Dwight Hal Johnson was a distinguished soldier of the United States Army, who fought valiantly during the Vietnam War. His bravery and caring for his fellow soldiers while in Vietnam earned him the Medal of Honor. Like many other recipients of the Medal of Honor, the ending of Dwight Johnson’s story is not a happy one. However, it is sad in a way that you might not suspect.
Dwight Johnson was born in Detroit, Michigan on May 7, 1947. He was drafted during the Vietnam War and went on to become a Specialist 5th Class. He was a tank driver. In this capacity, he found himself stuck in a conflict with a North Vietnamese force on January 15, 1968. He was 20-years-old at the time.
That day, in the Kontum Province in Vietnam, Dwight Johnson 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.” As soon as Dwight arrived, one of the tracks on his tank ceased operating. He was a sitting duck, or at least his tank was; Dwight was not the sort of man to sit there. He took the only mobile weapon within his reach-a .45 caliber handgun- and exited the tank. He immediately went straight for, and engaged, the enemy. He managed not to be shot while he used up his ammo killing several enemies.
When Dwight Johnson ran out of ammo for his .45, he went back to his tank, which was naturally the focus of much enemy fire. Against the odds, he managed to get in, get a sub-machine gun, and get out without being killed. He went straight back into the midst of the enemy and killed a few more. He continued his attack until he ran out of ammunition once again. At this time, Dwight Johnson went to a different tank and saved a man’s life.
Dwight Johnson’s platoon sergeant had an injured man in his tank. Dwight, now unarmed, went to the tank and pulled his fellow soldier out. He then carried him to a personnel carrier. Johnson then returned to his platoon sergeant and helped him fire the tank’s main gun until it jammed. Never one to stop when the odds were against him, Dwight Johnson returned to his tank one last time. There, he operated the tank’s .50 caliber machine gun until the conflict was over. He was exposed the entire time.
The entire situation that led to Dwight Johnson receiving the Medal of Honor lasted roughly 30 minutes. In that time, Dwight killed anywhere between 5 and 20 enemy soldiers. Unfortunately, this seems to have had an ill effect on the heroic man. After going home and receiving the highest award any member of the military can receive, Dwight became unhappy. Doctors said that he suffered from nightmares, depression and survivor’s guilt. The modern mind tells us that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no denying that he lived through a traumatic experience that day. Furthermore, there is no telling what other atrocities he saw in Vietnam.
Sources say that when Dwight Johnson came home, he became sunk in debt, despite getting a job as a recruiter. He was also severely depressed, despite having a wife and a baby boy. Accounts of what happened as a result of this are conflicted.
Some say that Dwight walked in on an armed robbery at a liquor store and was shot. Many more sources say that Dwight was the man doing the robbing, but that he did not fire a single shot. Either way, he was shot to death by a liquor store clerk on April 30, 1971 in Detroit, Michigan. He was only 23-years-old. Dwight’s mother reportedly felt like her son had wanted to die, but needed somebody else to do the killing.
Dwight died a hero, regardless of the manner of his death. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where he belongs.
Johnson, Dwight, retrieved 8/31/10, cmohs.org/recipient-detail/3317/johnson-dwight-h.php
Dwight Hal Johnson, retrieved 8/31/10, findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&Grid=5758187