Yes, Mr. Johnson was in for it.
The carnage he was to experience would be absent even from the worst possible nightmare a nineteen year old boy can possibly have dreamed.
Violence no young boy of 19 should have to endure.
He would have two lives after he stepped into that Marine Corps recruiting station: one of reality during the day and of a nightmare he would never awaken from at night.
I was not close to Mr. Johnson as I was to Old Man Jack; perhaps it was because for the first five years after I moved into this patriotic Naval neighborhood, he and his good wife Marge traveled about the US in their motorhome. They were gone for perhaps six to eight months out of the year. Man, did they enjoy seeing the US of A. After all, he fought for her.
He stayed indoors most of the time when at home while Marge would walkabout during the warm summer nights with her wine and chat with neighbors and me. She enjoyed her Chablis very much. Slowly, her legs would give way to age. Mr. Johnson’s, too.
In the early part of 1942, Mr. Johnson found himself on a little boat out in the middle of the Pacific – the Big E.
The USS Enterprise.
She was one of only three operational carriers in the Pacific. The Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown.
The Battle for Midway
He was on his way to the Battle of Midway (Mr. Johnson did not tell me that. Old Man Jack did.). June of 1942.
A tremendous gamble of scarce naval assets and young men by Admiral Nimitz.
PFC Doreston “Johnnie” Johnson manned her anti-aircraft batteries as a US Marine.
Thousands of young lives were lost during the most critical sea battle – on both sides. But the critical gamble paid off for the US. The Japanese Imperial Navy lost four carriers. They would never recover.
But we lost the Yorktown. A tremendous loss for the United States…but the tide of war changed.
Miraculously, the Enterprise escaped damage.
And as far as I understand, so did the young boy from Basile, Louisiana, Mr. Johnson.
At least physically.
Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands Campaign
His next trial would be Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands campaign.
It would be an insult to to all the brave men that were there if I were to even try and express in writing what brutal sea combat was like.
I was not there. But every young man there thought – every second – that there was a bomb coming at him. Constantly.
Like hearing shrapnel from near bomb misses ricocheting off the batteries – or striking flesh. The deafening, unending thundering of “whump-whump-whump” from AA batteries. The yelling. The sound of a mortally wounded enemy plane crashing into the water nearby with a likewise young pilot. The screams of wounded or dying boys.
This is taken from a naval summary: “After a month of rest and overhaul, Enterprise sailed on 15 July for the South Pacific where she joined TF 61 to support the amphibious landings in the Solomon Islands on 8 August. For the next 2 weeks, the carrier and her planes guarded seaborne communication lines southwest of the Solomons. On 24 August a strong Japanese force was sighted some 200 miles north of Guadalcanal and TF 61 sent planes to the attack. An enemy light carrier was sent to the bottom and the Japanese troops intended for Guadalcanal were forced back. Enterprise suffered most heavily of the United States ships, 3 direct hits and 4 near misses killed 74, wounded 95, and inflicted serious damage on the carrier. But well-trained damage control parties, and quick, hard work patched her up so that she was able to return to Hawaii under her own power.”
“Repaired at Pearl Harbor from 10 September to 16 October, Enterprise departed once more for the South Pacific where with Hornet, she formed TF 61. On 26 October, Enterprise scout planes located a Japanese carrier force and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Island was underway. Enterprise aircraft struck carriers, battleships, and cruisers during the struggle, while the “Big E” herself underwent intensive attack. Hit twice by bombs, Enterprise lost 44 killed and had 75 wounded. Despite serious damage, she continued in action and took on board a large number of planes from Hornet when that carrier had to be abandoned. Though the American losses of a carrier and a destroyer were more severe than the Japanese loss of one light cruiser, the battle gained priceless time to reinforce Guadalcanal against the next enemy onslaught.
Regardless of who is correct – and we’ll never know for obvious reasons – Enterprise gunners shot down more planes at Eastern Solomons in 15 minutes and at Santa Cruz in 25 minutes than did the vast majority of all battleships, carriers, cruisers and destroyers throughout the entire war.
She was the last operating carrier in the Pacific.”
