Johnson, born at Galena, the son of Will Johnson, recently donated his war medals to the Marshall County Historical Museum.

He was accompanied by his nephew Hoyt Johnson and niece Sue Johnson Hensley of Huntsville, Ala.

Johnson, who was on KP duty at Fort Riley, Kansas, the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, volunteered for the Army and rose to the rank of sergeant while serving four years, some months and some days.

A soldier in the 1st Cavalry Division, Johnson served in the last mounted cavalry unit before the U.S. military converted entirely to modern vehicle transportation.

“Our uniform was boots, britches and a big-brim hat,” Johnson said.

His horse was named Toby.

Johnson served on the Admiralty Island in the Pacific and in the North and East Island of New Guinea, before he was discharged from the Bismarck Archipelago.

He received three bronze stars, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

Johnson was awarded the Sliver Star while serving on Los Negros Island, where he volunteered to scout behind enemy lines and bring back wounded Americans. He brought back five Americans while under enemy fire.

He was wounded in the hand on Leyte Island while protecting a road block from Japanese machine gun attack while he was laying down mortar fire. Johnson and six other men were successful in holding the roadblock overnight and at daylight counted 27 dead Japanese around the roadblock.

The bronze star was created by Congress Feb. 4, 1944 and is given to soldiers who distinguish themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.

The silver star, created by Congress in 1918, recognizes individuals for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force. The purple heart is given to those wounded in action.

After the war Johnson became a master mechanic for Camel truck lines in Memphis. He retired from there on Feb. 4, 1984, and now lives in Batesville next door to his son Jerry Johnson. His daughter, Sandra Calabrese, lives in Plantation, Fla.

Hensley recommended that other veterans plan to donate their memorabilia to the museum.

“As veterans get older and want a meaningful place for their memorabilia, they should look no further than the Marshall County Historical Museum,” Hensley said.

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