James L. Johnson Sr. Oral History
James Louis Johnson Sr. was born in Brainerd, Minnesota on August 22, 1917. In 1938, Johnson joined the National Guard, serving in both World War II and the Korean Conflict. He began his military career as a driver for 34th Division Tank Company under the 194th Tank Battalion Commander Ernie B. Miller. While serving in the military, he received the Bronze Star Medal and an Air Medal.
In 1940 before he left for training, James married Irene C. Tepley Johnson. After leaving the military, they moved to Rice Lake near Brainerd in 1954. They had two children – Jim Jr. and Gary. Johnson passed away on February 8, 2005.
Johnson discussed joining the National Guard in 1938. He trained at nearby Camp Ripley where he was part of the 34th Division Tank Company. They were mobilized in 1941 to Fort Lewis in Washington state to form the 194th Tank Battalion. He recounted his experiences, including his relationship with Ernie Miller.
Johnson chronicled his time in the only tank company in the Aleutians, Alaska, during World War II. Here he served as part of the 602nd Tank Company under General Simon Bolivar Buckner and spent 27 months he was there, leaving in November 1943. He even had dinner with Bob Hope when the entertainer was visiting Alaska. While serving in Alaska, he left to train as a pilot but decided he didn’t like it, so he returned to his armor unit. Johnson left for the Philippines in May 1945 and came home at the end of the year. In 1947, the unit reorganized as the 47th Infantry where they started the 194th Tank Battalion headquartered in Brainerd. In 1949, he went to work temporarily as a field training supply officer.
In November 1951, Johnson was deployed to the front lines over to Korea until November 1952. He discussed the difference between the Korean War and World War II as well as experiences as a captain for Battalion S2 in Korea. He recounted life as a tanker over his military career.
St. Cloud State University, "James L. Johnson Sr. Oral History" (1990). World War II Veterans. 4.