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10/8/01
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*** M. M. "Johny" Johnson***
B-25 Combat Photographer/Gunner

Each squadron had 24 planes in it, 12 of which would be sent out on any given mission. The planes flew in flights of three, and each plane had a pilot, copilot, bombardier, radio-gunner, waist gunner and tail gunner. Each flight also had a navigator in the lead plane.

My oldest brother, Eric, was born while Pops was in North Africa, and my father didnít know for several weeks if the baby was a boy or a girl, as the only information he got was a letter fom my Aunt Dorothy that his wife, Jean and "the baby" were both fine and healthy.

Pop was born November 18, 1916, so he was over 26 when he shipped out. He once told me that the others in the squadron nicknamed him "Gramps" due to his "advanced age". After returning from overseas, he joined my mother and oldest brother in Oklahoma City at Tinker AFB. He was discharged on June 10, 1945 at Sep Cen Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

He flew in B-25 "Mitchell" medium bombers, with a twin tail, two engines and a crew of 5 or 6. Most of the aircraft were built in Kansas City, and the Mitchell was considered the best medium bomber in the Army Air Corps. As a photographer, it was Popsí job to take pictures of the target areas before a mission and of the bomb patterns after an air strike. This meant that he was always flying in the back end of the last plane in the formation. Pop gave me a box with many negatives and prints of photos he took, mainly over Italy, but many unmarked. These may be of interest to a Veterans group or group of war historians, but I donít know where or how to get in touch with anyone of that description. I have one undated picture of Pop standing beside a plane called "Talking for Jo", along with 5 other men (regular crew?). The plane has 38 stars on its side (mission marks?). The background holds no clues for me about the location, but the 489th squadron history has a picture of "Talking for Jo" with MORE mission marks taken on Corsica, sometime in 1944.

Pop told me that his plane crash-landed in the Adriatic Sea once, and the waist gunner couldnít be found in the plane or at the designated rendezvous point (the right wing). The crew used a "buddy system", and Pop had to find this other fellow to be sure he got out. He finally found him standing on the OTHER wing, calmly urinating into the sea. 30 years later, my dad was STILL mad at him for that.

Pop was also on the ground in Yugoslavia (due to a crash landing or bailing out I never learned), where he got some assistance from partisans there to get back to Allied lines. I have some of the "cheat sheets" on onionskin paper used to ask for help in Croat. This episode later caused some discomfort when, as Chief Inspector for Arthur G. McKee Company, Pop was again in Yugoslavia. A government security man began asking Pop questions about his service and escape. Somehow, there were records and Popsí name was in some file in the Yugoslavian governments security apparatus.

On one mission, Pop told me that his squadron bombed a munitions factory near Sarajevo, and on at least one other occasion, they attacked the oil fields at Ploesti (a major fuel source for the Axis, and the scene of some really terrible losses for US aircraft in the April 4, 1943 heavy bomber attack). On one raid over an airfield in Greece, Pop first saw a jet fighter. It terrified him. This raid was launched from Italy, and fighter cover was to be supplied by P-38 fighters equipped with wing tanks to give them enough fuel for the long trip. If the fighters went into action, they had to jettison their fuel tanks, which meant that they could not get back to base. Italian naval rescue units saved many of those who had to ditch into the Adriatic. The commanding officer of the squadron (a colonel) was reduced in rank because of the heavy losses of both fighters and bombers on these raids.

Among the medals, decorations and awards he earned were:
EAME (Europe, Africa, Middle East) Theater Ribbon w/5 Bronze Stars (A bronze star is worn on the ribbon to indicate participation in designated campaigns).

The designated campaigns for Pops service in the the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater are
∑ Air Offensive, Europe 4 Jul 42 - 5 Jun 44
∑ Tunisia 12 Nov 42 - 13 May 43
∑ Sicily 14 May 43 - 17 Aug 43
∑ Naples-Foggia 18 Aug 43 - 21 Jan 44
∑ Rome-Arno 22 Jan 44 - 9 Sep 44
Good Conduct Ribbon

Air Medal w/ 5 Oak Leaf clusters.
Pop was evidently awarded the medal and one Oak Leaf Cluster almost simultaneously, as they were both reported at the same time in the local (Cleveland Ohio) newspapers. Iím not sure when the other awards were made, as I do not have ANY of the actual Oak Leaf Clusters, or any newspaper clippings for them. One of the uniform ribbon bars I do have has a shadow where one would belong, but this also has only 3 Bronze Stars for campaigns, so it was not the last or final version of what Pop would have worn.

(Oak leaf clusters were initially used to denote subsequent awards of the Air Medal. The number of additional awards sometimes became so great that the oak leaf clusters did not fit on the ribbon.)

Distinguished Unit Citation for ground support in North Africa.



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