Clarence Johnson was born on September 5, 1920, in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard and served with the 217th Coast Artillery from 1939 to March 1942, served in the Army Reserve from March to June 1942, and then entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces. Johnson was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Luke Field, Arizona, on December 3, 1942, and after completing P-38 Lightning training, he was assigned to the 96th Fighter Squadron of the 82nd Fighter Group in North Africa from April to September 1943. During this time he was credited with destroying 4 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus 3 probables and 1 damaged. After returning to the U.S., Lt Johnson volunteered for a second combat tour, and joined the 436th Fighter Squadron of the 479th Fighter Group in November 1943, deploying with it to England in May 1944. He was credited with destroying 1 enemy aircraft before transferring to the 487th Fighter Squadron of the 352nd Fighter Group, flying the P-51 Mustang, in August 1944. Capt Johnson destroyed 2 more enemy aircraft in the air before being killed in action over Holland on September 23, 1944. During World War II, he was credited with the destruction of 7 enemy aircraft in the air plus 3 probables and 1 damaged, and another 6 on the ground while strafing enemy airfields.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.