Jerry Johnson was born on June 23, 1920, in Kenmore, Ohio. He entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on March 15, 1941, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Luke Field, Arizona, on October 31, 1941. Lt Johnson was then assigned to the 57th Pursuit Squadron of the 54th Pursuit Group at Everett, Washington, from November 1941 to February 1943, and went with the group to Alaska from June to October 1942, where he flew 58 combat missions and was credited with destroying 2 enemy aircraft in aerial combat while flying P-39 Airacobra fighters. He served with the 332nd Fighter Squadron of the 329th Fighter Group at Ontario Army Air Field, California, from February to April 1943, and then flew P-38 Lightning fighters with the 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group in New Guinea from April 1943 to January 1944. Col Johnson served as commander of the 9th FS from October 1943 to January 1944, and then became Deputy Commander of the 49th Fighter Group until March 1945, serving as its commander from March to July 1945. He was serving as commander of Atsugi AB, Japan, when he was killed while flying a B-25 Mitchell in a typhoon on October 7, 1945. During World War II, Col Johnson was credited with the destruction of 24 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus 2 probables and 1 damaged. All but 4 of his air victories were made while flying the P-38 Lightning (the other 4 were in the P-39 Airacobra and P-47 Thunderbolt). He also accidentally shot down a Royal Australian Air Force Wirraway reconnaissance fighter on November 15, 1943, after being advised there were no friendly aircraft in the area (the pilot survived). His remains have never been located and he is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial in Hawaii.
His 2nd Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Gerald R. Johnson, Lieutenant Colonel (Air Corps), U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a P-38 Fighter Airplane in the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, FIFTH Air Force, in aerial combat against enemy forces on 7 December 1944, during an air mission in the Southwest Pacific Area. On this date Major Johnson shot down four enemy aircraft in a single engagement. Major Johnson's unquestionable valor in aerial combat is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 5th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.