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Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army Air Corps

Leon William Johnson

  • Rank: Colonel (Highest Rank: General)
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    44th Bombardment Group, 2d Bomb Division,
    9th Air Force
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: August 1, 1943
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Ploesti, Rumania
For conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 1 August 1943. Col. Johnson, as commanding officer of a heavy bombardment group, led the formation of the aircraft of his organization constituting the fourth element of the mass low-level bombing attack of the 9th U.S. Air Force against the vitally important enemy target of the Ploesti oil refineries. While proceeding to the target on this 2,400-mile flight, his element became separated from the leading elements of the mass formation in maintaining the formation of the unit while avoiding dangerous cumulus cloud conditions encountered over mountainous territory. Though temporarily lost, he reestablished contact with the third element and continued on the mission with this reduced force to the prearranged point of attack, where it was discovered that the target assigned to Col. Johnson's group had been attacked and damaged by a preceding element. Though having lost the element of surprise upon which the safety and success of such a daring form of mission in heavy bombardment aircraft so strongly depended, Col. Johnson elected to carry out his planned low-level attack despite the thoroughly alerted defenses, the destructive anitaircraft fire, enemy fighter planes, the imminent danger of exploding delayed-action bombs from the previous element, of oil fires and explosions, and of intense smoke obscuring the target. By his gallant courage, brilliant leadership, and superior flying skill, Col. Johnson so led his formation as to destroy totally the important refining plants and installations which were the object of his mission. Col. Johnson's personal contribution to the success of this historic raid, and the conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty demonstrated by him on this occasion constitute such deeds of valor and distinguished service as have during our nation's history formed the finest traditions of our Armed Forces.
Medal of Honor Recipient Leon W. Johnson
Medal of Honor Recipient Leon W. Johnson
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Moline, Elk County, Kansas
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: November 22, 1943
    England, presented by Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers
  • Born: September 13, 1904, Columbia, Boone County, MO, United States
  • Died: November 10, 1997
  • Buried: Arlington National Cemetery , Arlington, VA
  • Location of Medal: U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center, Carlisle, PA

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