Johnnie Johnson (RAF officer)
Infobox Military Person
name= James Edgar "Johnnie" Johnson
9 March 1915– 30 January 2001
Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, England
Air Vice Marshal
branch= air force|United Kingdom
World War II Korean War
Companion of the Order of the Bath Commander of the Order of the British Empire Distinguished Service Order& Two Bars
Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
Air Vice MarshalJames Edgar "Johnnie" Johnson CB, CBE, DSO & Two Bars, DFC and Bar ( 9 March 1915– 30 January 2001) was a Royal Air Force(RAF) pilot who, during the Second World War, shot down 34 confirmed enemy aircraft, as well as seven shared victories, three shared probables, ten shared damaged and one destroyed on the ground. This score made him the highest scoring Western Allied pilot against Luftwaffeaircraft, thus officially becoming the British, and Western Allied flying ace, with the greatest number of victories in the European Theatre of World War II. Only Marmaduke Pattleclaimed more kills in the RAF. (However not all of Pattle's claims can be verified and confirmed.)
Johnson was initially rejected by the RAF on medical grounds, but the outbreak of war, and the need for pilots saw Johnson accepted. However, his injury problems resurfaced and he missed the
Battle of Britain.Johnson took part in the offensive sweeps over occupied Europe from 1941-44, and saw combat during the Battle of Normandy.Johnson scored his last victory in September 1944, but he continued to fly combat missions to the last day of the war.Johnson continued his career in the RAF after the war, and served in the Korean War.Johnson eventually retired in 1966, at the rank of Air Vice Marshal. Johnnie Johnson died in 2001.
Johnson was born in
Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, England, and was educated at Loughborough Grammar Schooland the University of Nottinghamwhere he qualified as a civil engineer. He would shoot rabbits and birds in the countryside. There is also a story of him being found in the school's swimming pool with a young lady, which was very tabooat the time. He was expelled from the school due to this incident. He also sustained a broken collar boneplaying rugby unionin 1938. Johnson found the wound had been improperly set, and thus did not properly heal. [Johnson 2000, p. 45.]
Johnson applied to join the Auxiliary Air Force, but the bone injury meant he was rejected on medical grounds; he then joined the
Leicestershire Yeomanry, where the injury was not a bar to recruitment. However, standards became more forgiving as the RAF expanded, and he later successfully applied to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Johnson worked as a civil engineer in Nottingham before the war. [ [http://www.acesofww2.com/UK/aces/johnson_je.htm James Edgar "Johnnie" Johnson] ]
econd World War
In August 1939 Johnson was called up. Johnson spent the next year training at RAF Hawarden in
Wales.During his training flights, the inexperienced Johnson stalled and crashed his Spitfire. Johnson had his harness straps on too loose, and wrenched his shoulders. The Spitfire did a ground loop, ripping off one of the under-carriage legs and forcing the other up through the port mainplane. The Commanding Officer excused Johnson, for the "short airfield" was difficult to land on for an inexperienced pilot. However Johnson got the impression he would be watched closely, and felt that if he made another mistake he would be "certainly washed out". [Johnson 2000, p. 29.] After training, he posted to No. 19 Squadron as a probationary Pilot Officerin the following August, though he was soon transferred to 616 Squadron at Coltishall. [LondonGazette|issue=34937|startpage=5346|date= 3 September 1940|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] . At this point, Johnson had "only" flown 205 hours, of which 23 hours were flying Spitfires. [Johnson 2000, p. 31.] However his injury continued to trouble him, and he found flying extremely painful. He opted to have an operation that would correct the problem, but as it turned out this meant he missed the Battle of Britain.
Johnson had tried to pack the injured shoulder with wool, held in place by adhesive tape. He also tightened the straps to reduce vibrations. Johnson found he had lost his "feel" in his right hands, and they became numb. When he practised dives, the pressure also aggravated his shoulder. He often tried to fly using his left hand only, but the Spitfire would have to handled with both hands during anything other than simple manoeuvres. [Johnson 2000, p. 46.]
Eventually he approached a doctor about the problem. Johnson had hoped for discreet treatment, but word soon reached the C.O, and Johnson was taken off flying duties and sent to the RAF Hospital at Rauceby. He did not return to the squadron until December 1940. [Johnson 2000, p. 48.]
