Vernon Johnson

Captain Vernon O Johnson was assigned to the 301st BG 32nd Squadron.
Military Occupational Specialty (MOS): Pilot.

2nd Lt. Johnson volunteered for a Thankgiving night mission on November 25, 1944. He took off from Foggia (Lucera) without his regular navigator James Wildrick ( One hour into the flight an engine caught fire. They turned to return to Lucera, dropped bombs in Adriatic, and were told that the landing strip was blocked by another plane crash and were directed to Iesi. The crew stayed with him, they had to crash land the plane. The tail broke off and the two Waist Gunners survived. Vernon, was blown through the side of the plane, broke both legs and was burned over much of his upper body, including to the shoulder bone. A farmer found him in burning gasoline and took him to a hospital. The rest of the crew died including a close friend, Boswell.

KiA crew members were Lt. James Boswell (353rd BS); Lt. Jack Malloy (353rd BS); Lt. Francis Hanley, Moses Stone, Melvin Humphrey, David Guyre, Joseph Sabo (all 32nd BS)

Lt. Wildrick wrote a month after the crash, “"….We are all proud of Johnny and so happy for him for now he is forever rid of this hellish business of war. Our only regret is that we, the members of our crew who still must fly, have lost the best pilot the Air Corps ever produced." He spent over two years in military hospitals and retired as a Captain in the Air Corps.

Written about Vernon, March 27th, from "Mac" (McCarthy; someone in the hospital in Italy with him who wrote awkwardly with left hand as right in excruciating pain; and shrapnel on the brain not yet removed): "...Looking back, John, the moment I hold as the most poignant and nostalgic of my War experiences occurred at the 26th Gen [military temp hospital] last New Years Eve. If you recall you started "Auld Lang Syne" just as the lights went out. Jeez, John, I cried that night, drunk with the feeling of comradeship that emanates from that place. When, at the end of my life, someone were to ask me if I thought life was worth the living, remembering that scene, alone, I could honestly answer, "yes". Your comrade, Mac." [At that time, Vernon had just had left foot removed, no use of right foot, right arm immobilized for failing skin grafts on shoulder. And still sang.]

He died in 1987, after a rich life, except Thanksgivings which haunted him forever.

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The following information on Vernon Johnson is gathered and extracted from military records. We have many documents and copies of documents, including military award documents. It is from these documents that we have found this information on Captain Johnson. These serviceman's records are nowhere near complete and we are always looking for more material. If you can help add to Vernon Johnson's military record please contact us.

Date Order Award Ribbon & Device Document Originator Rank Status


General Order (GO)* : 4257

AM Air Medal

Air Medal (AM)

Issuing Authority: 15th Air Force

Current Rank: 2nd Lt

* Documents are of the type/classification of "General Order" for most award documents. The listed documents are GO, General Order unless otherwise stated. For example. Special Orders.

The Issuing Authority is the Command and author of the document.

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