Johnson and his crewmates worked through the night to pull the wounded and bodies out of the sea.
“Then, after the treaty was signed, we took the first load of occupying troops into Japan,” Johnson said. He remembers Japanese people who bowed and seemed glad at the sailors’ arrival. “They just wanted to get this thing settled,” he said.
After the War, Johnson returned to Minnesota, where his wife, Ardyce, and he raised two sons.
Johnson’s life as a widowed and retired farmer/trucker was pleasantly interrupted in 2010, when he was invited to participate in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
“It was for World War II vets only,” Johnson said as he showed off photographs of himself aboard a plane traveling to the East Coast.
During their visit, participants went sight-seeing to view national monuments and veterans memorials.
“All of us had guys pushing us along in wheelchairs. I had the best, he wheeled me right out in front of the Capitol, then took a picture,” Johnson said.
When those who defended our country during the 1940s in the European and Pacific Theaters pass away, their untold stories can go with them.
“We are losing the World War II vets,” said John Barness, membership director for Lorentz American Legion Post 11.
Johnson is a card-carrying member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Legion. He’s among the veterans who’ve been members of Post 11 for 65-plus years.
He has advice for soldiers who are just returning from service overseas.
“I think they should work with their VFW and the new VA Center in town. They are really helping me.”
Barness and other Post 11 members are organizing ways to honor their longtime members, but Johnson is comfortable with the recognition he’s had from its bartenders.
“For a couple of weeks there, I would walk in the place and I would get a free drink.”
Johnson plans to celebrate his military service by attending an appreciation lunch Tuesday hosted by Northview-North Mankato Mortuary. After that, he will go back to making snowbird plans for the winter — something he really enjoys talking about.
Other veterans may join him at the free meal Tuesday by calling 388-2288 to make reservations.