Fighter Sweeps: 1941-1943
Johnson returned to operational flying in early 1941, and with 616 Squadron forming part of the Tangmere Wing Johnson often found himself flying alongside the legendary Wing Commander
Douglas Bader. Johnson was to fly various marks of the Supermarine Spitfirethroughout the war and was undoubtedly one of that fighter's greatest exponents.Proving himself both a capable fighter pilot and excellent formation leader, Johnson opened his account by claiming a Bf 109fighter in May 1941. Flying extensively through the summer fighter offensives he was quickly promoted [LondonGazette|issue=35260|startpage=5026|endpage=5027|date= 29 August 1941|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] [LondonGazette|issue=35727|supp=yes|startpage=4277|date= 29 September 1942|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] and by June 1942 Johnson was in command of 610 Squadron. Johnson led his squadron through Operation Jubileethe Allied amphibious assault on the port of Dieppe. After shooting down a Fw 190, Johnson had what he considered his most difficult combat of the war, embroiled in an exhausting and hectic dogfight with a single Fw 190, and only managing to escape by power-diving through the AA barrage over the Allied destroyer screen. [Johnson 2000, pp. 143–145.]
During leave, in November 1942, he married Pauline Ingate, and they had two sons. [Johnson 2000, p. 149.]
In March 1943, now an acting Wing Commander, he took over the Canadian Wing stationed at
RAF Kenley. Despite initial resistance to a British Wing Leader from his tough, obstinate Canadian charges, he quickly won them over with his sheer force of personality. The unit, now flying the Spitfire Mk. IX, became one of the highest scoring fighter wings of the time. Johnson chose his radio call-sign at this time as "Greycap." During offensive sweeps over Europe and as escorts to the USAAF heavy bomber streams, he personally claimed 14 victories during the summer of 1943. Johnson's tour ended in September 1943 with a score of 25 kills. At this time he had been given a substantive promotion to Squadron Leader, [LondonGazette|issue=36140|supp=yes|startpage=3736|date= 17 August 1943|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] being given a desk job at No.11 Group Headquarters until March 1944, when he was put in charge of 144 (RCAF) Wing.
Normandy and Germany: 1944-45
Johnson scored his 28th victory on
5 May 1944Johnson became the highest scoring ace still on operations. After D-Day in June 1944, Johnson added further to his tally, claiming another 10 aircraft shot down from March- July 1944. It was during this time that Johnson scored his 30th aerial victory after bouncing a formation of Bf 109s over Argentan. Two days later Johnson destroyed two more Bf 109s over the same area, equalling Sailor Malan's record score of 32 kills. [Johnson 2000, p. 242.] [ [http://acesofww2.com/Canada/aces/Mcleod.htm "British Air Ace ties for the lead"] ] On 30 June 1944, Johnson scored his 33rd aerial victory, yet another Bf 109. Johnson had now passed Sailor Malan's record total of 32 confirmed kills. However Johnson considered Malan's exploits to be better. Johnson points out, when Malan fought (during 1940-41), he did so outnumbered, and had matched the enemy even then. Johnson said:
Malan had fought with great distinction when the odds were against him. He matched his handful of Spitfires against greatly superior numbers of Luftwaffe fighters and bombers. He had been forced to fight a defensive battle over southern England and often at a tactical disadvantage, when the top-cover Messerschmitts [Bf 109s and Bf 110s] were high in the sun. I had always fought on the offensive, and, after 1941, I had either a squadron, a wing or sometimes two wings behind me. [Johnson 2000, p. 245.]
The Wing was the first to be stationed on French soil following the invasion. With their radius of action now far extended compared to the squadrons still in the UK, the Wing scored heavily through the summer. After the Normandy break-out, 144 Wing was disbanded, Johnson being given command of 127 Wing. [Johnson 2000, p. 251.] On
21 August 1944, Johnson was leading No. 443 Squadron on a patrol over the Seine, near Paris. Johnson bounced a formation of Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, shooting down two, which were recorded on the cine camera. [Johnson 2000, pp. 261–263.] Climbing back to his starting point at 8,000 feet, Johnson attempted to join a formation of six aircraft, he thought were Spitfires. The fighters were actually Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Johnson escaped by doing a series of steep climbs, during which he nearly stalled and blacked out. He eventually evaded the Messerschmitts, which had been trying to flank him on either side, while two more stuck to his tail. Johnson's Spitfire IX was hit by enemy aircraft fire for the first and only time, taking cannon shells in the rudder and elevators. [Johnson 2000, pp. 263–265.]
