|Born||21 Feb 1920|
|Died||27 Dec 1998|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
ww2dbaseRobert Johnson was born on 21 February 1920 in Lawton, Oklahoma, United States and studied aeronautical engineering at Cameron Junior College in the city of his birth, gaining his degree in 1941. Interested in flying since childhood, Johnson privately took flying lessons before joining the US Army Air Force where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 3 July 1942 at Kelly Field, Texas, United States. Initially the US Army Air Force trained him to be a bomber pilot, but soon reassigned him for training on the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter.
ww2dbase"Bob" Johnson went to England, United Kingdom in early 1943 with the USAAF 56th Fighter Group ("Zemke's Wolfpack"), which was commanded by the legendary Lieutenant Colonel Hubert "Hub" Zemke. Johnson entered combat in April, escorting bombers across the English Channel or the North Sea , and scored his first kill, a Focke-Wulf Fw 190, on 13 June 1943.
ww2dbaseOn 26 June 1943 during a patrol over France Johnson was bounced and badly shot up by Fw 190 aircraft, but despite being injured managed to limp home. Recovered from his injuries, Johnson was back in the cockpit by 1 July, and in October, he became an ace when his fifth aerial victory accounted for one of the Luftwaffe's finest pilots, Oberstleutnant Hans Philipp, the commander of Jagdgeschwader 1 (who had 177 victories on the eastern front and another 29 in the west). As he destroyed Philipp's Focke-Wulf aircraft, Johnson himself was hit resulting in the loss of his rudder. Managing to evade the remaining Luftwaffe fighters he rendezvous with P-47 aircraft of the 62nd Fighter Squadron, who escorted him back to England.
ww2dbaseSoon the patrols of the American P-47 aircraft proved so effective over the French and Dutch coastline that the Luftwaffe pulled their defensive line back to the limit of the Thunderbolt aircraft's operational range, roughly between Kiel and Hannover, Germany. It was here that a number of massive aerial battles would occur. On 8 March 1944 Bob Johnson led a handful of Thunderbolt aircraft against more than 100 Luftwaffe fighters sent up to attack American bombers. There were 34 bombers lost on that day, but on 15 March, Johnson used his radio, when the Germans attacked, to vector a large number of American fighters into the battle, and no bombers were lost on this occasion.
ww2dbaseUltimately Bob Johnson would fly 91 missions and score 27 victories with the final two, a Bf 109G aircraft and an Fw 190 aircraft, occurring on his final mission on 8 May 1944. This made Johnson the second-highest scoring American pilot in the European theatre. He had only one less victory than Francis "Gabby" Gabreski, another P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilot with the 56th Fighter Group, who scored his 28th victory only after Johnson had returned to the United States.
ww2dbaseJohnson came home in June 1944, just after the invasion of Europe, and was assigned to go on a publicity tour to help sell war bonds. It was during this tour that he met Richard "Dick" Bong who, at the time, was the top scoring American ace in the Pacific theatre (also with 27 victories, the same as Johnson). While Bong would return to combat and push his total to 40, Johnson left the service (although he remained in the reserve), to work for Republic Aviation, the makers of the Thunderbolt aircraft that he had flown in combat.
ww2dbaseJohnson was with Republic for 18 years and his first task was to redesign the P-47 cockpit to make it more user-friendly for the pilots by clustering the instruments together so they could be seen at a glance. In December 1951 he went to Korea for the company where its F-84 Thunderjet was in combat, and two years later, wearing the uniform of a US Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Colonel, was present at the armistice talks at Panmunjom, Gyeonggi Province, Korea.
ww2dbaseJohnson's book, co-written with Martin Caidin, entitled Thunderbolt! Flying the P-47 with the Fabulous 56th Fighter Group in World War II was first published in 1958 and, after leaving Republic, he went into the insurance business. In 1983 Robert Johnson was inducted into the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame.
ww2dbaseRobert Johnson died on 27 December 1998 aged 78 years.
