Harold Johnson was born in 1936 in Ottumwa, Iowa. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Math from the University of Louisville, Kentucky, in August 1960, and entered Air Force Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas, on September 20, 1960. Johnson was commissioned a 2d Lt on March 28, 1961, and graduated from Undergraduate Navigator Training at Harlingen AFB, Texas, in December 1961. He then completed Electronic Warfare Officer training at Mather AFB, California, in October 1962, before being assigned to the Sioux City Air Defense Sector at Sioux City AB, Iowa, from December 1962 to December 1965. Johnson then served with the 29th Air Division (redesignated 10th Air Force in April 1966) at Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri, from January to August 1966. Capt Johnson began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia as an F-105 Wild Weasel Electronic Warfare Officer with the 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, in October 1966, and he was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 93rd combat mission on April 30, 1967, and was immediately captured and taken as a Prisoner of War. 11 days before his final mission, Capt Johnson and his pilot, Maj Leo Thorsness, were credited with the destruction of a MIG-17 in aerial combat. After spending 2,135 days in captivity, Maj Johnson was released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Scott AFB, Illinois, and then attended Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1973 to June 1974. Johnson continued on as an instructor at the college until June 1976, and then served as an Air Force Advisor to the Royal Air Force Staff College at RAF Bracknell, England, from June 1976 to July 1979. Col Johnson retired from the Air Force at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, on September 30, 1987. He is married to the former Linda Peterson of Blakesburg, Iowa, and they have three children-Jill, Eric, and Todd.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
Captain Harold E. Johnson distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as Electronics Warfare Officer of an F-105 aircraft engaged in a prestrike, missile suppression mission over North Vietnam on 19 April 1967. On that date, Captain Johnson guided his pilot in attacking and destroying a surface-to-air missile installation with an air-to-ground missile. Through his technical skill, he immediately detected a second missile complex and guided the pilot into visual contact. Diving into a deadly barrage of antiaircraft fire, his aircraft bombed and successfully destroyed this site. In the attack on this second missile site, a wingman was shot down by the intense antiaircraft fire, and the crew members were forced to abandon their aircraft. Flying through hostile missile threats, Captain Johnson's aircraft engaged and destroyed a MIG-17 while attacking a superior MIG force. He aided in the rescue efforts for the downed crew, engaged additional MIGs, and damaged one in the encounter. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness, Captain Johnson has reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.