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the violence of World War II, perhaps these photos will give you an idea.
Try – just try – to imagine you are on that ship… Nineteen years old. The Japanese planes are shooting at you and dropping bombs on you. Dead and wounded boys are everywhere. Fires are raging… The ship is listing…and through all this, you must continue to man your anti-aircraft guns… Protecting the ship and the lives of your fellow Americans.
Remember these young boys. I always will.
Mr. Johnson was one of them.
Mr. Johnson was one of those wounded.
And I have proof of his valor and guts on board as a US Marine.
More to come in Part III.
29 thoughts on “Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part II”
it’s so sad! i wish there were no such thing as war.
Wow. That was quick!
that’s the second time today i have been told i’m quick on my responses..lol
Brilliant Post! God bless Mr. Johnson and those he served with, I will never forget!
To think… Even if a young man survived the combat, the sheer terror and sights would plague ALL of them from that day on. Indeed, we should ALWAYS remember them – and what is sad is that we will largely not know who they were individually. I am hoping, however, to allow readers to know two of them here.
You are doing a fine job, I feel like I know them personally!
Oh Koji, the picture of the Enterprise on fire and your comment that Mr. Johnson was on her. That image…trying to picture the reality of those young men on that ship. You are honoring him, and them all. God bless them. All.
More to come…
Hold on to your black belt there…or please go do something other something you SHOULD BE. LOL
Hahahahaha! 🙂 I’m waiting patiently. And doing absolutely NOTHING I “should” be doing. But thoroughly enjoying what I am doing. 🙂
We may have to bury the bodies of our fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen, but their spirit can never be buried. God bless them all, for now and ever more.
Thank you, sir. What wonderful heartfelt words. I am sure they are smiling from up there…
Amazing Post!!! Real Heroes!!! Nuff Said!!!
I thank you for reading…but neither of them ever thought of themselves as heroes. They did say at times, “I did what I had to do.” 🙂
very touching – the pictures gave me time to reflect on those young men and the reality of what they had to endure. My husband and I were discussing the war in the Pacific and we feel sometimes that it is the forgotten war, thank you for remembering and sharing these stories so that we will never forget.
My best to your husband… My mission will be fulfilled if ONE American takes hold of their sacrifices and passes it down to the next generation…no matter what country or nationality.
You are succeeding in your mission. Now to get the powers that be to read and maybe just maybe we can say good bye to the horrors of war.
Great post. Thank you for honoring them all in this wonderful tribute.
Thank you, sir.
My mission is to NOT allow their sacrifices to be forgotten… to be remembered and passed down to the next generations.
KOJI, You never cease to amaze me with your writing ability……..We have never met but seem to know each other, how awsome is that !! Our common interest in Roush Mustangs have formed our friendship…..As you know My Dad as well as Ward’s were both in WW II……My Dad in the Aleution Islands in the Army/AirCorps and Ward’s Dad in the Army at Hickam Field at the time of the attack on America in the Pearl Harbor bombing…..That Anniversary will be tomorrow , December 7 th……..I just hope that our younger generation understands what Hero’s we have that have defended our Great Country in history and at the present time …… This war is everybit as deadly as the wars of the past and with only 1% of Americans in our military now, I think Freedom is being taken for granted ……..That should never happen now or in the future……God Bless Our Military Hero’s ………
Thank you so much for your heartfelt comments and for going through the registration process to do so! And as for your representatives from the Greatest Generation, I salute them. Indeed, I am so concerned of the desk jockeys thinking the next wars will be electronically fought… drones, satellites, what have you. But one nuke or virus can take away our liberties in an instant… I share your concerns fully… Thanks again!! Long live Ford Mustangs! 🙂
Came over from Colleen’s place and was very moved by this beautiful poignant homage to Mr. Johnson and so many of our fallen heroes. Wish there were no such thing as war, large and small. Thank you. Paulette
You tell a forgotten story in a way that brings the reader right into the scene of action. Up close and personal, as you have said. Glad to travel along. Also, thanks for passing by my blog.
And thank you for your visit as well to read about just one elderly man who went to war as a teenager…
Thanks for posting this story!