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First Name: Hansford

Last Name: Johnson

Birthplace: Aiken, SC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Tillman

Date of Birth: 03 January 1936

Rank: General

Years Served: 1959—1992
Hansford Tillman Johnson

Graduate, U.S. Air Force Academy, Class of 1959

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
•  Gulf War (1990 - 1991)


Hansford Tillman ("HT") Johnson

General, U.S. Air Force

Hansford Tillman (HT) Johnson was born on 3 January 1936 in Aiken, SC. He graduated from high school in 1953 and then attended Clemson College.

Johnson was the outstanding graduate in Thermodynamics and Aerodynamics at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1959. He was also the first graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy to attain the four-star rank of General.

His first assignment was attending flight training at Bartow Air Base, FL, and then Laredo AFB, TX, where he received his pilot wings in 1960. His first operational assignment was to the 317th Troop Carrier Wing, Evreux-Fauville Air Base, France, where he flew C-130 Hercules transports throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and West Asia. He continued flying with the 317th when it transferred to Lockbourne AFB, OH.

After completing graduate school at Stanford University, Johnson volunteered for duty in Vietnam. In 1967, he flew with the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron as a Forward Air Controller (FAC), and directed tactical close air support strike missions against enemy supply, storage, vehicle and troop targets. During his tour, he flew 423 combat missions, 71 of which were over North Vietnam or the demilitarized zone. After returning from Vietnam, he served as an Assistant Professor of Aeronautics at the Air Force Academy, and then served as Commander of the 22nd Bombardment Wing at March AFB, CA, and on the staff of Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Offutt AFB, NE.

From 1982-85, he led the team that successfully re-balanced the Air Force programs in the $100 billion annual Air Force budget, then led Strategic Air Command operations in 1985, where he directed the Refueling and Strategic Reconnaissance Forces during the bombing of Libya. Following his tour in SAC, Johnson became the Vice Commander of the Pacific Air Forces. In 1987, he became the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) at MacDill AFB, FL, during Operation Earnest Will, the U.S. reflagging of Kuwaiti oil tankers and escort operations in the Persian Gulf. Following his tour at USCENTCOM, Johnson served the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as Director of the Joint Staff.

On 1 October 1989, Johnson was promoted to the four-star rank of General and was assigned as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Transportation Command (USCINCTRANS) and Commander-in-Chief, Military Airlift Command (CINCMAC). In 1992 his title changed to Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Transportation Command (USCINCTRANS ) and Commander, Air Mobility Command (COMAMC). In this assignment, the military forces under his command provided all airlift and special operations forces for Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. This movement of troops, equipment, and supplies to and from the Persian Gulf was the most concentrated movement in American military history.

General Johnson retired from the Air Force on 31 August 1992. During his service, he became a Command Pilot with over 7,800 flying hours, more than 1,000 of which were flown under combat conditions. He is also a qualified Navigator and Parachutist.

While in the Air Force, he received a Master's degree in Aeronautics from Stanford University in 1967 and a Master's degree in Business from the University of Colorado in 1970. Johnson also graduated from the Air Force Squadron Officer School, Army Command and General Staff College, National War College, and the Advanced Management Program at Dartmouth College.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal (2 Awards)

Distinguished Service Medal

Silver Star Medal

Legion of Merit (3 Awards)

Distinguished Flying Cross (3 Awards)

Defense Meritorious Service Medal

Meritorious Service Medal

Air Medal (23 Awards)

Presidential Unit Citation

Navy-Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation

Joint Meritorious Unit Award

Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with "Valor" Device (4 Awards)

Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Combat Readiness Medal

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with 1 Service Star

Vietnam Service Medal with 3 Service Stars

Humanitarian Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm

Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal First Class with 1 Service Star

Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal


Command Pilot Badge
Navigator Badge
Parachutist Badge
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge

In Retirement

After retiring from the Air Force, Johnson continued to serve active and former military personnel as the Vice Chairman of USAA and Chairman of the USAA Bank, Investment Management Company, Buying Service and Real Estate. While at USAA, Johnson was appointed by President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton to the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).

When Kelly AFB was closed by the 1995 BRAC, Johnson was appointed by the city of San Antonio to serve as the Chair of the Local Reuse Authority, which very successfully transformed a "closed" base into a vibrant industrial center. Subsequently, Johnson served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in Madison, WI. He also served as President and CEO of EG&G Technical Services and later of EG&G when purchased by The Carlyle Group.

On 3 August 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Johnson to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Environment) and he was sworn in four days later. The President directed him to assume duties as the Acting Secretary of the Navy on 7 February 2003; the only Air Force officer to ever hold that position.

After leaving the Department of the Navy, Johnson became a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defenses Analyses (IDA).


After graduation from the Air Force Academy in 1959, Johnson married Linda Whittle of Augusta, GA. They are the parents of a son, Richard, and daughter, Beth, and they have six grandchildren.

Honoree ID: 754   Created by: MHOH




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