World Aircraft Information Files (Bright Star Publishing)
Last Major Revision: Jun 2012
Robert Johnson Interactive Map
Robert Johnson Timeline
|21 Feb 1920||Robert Johnson was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, United States.|
|11 Nov 1941||Robert Johnson completed aviation cadet training and began his service with the US Army at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States.|
|18 Dec 1941||Robert Johnson was assigned to the Missouri Institute of Aeronautics in Sikeston, Missouri, United States for flight training.|
|28 Jan 1942||Phil Zampini became Robert Johnson's flight instructor at the Missouri Institute of Aeronautics in Sikeston, Missouri, United States.|
|21 Feb 1942||Robert Johnson married Barbara Morgan in Benton, Missouri, United States.|
|27 Feb 1942||Robert Johnson began basic flying training at Randolph Field, Texas, United States.|
|3 May 1942||Robert Johnson began advanced flying training at Kelly Field, Texas, United States.|
|28 Jun 1942||Robert Johnson completed advanced flying training at Kelly Field, Texas, United States.|
|3 Jul 1942||Robert Johnson was commissioned a second lieutenant at Kelly Field, Texas, United States.|
|19 Jul 1942||Robert Johnson joined the USAAF 61st Fighter Squadron at Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States, flying P-47B Thunderbolt aircraft.|
|26 Nov 1942||While stationed at Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States, Robert Johnson and fellow members of the USAAF 61st Fighter Squadron received orders for overseas duty.|
|28 Dec 1942||Robert Johnson and fellow members of the USAAF 61st Fighter Squadron arrived at Camp Kilmer at Piscataway and Edison, New Jersey, United States.|
|6 Jan 1943||Robert Johnson departed New York, New York, United States for Britain aboard the Queen Elizabeth.|
|13 Jan 1943||Robert Johnson arrived at RAF Kings Cliffe, England, United Kingdom.|
|18 Apr 1943||Robert Johnson flew his first combat mission over the Dutch coast but saw no action.|
|14 May 1943||Robert Johnson saw action in flight for the first time while escorting B-17 bombers over Belgium, damaging two German Fw 190 aircraft.|
|19 May 1943||Robert Johnson engaged in combat with German fighters over Europe.|
|13 Jun 1943||Robert Johnson scored his first kill, a German Fw 190 aircraft of 10 Staffel of JG 26, over Bergues, France.|
|26 Jun 1943||Robert Johnson's P-47 aircraft was badly damaged by German aircraft while flying patrol over France, but was able to return to base in Britain.|
|1 Jul 1943||In England, United Kingdom, Robert Johnson recovered from wounds sustained in combat on 13 Jun 1943 and resumed flight duties.|
|19 Aug 1943||Robert Johnson scored his second kill over Woensdrecht, the Netherlands, shooting down a German Bf 109G fighter.|
|8 Oct 1943||Robert Johnson shot down a German Fw 190 aircraft over Lingen, Germany.|
|10 Oct 1943||Robert Johnson shot down a German Bf 110 aircraft and a Fw 190 aircraft over MÃ¼nster, Germany.|
|3 Nov 1943||Robert Johnson shot down a German Bf 109G fighter over Ameland, the Netherlands.|
|26 Nov 1943||Robert Johnson became a flight leader with the USAAF 61st Fighter Squadron.|
|22 Dec 1943||Robert Johnson shot down a German Bf 109G fighter over Almelo, the Netherlands.|
|30 Dec 1943||Robert Johnson shot down a German Fw 190D aircraft over Soissons, France.|
|31 Dec 1943||Robert Johnson shot down two German Fw 190D aircraft over Savenay, France.|
|5 Jan 1944||Robert Johnson shot down a German Fw 190 aircraft over Koblenz, Germany.|
|21 Jan 1944||Robert Johnson shot down a German Fw 190 aircraft over Rouen, France.|
|30 Jan 1944||Robert Johnson shot down a German Me 410 heavy fighter and a Bf 109 fighter over Lingen, Germany.|
|20 Feb 1944||Robert Johnson shot down two Bf 110 aircraft over DÃ¼mmer Lake, Germany.|
|6 Mar 1944||Robert Johnson shot down a German Bf 110 aircraft over DÃ¼mmer Lake, Germany.|
|8 Mar 1944||Robert Johnson participated in a large aerial battle over Steinhude Lake, Germany during which the Germans shot down 34 American bombers, but Johnson was able to claim two Bf 109 kills.|
|15 Mar 1944||Robert Johnson was promoted to the rank of captain. On the same day, he shot down a Fw 190 and a Bf 109 aircraft over DÃ¼mmer Lake, Germany.|
|9 Apr 1944||Robert Johnson shot down a German Fw 190 aircraft over Kiel, Germany.|
|13 Apr 1944||Robert Johnson shot down two German Fw 190 aircraft over Kaiserslautern, Germany.|
|1 May 1944||While in Britain, Robert Johnson was promoted to the rank of major.|
|8 May 1944||Robert Johnson flew his final mission, shooting down a Bf 109G aircraft and a Fw 190 aircraft over Celle, Germany.|
|6 Jun 1944||Robert Johnson returned to the United States.|
|27 Dec 1998||Robert Johnson passed away in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States.|
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Visitor Submitted Comments
13 Jan 2014 09:18:09 PM
My father, Richard J. "Dick" Downs enlisted in February 1942 and after his basic training entered basic flight training at Randolph Field, Texas and Advanced flight training at Kelly Field, Texas. He became a flight instructor there after completing his training. Anyone knowing him is invited to contact me.
All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.
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24 Jun 2012 04:39:55 PM
There's a good story about Johnson that's a testament to the ruggedness of the P-47. His plane got shot up on a mission and the fuel pump was knocked out, so Johnson had to fly alone back to England, pumping gas to the engine by a hand crank in the cockpit. A German fighter engaged for 2-3 passes and shot hell out of the defenseless P-47, which kept on flying. The German plane apparently ran out of ammo; he came along side, saluted Johnson, and broke off. Johnson got home with only a blistered hand from pumping gas.
Source: a book called Fighter Planes and Pilots of WWII, from the early 60's.