Gerald W. Johnson (military officer)

Gerald W. Johnson
Nickname(s) Jerry
Born (1919-07-10)10 July 1919
Owenton, Kentucky
Died 9 September 2002(2002-09-09) (aged 83)
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
United States Army Air Forces
 United States Air Force
Years of service 1941-1974
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands held
Battles/wars European Theater of Operations

Gerald W. "Jerry" Johnson (1919–2002) was a high-ranking officer in the United States Air Force and World War II flying ace. Enlisting in 1941, Johnson served as a fighter pilot in Europe, and was credited with shooting down 16 enemy aircraft before being shot down himself and taken prisoner. After the war, he continued his military career rising to command several fighter and bomber wings during the 1950s and 60s. He commanded the Eighth Air Force for a period during the Vietnam War, and retired in 1974 after serving as Inspector General of the Air Force.

Early life

Johnson was born in Owenton, a small town in northern Kentucky, on 10 July 1919.[1]

Military career

In 1941, he entered service with the United States Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet at Randolph Field, Texas. He graduated the following April and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He served with the 56th Fighter Group, flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). He became the first ace of the 56th and the second American ace in the ETO.[2] In February 1944, he was promoted to Major and took command of the 63d Fighter Squadron.[3] He was credited with 16 air-to-air victories. After fifteen months of combat he was shot down and finished the war as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft I. [2]

After the war, he was associated with the fighter forces of Strategic Air Command (SAC), becoming the commander of the 508th Strategic Fighter Wing, flying Republic F-84 Thunderjets in 1954. He remained in SAC after its fighters were transferred, becoming commander of the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, the first Air Force organization to fly the Lockheed U-2, in 1956. Following staff assignments with the 7th Air Division, SAC headquarters and the 12th Strategic Aerospace Division, he returned to command with the 95th Bombardment Wing in 1963.[2]

In 1965, he became the commander of the 305th Bombardment Wing, which set a number of world speed records with the Convair B-58 Hustler during his command.[4] He then commanded the 825th Strategic Aerospace Division. He became vice commander of Second Air Force in 1968 and commander of the 1st Strategic Aerospace Division in 1969.[2]

After another staff tour with SAC headquarters, he became commander of the Eighth Air Force at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, controlling all SAC bombers and tankers in the Pacific during the Vietnam War. His final assignment was as Inspector General of the Air Force, retiring from that position on September 1, 1974.[2]


He was a graduate of Boston University and did graduate work at George Washington University.[2]


Aeronautical ratings


Distinguished Service Cross
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters
Distinguished Flying Cross with four oak leaf clusters
Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Air Force Presidential Unit Citation
American Defence Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with one service star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with four service stars
Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver and two oak leaf clusters

  Croix de Guerre with silver star (France)

  Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross

  Vietnam Campaign Medal



  1. Scheibner, Hildegard (13 September 2002). "Flying 'ace' flew 88 missions in WW II". Herald Tribune. Sarasota, FL. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Biography, Lieutenant General Gerald W. Johnson". United States Air Force. January 1, 1974. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  3. Freeman, p. 278
  4. Ravenstein, pp. 150–151



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