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First Name: Dwight

Last Name: Johnson

Birthplace: Detroit, MI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Hal

Date of Birth: 07 May 1947

Date of Death: 30 April 1971

Rank: Sergeant

Years Served: 1967 - 1971
Dwight Hal Johnson

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Dwight Hal 'Skip' Johnson
Specialist Five, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Sergeant Dwight Hal Johnson (7 May 1947 - 30 April 1971) a native of Detroit, MI, was a U.S. Army soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his actions on January 1968 during the Vietnam War.

Dwight Hal Johnson was born on 7 May 1947, in Detroit, MI. He lived in the E. J. Jeffries Homes, a housing project. He never knew his father, and his mother raised Dwight and his younger brother by herself.

Military Service

Drafted to serve in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, he was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 69th Armor, 4th Infantry Division.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Specialist Fifth Class, U.S. Army, Company B, 1st Battalion, 69th Armor, 4th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Dak To, Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, 15 January 1968.

Entered service at: Detroit, MI. Born: 7 May 1947, Detroit, MI.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Specialist 5 Johnson, a tank driver with Company B, was a member of a reaction force moving to aid other elements of his platoon, which was in heavy contact with a battalion size North Vietnamese force. Specialist Johnson's tank, upon reaching the point of contact, threw a track and became immobilized. Realizing that he could do no more as a driver, he climbed out of the vehicle, armed only with a .45 caliber pistol. Despite intense hostile fire, Specialist Johnson killed several enemy soldiers before he had expended his ammunition. Returning to his tank through a heavy volume of antitank rocket, small arms and automatic weapons fire, he obtained a sub-machine gun with which to continue his fight against the advancing enemy. Armed with this weapon, Specialist Johnson again braved deadly enemy fire to return to the center of the ambush site where he courageously eliminated more of the determined foe. Engaged in extremely close combat when the last of his ammunition was expended, he killed an enemy soldier with the stock end of his submachine gun. Now weaponless, Specialist Johnson ignored the enemy fire around him, climbed into his platoon sergeant's tank, extricated a wounded crewmember and carried him to an armored personnel carrier. He then returned to the same tank and assisted in firing the main gun until it jammed. In a magnificent display of courage, Specialist Johnson exited the tank and again armed only with a .45 caliber pistol, he engaged several North Vietnamese troops in close proximity to the vehicle. Fighting his way through devastating fire and remounting his own immobilized tank, he remained fully exposed to the enemy as he bravely and skillfully engaged them with the tank's externally-mounted .50 caliber machine gun; where he remained until the situation was brought under control. Specialist Johnson's profound concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

Johnson received the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson on 19 November 1968.

Post War years

After returning from Vietnam, Johnson had difficulty adjusting to his post-war role. Until he was awarded the Medal of Honor, he had trouble finding work and got into great debt. After receiving the medal, he went back to the army and worked as a recruiter and made public relations appearances. When he began missing appointments and speaking engagements, he was sent for medical evaluation. He was diagnosed with a depression caused by Post Vietnam adjustment problems.


Two plays have been written about Johnson's tragic life, the second of which was also produced and shown on PBS:

Strike Heaven on the Face by Richard Wesley
The Medal of Honor Rag by Tom Cole

The poet Michael S. Harper also wrote a poetry series in 1973 titled Debridement.

One song has been written about Johnson's tragic life (with some "poetic license"):

Bummer by Harry Chapin, on Portrait Gallery, Elektra Entertainment, 1975.

Death and Burial

Just after 11:30 PM on 29 April 1971, Johnson was shot during an armed robbery at an Open Pantry Market convenience store in Detroit, about a mile from his home. Although wounded in the left biceps, during the altercation the store owner opened fire with a .38 caliber handgun. Johnson sustained four bullet wounds, three to the chest and one to the face, and died on the operating table at 4:00 AM on 30 April. Johnson's mother said: "Sometimes I wonder if Skip tired of this life and needed someone else to pull the trigger."

On 6 May 1971, Sergeant Dwight Hal Johnson was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 31, Lot 471.

Honoree ID: 985   Created by: MHOH




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