Tue, October 14, 2008

WWII Medal of Honor Donation to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center

News – For Immediate Release
October 14, 2008
Contact : Brandi Buchman          
                                        WWII Medal of Honor Donation to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
During a reunion for the veterans of the 44th Bomber Group, the Army Heritage and Education Center will be presented with a donation of a Medal of Honor by Leon Abbott, the grandson of General Leon William Johnson. Then Colonel, Leon Johnson was awarded the Medal of Honor on 22 November 1943, for his leadership as commanding officer of the 44th Bomber Group in a daring low flying air raid on the largest Nazi-held Ploesti oil refinery in Romania on 1 August 1943. 
The Ploesti Raid, also known as “Operation Tidal Wave” was one of the most costly operations in terms of planes and crew losses during World War II for the United States. The 44th Bomb Group commanded by Colonel Johnson lost eleven of its thirty-seven planes during the raid.
General Leon Johnson was born September 13, 1904 in Columbia, Missouri. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as a second lieutenant in the Infantry. After serving three years with the 17th Infantry, Johnson attended flying school. In March 1930, he was transferred to the Army Air Corps.  He was promoted to general in August 1957 and later retired in 1961; only to return to active duty a few weeks later. He served more than 40 years in the Army and the Air Force, retiring a second time in 1965. 
Johnson’s awards included: the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He died November 10, 1997 at the age of 93 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
According to the eulogy given by Colonel William B. Taylor III, “Whereas Omar Bradley was acknowledged as the “Soldier’s General,” General Johnson was acknowledged as the “the Airman’s General,…..”. Taylor also went on to account the article written by Andy Rooney, then Stars and Stripes Correspondent about Colonel Johnson’s receipt of the Medal of Honor. Rooney wrote that as soon as Colonel Johnson found out that he was receiving the Medal of Honor “he wrote to the family of every man who went down on the Ploesti Raid, to tell them he did not feel he had exclusive ownership of the Medal, but was accepting it for every man in his outfit who took part in the Ploesti Raid.”  
Making only the second Medal of Honor to be donated to the Army Heritage and Education Center, it will make a valuable addition to the 44th Bomber Group collection, particularly due to the status of being one of the U.S. military's highest awards for gallantry in combat, of which can not be sold, bought or possessed by anyone other than the recipient, the recipients family, or a federal institutions. 
In addition to the presentation of the medal, the finding aid to the newly processed, 44th Bomb Group Collection will be presented to 44th Bomb Group Veterans Association during its reunion.  The 44th Bomb Group Collection was donated in the fall of 2006 by C. W. “Will” Lundy, Association Historian, on behalf of the 44th Bomb Group Veterans Association. The fifty-seven box collection contains histories of the 44th and its Squadrons, the 66th, 67th, 68th and 506th
Including,historical summaries, war diaries, correspondence, crew lists, missing air crew reports (MACR), mission lists and calendars, flight logs, reports, maps, and photographs to include: nose art, in-flight, personnel, and aircraft crashes.   
Activated on January 15, 1941, the 44th Bomb Group was the first American air unit to be assigned the new B-24 Liberator bomber. During the war, the 44th Bomb Group saw extensive action flying 344 missions to include 8400 individual sorties. On these missions, the Group lost 153 of its B-24s and 850 members of its crews.     
The ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 18th at 9:30 a.m. in Ridgway Hall, at the Army Heritage and Education Center. Members of the media and visitors are welcome to attend. For additional information please contact Brandi Buchman at 717-245-3012.