Born in Kossuth County Iowa in 1931
U.S. Army Korean War-Era Veteran
Life on the family farm was hard in the late 1930s and early 1940s for Joseph Johnson. Born in the doctor’s home, Johnson was one of four children, including three brothers and one sister. “I went to a country school until 8th grade,” he recalled. “My dad died in an accident when I was 9 years-old.”
Johnson said he was first was shipped to Camp Crowder, a U.S. Army post located in southwest Missouri. He then spent four days on a train headed for California’s Camp Roberts for eight weeks of basic training. Infantry training followed. Johnson was transferred to the California desert at San Pedro for anti-aircraft training. “We shot guns,” he said matter-of-factly. During that time the Korean War came to an end. But, protecting the U.S. coastline from possible attack was still a military priority. Johnson was part of the U.S. Army’s 77th AAA Gun Battalion.
“Our post was near the Los Angeles airport,” he remembered. “We were there ‘just in case’. We had a battery of 90-mm anti-aircraft guns to protect the airport, but there wasn’t any barracks, so we had to build our own.” Johnson added they could see the famous Hollywood sign to the north of the base. Johnson was assigned to that anti-aircraft battery for about a year and a half. “We had a good group of guys from the Midwest and Oregon and Washington. It was a lot of fun.”
With about nine months to go before his Army stint would be finished, Johnson took advantage of a long leave and took a bus back to Iowa. “My brother picked me up in his car and we headed back home so he could marry his sweetheart Elaine. We both headed back to California to live,” he said. “We rented a cabin at a motor court in Los Angeles. We called them little huts.”
After the service, the couple headed back home again. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he admitted. “My grandfather sold the farm while I was in the service, so I drove truck for my brothers out of Truman. I did that for about three years until in 1958 when an aunt asked if we wanted to farm again, so we got back into farming.” He and his wife have two daughters and a son.
In September 2016, Johnson was part of that year’s Veteran’s Honor Flight to Washington D.C. where he and dozens of military veterans got to tour the nation’s capital. “It was a long day, but it was worth it,” he remembered.
Story and Photos © 2018 Joseph Kreiss Photography