Leslie Earle Johnson

1921 - 2013

Air Force

Their Story

Leslie Earle Johnson was born February 21, 1921, in Kalamazoo, MI, to Earle and Florence (Snyder) Johnson.[1] He grew up in Michigan with one sister. After high school, Johnson registered for the selective service draft in 1942 at the age of 20.[2]

Johnson served with honor in the Army Air Corps during World War II, rising through the enlisted grades to the rank of technical sergeant (TSgt).[3]

The U.S. Army Air Corps formed five army airborne units and divisions during World War II, of which three saw combat in the Mediterranean or the European Theater of Operations; another served in the Pacific; and the fifth went to Europe in 1945 but was not committed to combat. Airborne operations were considered high-risk undertakings, requiring commitment of large numbers of valuable assets—elite troops and airlift—and incurring the danger of assault troops being isolated and overwhelmed.[4] Technical sergeants were qualified to perform highly complex technical duties in addition to providing supervision. Also responsible for the career development of all enlisted personnel under their supervision, they must obtain maximum performance from each subordinate and ensure the quality necessary for total mission effectiveness.[5]

In addition to his rank qualifications, TSgt Johnson’s valor in service eventually earned him the distinction of the Air Medal award.[6]

In 1942, the Secretary of War suggested to institute the Air Medal award to any person who, while serving in any capacity of the Army of the United States, distinguishes himself by meritorious achievement in aerial operations, for heroic acts in aerial operations against an armed enemy, or for merit in operational activities.[7]

Johnson was honorably discharged from service and returned to Michigan. He married Marilyn Louise Cross on August 11, 1946, in Lawton, Michigan.[8]

Johnson attended the University of Colorado, Boulder where he earned a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1950, and then an MBA one year later in 1951.[9]

His education and employment gave opportunity for their family to reside in cities from coast-to-coast – Denver, Colorado to Chicago, Illinois, to Springfield, Massachusetts, to Chesterton, Indiana, – before they settled in Port Byron, IL in 1969. They resided there together until his wife’s passing in 2008.[10] They were married for 62 years.

Johnson eventually returned to Hickory Corners, Michigan, where he remained until the time of his death on October 26, 2013. He was survived by four children, fifteen grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.[11] He was interred in burial, reunited with his wife, at the National Cemetery at Rock Island Arsenal on October 30, 2013.


[1] The Rock Island Argus

[2] Fold3.com

[3] The Rock Island Argus

[4] History on the Net

[5] The Balance Careers

[6] The Rock Island Argus

[7] Military Medals Database

[8] Ancestry.com

[9] University of Colorado Boulder Alumni Association

[10] Quad-City Times

[11] The Rock Island Argus