Howard John Johnson
Private First Class - 1st US Inf Div, 18th Inf
From: Stephenville, Erath County, Texas
Served in: World War II
Wounded in Action
Wounded in Action
PFC Howard Johnson was injured on Oct. 17, 1944, near Aachen, Germany. At daybreak, the German Army attacked a hill just to the front and right of Johnson’s unit. In his own words, “…a big self-propelled gun began to advance across the valley with troops following behind it. It was armored like a tank and sported an .88 gun. A spotter walked behind it for protection with a mike and earphone directing its fire. Several of us were in our foxholes, others in the pillbox as we saw the muzzle of the .88 swing our way. The .88 fired very fast in clips of three rounds. The gun opened up on our pillbox, using fragmentation shells and bouncing them off the pillbox. When they hit the concrete bunker, pieces of hot metal flew in all directions. We began firing at the troops behind the gun. They would hit the ground for a time and then jump up and run to catch up with the vehicle. Our CP was located in another bunker to our left. I could hear our Lt. calling on the radio and phoning for artillery fire, but he wasn’t getting through. The supporting fire we desperately needed never came.
Our bunker received three more .88 shells, and a piece of hot metal hit my right forearm. I knew I’d been hit; how bad, I didn’t know. I couldn’t hold my rifle. I called out to Sgt. Bobs that I’d been hit. “Go back behind you under the hill. There’s a medical unit set up there,” he yelled. Down the back of the hill I went while the battle continued above me.
I found a medical unit of the 30th Infantry Division located in a stable near a farmhouse. I sat down on a mound of hay and waited. There were many wounded and hurt worse than I, and they were getting the attention of the medics. One corpsman did give me a shot of morphine and tagged me when I arrived. Later they sprinkled sulfa powder over the wound and bandaged the arm. After the morphine I didn’t feel a thing.”
The shell fragment shattered bone in Johnson’s forearm and caused nerve damage that left his right arm and hand partially paralyzed the rest of his life.
After the Conflict
PFC Johnson headed back to Texas by way of Holland, Paris, England then New York. After several surgeries on his arm, Johnson was given a disability discharge.
While overseas, Johnson received a “Dear John” letter from his girlfriend back home. When he returned to Stephenville, he renewed an acquaintance with Elizabeth Gaines Parks. She lost her first husband to war in the Phillipines and had a young son. Howard and Elizabeth Johnson married Dec. 31, 1946.
Johnson worked several jobs in those early post-war years. He worked for the postal service and what was then called the Texas Highway Department. Johnson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard Payne University and taught high school for a short while. He eventually answered a call to ministry and spent 40 years in the Methodist Church.
Howard and Elizabeth had another son in 1948 and a daughter in 1962. They raised all three children in the west central Texas area and lived in San Angelo during their golden years. Howard died at age 87 on September 18, 2009, in San Angelo. He was a hero and inspiration to his children and grandchildren.