Donald C. Johnson
Born in 1936 on family farm near Lakota, Iowa
U.S. Army Cold War-era Veteran
Don Johnson shared the same problem that many high school graduates have: No money to go to college, no plans and no job. “It was 1955. I was 18 and I enlisted in the Army right out of high school,” Johnson remembered. “This was the next best thing for me.” Johnson was the son of Rinerd and Dora (Pelleymounter) Johnson. He received his education in Lakota schools, graduating in 1955.
The Korean War had ended, and the U.S. Occupation of Germany ended on May 5, 1955, but not the threat of more hostilities around the globe. The United States entered the Cold War era. Following basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Johnson joined up with the U.S. Army’s “Patton Division,” better known as the 3rd Armor Division, Company C, 33rd Tank Battalion.
“We all got onto a troop ship and headed to Germany,” Johnson said. His outfit was headed to Europe to replace another division (the 4th Infantry Division) that was already there. “We took everything with us on that boat, everything but the tanks,” he remembered.
Johnson was stationed at the Coleman Kaserne U.S. Army base located in the German city of Gelnhausen from 1955 to 1958 with the 33rd Tank Battalion. An interesting note is the base had been the garrison of the Wehrmacht's 9th Anti-Tank Battalion as part of the German 9th Infantry Division during World War II.“Because it was the Cold War era, all our tanks were fully loaded with armament and weapons,” Johnson said. “We were right next to the Czech border. Our mission objective was to delay the Russians by 20 minutes from getting into Frankfurt, Germany.” Johnson said his outfit was mobilized and sent to the border area whenever the “other side” would mobilize or build up forces near the border.
Once his tour of duty was over, Johnson was honorably discharged from the Army in Chicago. He immediately headed back home to Iowa. “I hadn’t been home a week when I was out looking for a job,” he recalled. “I worked as a carpenter, then onto Farmer’s elevator, to the Morrell packing house, then into farming.” 1959, he was married to Evelyn Schwartz in Ledyard, IA. The couple farmed, and Don sold Crow’s Seed Corn for many years.
In 1985 Johnson started a “side furniture business” called Johnson’s Country Classics where he and Evelyn sold furniture and operated the store for several years.
Don Johnson passed away in July of 2017 at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center in Blue Earth, MN. He was a very active member of Bethany Evangelical and Reformed Church, serving as deacon, church choir, and singing for weddings and funerals. He also was a member of Farmers Co-op Elevator Board. At his funeral, he received military rites by the Swea City American Legion. He was 80.