Dwight H. Johnson

Dwight Hal Johnson (May 7, 1947 – April 30, 1971) a native of Detroit, Michigan, was a United States Army soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in January 1968 during the Vietnam War.

Dwight Hal Johnson
Dwight H Johnson.jpg
Born(1947-05-07)May 7, 1947
Detroit, Michigan
DiedApril 30, 1971(1971-04-30) (aged 23)
Detroit, Michigan
Place of burial
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1967–1971
RankArmy-USA-OR-05.svg Sergeant
UnitCompany B, 1st Battalion, 69th Armor
Battles/warsVietnam War
AwardsMedal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor

Early lifeEdit

Johnson was born on May 7, 1947, and lived in the E. J. Jeffries Homes, a housing project in Detroit, Michigan. He never knew his father, and his mother raised Dwight and his younger brother by herself.

Military serviceEdit

Sammy L. Davis receiving the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 19, 1968 along with four fellow recipients: Gary Wetzel, Dwight H. Johnson, James Allen Taylor, and Angelo Liteky.

Drafted to serve in the United States Army in Vietnam, he was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 69th Armor, 4th Infantry Division.

Medal of Honor citationEdit

Johnson receives the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 19, 1968

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Specialist 5 Johnson, a tank driver with Company B, was a member of a reaction force moving to aid other elements of his platoon, which was in heavy contact with a battalion size North Vietnamese force. Specialist Johnson's tank, upon reaching the point of contact, threw a track and became immobilized. Realizing that he could do no more as a driver, he climbed out of the vehicle, armed only with a .45 caliber pistol. Despite intense hostile fire, Specialist Johnson killed several enemy soldiers before he had expended his ammunition. Returning to his tank through a heavy volume of antitank rocket, small arms and automatic weapons fire, he obtained a sub-machine gun with which to continue his fight against the advancing enemy. Armed with this weapon, Specialist Johnson again braved deadly enemy fire to return to the center of the ambush site where he courageously eliminated more of the determined foe. Engaged in extremely close combat when the last of his ammunition was expended, he killed an enemy soldier with the stock end of his submachine gun. Now weaponless, Specialist Johnson ignored the enemy fire around him, climbed into his platoon sergeant's tank, extricated a wounded crewmember and carried him to an armored personnel carrier. He then returned to the same tank and assisted in firing the main gun until it jammed. In a magnificent display of courage, Specialist Johnson exited the tank and again armed only with a .45 caliber pistol, he engaged several North Vietnamese troops in close proximity to the vehicle. Fighting his way through devastating fire and remounting his own immobilized tank, he remained fully exposed to the enemy as he bravely and skillfully engaged them with the tank's externally-mounted .50 caliber machine gun; where he remained until the situation was brought under control. Specialist Johnson's profound concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.[1]

Post War yearsEdit

After returning from Vietnam, Johnson had difficulty adjusting to his post war role. Until he was awarded the Medal of Honor, he had trouble finding work and got into great debt. After receiving the medal, he went back to the Army and worked as a recruiter and made public relations appearances. When he began missing appointments and speaking engagements, he was sent for medical evaluation, at which he was diagnosed with a depression caused by post Vietnam adjustment problems, often referred to now as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


Grave of Dwight H. Johnson at Arlington National Cemetery (2013)

Just after 11:30 p.m. on April 29, 1971, Johnson was shot after entering an Open Pantry convenience store a mile from his home, drawing a revolver from under his topcoat and demanding money from cashier at the front of the store. The store owner was in back office, responding to Johnson demand for all the cash, the owner was shot in left bicep (22 Caliber bullet) and returned fire with a .38 Special revolver. Seven shots were fired. Johnson sustained four bullet wounds, three to the chest and one to the face, and died on the operating table at 4:00 a.m. on April 30.[2] He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on May 6, 1971. His grave can be found in Section 31 Lot 471.[3] Johnson's mother said: "Sometimes I wonder if Skip was tired of this life and needed someone else to pull the trigger".[4]


Two plays have been written about Johnson's tragic life, the second of which was also produced and shown on PBS:[3]

The poet Michael S. Harper also wrote a poetry series in 1973 titled Debridement.[3][5]

One song has been written about Johnson's tragic life (with some "poetic license"):

See alsoEdit


  • "Congressional Medal of Honor Society". Retrieved September 24, 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  • Nordheimer, Jon. – "From Dakto to Detroit: Death of a Troubled Hero". – The New York Times. – May 26, 1971. – Section A1.


  1. ^ "Medal of Honor recipients". Medal of Honor citations. United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved July 1, 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Mikaelian, Allen, with Mike Wallace, (2002). – Medal of Honor: Profiles of America's Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present. – New York: Hyperion. – p.253. – ISBN 978-0-7868-6662-5.
  3. ^ a b c Mikaelian. p.254.
  4. ^ Mikaelian. p.255.
  5. ^ Harper, Michael S. – "Debridement". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved October 5, 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)