Johnson's last victory of the war was on
27 September 1944over Nijmegen. His flight bounced a formation of nine Bf 109s, one of which Johnson shot down. During this combat Squadron leader Henry "Wally" MacLeod, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and his squadron had joined Johnson. [Johnson 2000, p. 273.] During the action Wally went missing. Johnson made repeated calls over the R/T, but Wally did not answer.After landing, Johnson could see Wally had not returned. Johnson "interrogated", the rest of the pilots. One of them had seen Wally chasing after a lone MesserschmittJohnson 2000, p. 275.] . Johnson, knowing McLeod well, believed he would have attacked regardless of the enemy fighters advantage:
I feel certain that he wouldn't have let go of the 109 until the issue had been decided one way or the other. There was no other aircraft in the area [that Johnson had seen] and they must have fought it out together, probably above the cloud. To start with he would have been at a disadvantage, for the 109 was already several thousand feet higher. [Johnson 2000, p. 275] I think the Messerschmitt got him. It was always all or nothing for Wally. [Johnson 2000, p. 278.]
After the war, Johnson learned that Wally had been found in the wreckage of his Spitfire, near the scene of the battle. His score stood at 21 confirmed victories, with four probable and 10 damaged. [http://acesofww2.com/Canada/Canada.htm Canadian Ace: Henry Wallace "Wally" Mcleod]
His wartime record was 515 sorties flown, 34 aircraft claimed destroyed with a further seven shared destroyed (totalling 2.91 kills), three probable destroyed, ten damaged, and one shared destroyed on the ground. [Shores and Williams 1994, p. 358.] All his "kills" were fighters. As a Wing Leader Johnson was able to use his initials JE-J in place of squadron code letters; he was to score the bulk of his victories flying two Mk IXs: "EN398", JE-J in which he shot down 12 aircraft and shared five plus six damaged while commanding the Kenley Wing: "MK392", an L.F Mk. IX, JE-J, 12 aircraft plus one shared destroyed on the ground. His last victory of the war was scored in this aircraft. He ended the war flying a Mk XIVe, "MV268", JE-J. [Price 1995, pp. 34, 36, 38, 89, 92.]
During the last week of the war, and for the duration of hostilities in May 1945, Johnson's squadron flew patrols over Berlin and Kiel. During a flight over central Germany Johnson's squadron attacked Luftwaffe airfields looking for Jet fighters. On one mission his unit strafed and destroyed 11 Bf 109s that were preparing to take off. [Johnson 2000, pp. 306–308.] On one mission an enemy transport was sighted, but took evasive action and retreated back to German held territory. Johnson's pilots shot it down. However on another occasion Johnson intercepted a flight of four Fw 190s. The German fighters waggled their wings to signal non hostile intent and Johnson's unit escorted them to an RAF airfield. [Johnson 2000, p. 310.]
Post World War Two
In the aftermath of the war Johnson commanded
RAF Second Tactical Air Forceat RAF Wildenrathin the West Germanyfrom 1952 - 1954. Johnson also commanded a force of V Bomber's based RAF Cottesmorefrom 1957 - 1960.
Johnson was given a permanent commission by the RAF after the war (initially as a Squadron Leader, though retaining his wartime substative rank as Wing Commander, and later confirmed as a Wing Commander), [LondonGazette|issue=37333|supp=yes|startpage=5339|date=
30 October 1945|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] [LondonGazette|issue=37511|supp=yes|startpage=1531|endpage=1532|date= 22 March 1946|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] [LondonGazette|issue=37892|supp=yes|startpage=969|endpage=971|date= 25 February 1947|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] [LondonGazette|issue=38020|supp=yes|startpage=3417|endpage=3419|date= 18 July 1947|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] becoming OC Tactics at the Central Fighter Establishment. After an exchange posting to the USA, he flew F-86Sabres with Tactical Air Commandand went on to serve in the Korean Warflying the F-80 Shooting Star. In 1952 he became Air Officer Commanding(AOC) RAF Wildenrath. An Air Commodore by 1960, [LondonGazette|issue=42080|supp=yes|startpage=4577|date= 28 June 1960|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] his next job was SASO at HQ No. 3 Group. By the time of retirement in 1966 Johnson was an Air Vice Marshal[LondonGazette|issue=42881|supp=yes|startpage=79|date= 28 December 1962|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] [LondonGazette|issue=43923|supp=yes|startpage=2847|date= 11 March 1966|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] and his last active post was AOC Air Forces Middle East. [LondonGazette|issue=43838|supp=yes|startpage=11687|date= 10 December 1965|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007]
He was appointed a
Deputy Lieutenantfor the County of Leicestershire in 1967. [LondonGazette|issue=44407|startpage=9975|date= 14 September 1967|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] He established the Johnnie Johnson Housing Trust in 1969.
