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In Honor of

Donald J Johnson,

Deadeye

 
     
 
 

Donald J. Johnson, 93, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin died Friday May 09, 2014, at the Hospice Home of Hope. He was born May 18, 1920, in Fond du Lac, the son of Frank L. and Caroline Scheer Johnson.

On October 11, 1941, he married Marilyn I. French at St. Patrick's Church in Fond du Lac. Don was a 1938 graduate of Fond du Lac High School.

He was a veteran of the US Army serving with the 382nd Infantry in M Company with 96th Division in the Philippines and Okinawa campaigns in the South Pacific Theatre from 1944 to 1946.

His awards included the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.

Don retired from Mercury Marine in 1984 after 17 years of service.

He was a member of Trier-Puddy American Legion Post #75 and served with the post firing squad for 27 years.

Don was an avid golfer and Green Bay Packer fan. He was a member of Holy Family Parish.

Surviving are his wife, Marilyn, three sons, Bill and Bob of Fond du Lac, and Jim (Rhonda) Johnson of Genoa, IL, nine grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, a daughter-in-law, Lucy Johnson, and two sisters, Ruth Schmidelkopfer and LaVerne Schuppe.

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Don Johnson took basic training at Camp White back in 1943 He took advanced mortar training in the mud and snows of winter for weeks at a time. It is where young men are disciplined and toughened by doing their share of marching, calisthenics, KP, guard duty and yes pushups. They go through rigorous obstacle courses and crawl under live machine gun fire. They march with weapons and heavy packs on their backs while simulating battle conditions.

They learn to be responsible for themselves and their buddies, follow orders and work together in their unit. Soldiers belong to Uncle Sam and this is drilled into them day and night from Reveille to Taps and often up at 3:30 am for KP and get back exhausted to quarters at 9:00 pm.

Officers up and down the line were also trained to work together from the platoon to battalion and regiment, and this took time and effort of all soldiers. Don had several months of this training.

The men of the 96th Division became known as Deadeyes because of one scrappy officer who insisted on marksmanship and all the weeks on firing ranges; Brigadier General Claudius Easley.

Don was assigned to the Infantry, and in the mortar section and learned all about these small cannons. Cleaning and carrying them everywhere was a chore. They are heavy.

It was soon time to get ready for landing with their weapons, and to go Camp San Luis Obispo and Camp Callan, California to train. They made landings with the LST ships getting ready for combat

The men then went to Camp Beale, California and participated in more extensive rifle training, infiltration, range practice and general overseas preparation. The Deadeyes would prove in combat that they were crack troops and all this preparation was necessary.

They moved to Camp Stoneman, California, where they received summer clothing and new equipment.

It was July of 1944 and the time to leave the country had arrived. The Deadeyes made a nostalgic trip by truck convoy down through San Francisco where the men boarded the USS Sea Marlin.

They sailed through sub-infested waters and hundreds of the men become seasick. They arrived in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii and settled into up their huts at Schofield Barracks for six more rigorous weeks of jungle training, more practice landings and indoctrination.

They next boarded the troop ship USS Warhawk which stopped at Eniwetok for fuel in September, sailed on past Manus Island and then made an assault landing on Leyte, on Oct 20, 1945 an island in the central Philippines after the US Navy had shelled and softened the beaches.

The Deadeye artillery units were soon ashore and pulverizing the areas ahead of infantry, and US Army forces were assisted with a Marine Artillery unit that performed well.
Don helped prepared the increments of powder charges applied for precise distances, and they armed the shells with the increments and each man inspected them for count.

When a forward area is secured by infantry mortar units pack up and move forward and the men unload and stack shells, reorient their mortars and then dig new foxholes.

Mortar fire is required and used to advantage at every little village and point of contact with the enemy and so was the case on Leyte which required two months of intense, wet jungle warfare.

It was somewhere along on Leyte that Don acquired dengue fever and had to leave his unit and go to an Army Hospital. He survived but his liver was attacked and he was jaundiced even on Okinawa.

Leyte was declared secure by MacArthur in December of 1944. When the battle was over, over 500 Deadeyes had lost their lives, hundreds lie wounded in hospitals, and 7,700 Japanese had been killed. Combined American forces had secured the island and had eliminated 48,790 enemy troops.

This is bloody warfare, and the Deadeyes of the 96th Division had performed well. Our country had a foothold in the Philippines and used Leyte for a base to liberate all the Islands.

The US Navy was involved in the greatest sea battles the world had ever endured to land and protect American forces on Leyte, and Deadeyes were not aware of them.

After weeks of mopping up straggling Japanese troops on Leyte Deadeyes did get to lick their wounds before preparing for the next invasion.

Under the supervision of Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance and the US Navy the division was transported to do battle on Okinawa.

Don made the landing with the 96th Deadeye Division on April 1, 1945 and the division traversed the island and turned south. After a month’s combat the division pulled off the lines and was stationed at Kadena airfield, and this is where Bill Hill met Don as he was a replacement coming in May 1st.

It is here that the largest artillery barrages of WWII impacted enemy soil, and when the tally was completed after 82 days of combat on Okinawa there were also thousands of mortar rounds fired by Deadeye units in much closer contact than artillery units.

It was comforting for infantrymen to hear those shells swim over and hear them impact enemy positions. As there were several hills and valleys on Okinawa these sounds echoed and roared repeatedly

Forward observers from the mortar units were routinely stationed on the front lines to watch the results of fire and follow the orders of Infantry Officers all in support and purposes of men on the ground. Often smoke shells to cover men bringing out wounded and making withdrawals to save lives. Don was involved in all of this, including carrying the wounded back to aid units.

These men were often subjected to the same enemy fire as the riflemen and responded valiantly, earning many bronze and silver stars respectively. Many of these mortar men volunteered for this and took often took turns up front.

Don encountered a Japanese soldier one morning while a Kochi Ridge; but the soldier escaped untouched

Don and Bill and Marilyn often talked after the war. Both Don and Whitey Sergeant while at the southern part of Okinawa delighted in throwing empty c-ration cans in Hill’s fox-hole and Don reminded him of that several times. Don and Bill were lifetime army buddies.

Bill and his wife Jeane Hill attended 96th Division Reunions and struck up a lifetime relationship as the men in M Co. and their wives became like family meeting year after year.

Don’s job in the war was to serve in his unit and he earned every award given him. His family can be proud of his term of service.

His most impressive award was the famed Presidential UnitCitation and it was because he was in integral part of one of the premier fighting forces in the Pacific. He also earned the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge.

mortar Squad

Mortar Squad 2R taken in 1945 Mindoro, Philippines

In back Ken Morgan, Dutch DeHann, Jones, GI Moss and Don Johnson.
In front Slats Johnson, Whitey Sergeant, Barney Avery and Bill Hill

 
         

If the family or friends of this honored Deadeye would like to post any photos, tributes or stories please contact us and we will be very happy to add to this page.

 

If you would like to Honor a Deadeye in this way, please email us with that information as well.

 

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