Johnson died on
30 January 2001aged 85 years from Cancer. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE7DE173EF932A35751C0A9679C8B63 New York Times] ]
Distinguished Service Order[LondonGazette|issue=36041|supp=yes|startpage=2565|date= 1 June 1943|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] & Two Bars [LondonGazette|issue=36183|supp=yes|startpage=4245|date= 21 September 1943|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] [LondonGazette|issue=36598|supp=yes|startpage=3185|date= 4 July 1944|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007]
*Distinguished Flying Cross [LondonGazette|issue=35291|startpage=5649|endpage=5650|date=
26 September 1941|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007] & Bar [LondonGazette|issue=35609|startpage=2817|date= 23 June 1942|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007]
Commander of the Order of the British Empire(1960 New Year Honours) [LondonGazette|issue=41909|supp=yes|startpage=9|date= 29 December 1959|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007]
Companion in The Most Honourable Order of the Bath(1965 Queen's Birthday Honours) [LondonGazette|issue=43667|supp=yes|startpage=5473|date= 4 June 1965|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007]
Légion d'honneur( France)
*Croix de Guerre (1940) with Palms (
Belgium)LondonGazette|issue=37998|supp=yes|startpage=2937|date= 24 June 1947|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007]
*Order of Léopold with Palms (Belgium)
*Distinguished Flying Cross (
USA) [LondonGazette|issue=36335|startpage=2876|date= 25 May 1951|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007]
Air Medal(USA) [LondonGazette|issue=39236|supp=yes|startpage=359|date= 14 January 1944|accessdaymonth= 17 December|accessyear= 2007]
Legion of Merit(USA)
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1320495/Air-Vice-Marshal-J-E-%27Johnnie%27-Johnson.html "Air Vice-Marshal J E 'Johnnie' Johnson."] "The Telegraph",
22 November 2001. Retrieved: 2 June 2008.
* Johnson, J.E. "Courage in the Skies". London: Random House, 1992. ISBN 0-7529-0415-9.
* Johnson, J.E. "Full Circle: The Story of Air Fighting". London: Cassell Military Classics, 2001 (original edition 1964). ISBN 0-304-35860-6.
* Johnson, J.E. "Wing Leader "(Fighter Pilots). London: Goodall Publications Ltd. 2000 (original edition 1956). ISBN 0-907579-87-6.
* Johnson, J.E. and P.B. Lucas. "Glorious Summer: The Story of the Battle of Britain". London: Stanley Paul, 1990. ISBN 0-09-174439-3.
* Johnson, J.E. and P.B. Lucas. "Winged Victory: A Last Look Back - The Personal Reflections of Two Royal Air Force Leaders". London: Hutchinson, 1995. ISBN 0-09-178697-5.
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2001/feb/01/guardianobituaries2 Obituary: Johnnie Johnson, Second World War Fighter ace credited with more enemy 'kills' than any other British pilot."] "
The Guardian", 1 February 2001. Retrieved: 2 June 2008.
* Price, Alfred. "Late Marque Spitfire Aces 1942 - 1945". Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-575-6.
* Sarkar, Dilip. "Johnnie Johnson- Spitfire Top Gun". London: Ramrod Publications, 2002. ISBN 0-9550431-6-6.
* Shores, Christopher and Clive Williams. "Aces High". London: Grub Street, 1994. ISBN 1-898697-00-0.
* [http://www.acesofww2.com/UK/aces/johnson_je.htm A period newspaper biography of AVM Johnson]
* [http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Johnson_JE.htm Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation - AVM Johnson]
* [http://www.johnnie-johnson.com/JJ_Catalog/JJ_Info.htm Biography With Photo of Medals]
* [http://www.mishalov.com/Johnson_Johnnie.html Times obituary]
* [http://www.jjhousing.co.uk Johnnie Johnson Housing Trust]
* [http://www.wings-fine-arts.com/johnniejohnson.htm Biography]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=20845 Johnnie Johnson on Find-A-Grave]
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