Skip to Main Content

Wilkes County Veterans History Project: Jim B. Johnson

Jim Johnson's Photos

Jim Johnson

Jim overseas

Jim and Friend Overseas

Letter Written by Jim

Asiatic Pacific Service Medal

Philippine Liberation Medal

Good Conduct Medal

World War II Victory Medal

Jim after he returned home

Jim and Bessie's graves

Jim Johnson's Story (submitted by Jim's Great-Niece, Laura Bailey)

Private First Class Jim Bowden Johnson was born to Samuel T. and Rebecca Gregory Johnson on September 22, 1919 in the small mountain community of Spurgeon, Wilkes County, North Carolina. His father worked as a farmer and his mother was a homemaker. Jim had 8 siblings- 5 sisters (Neoma, Evie, Cenie, Beulah, and Hazel) and 3 brothers (Glenn, Pritch, and Carl). He also had 8 half-siblings. 

Prior to his entry into the service, Jim worked as a general farmhand on his family's property, helping to support them in the years following the Great Depression. When Uncle Sam called, Jim enlisted into the service on December 21, 1942, and reported for duty at Camp Croft, South Carolina. There he became attached to the United States Army's Coast Artillery Corps. After entry he trained stateside for 10 months until he and his unit sailed for the Asiatic Pacific Theater on October 12, 1943. 

As a member of Battery B of the 164th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion, Private Johnson received his qualification to use a 30mm caliber M-1 Garand Rifle. His primary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was that of an Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Crewman (2601) relating to the maintenance and operation of 90mm and 120mm weapons. His responsibilities included but were not limited to: 'examined gun for proper mechanical functioning. Unloaded projectiles from trucks, inspected projectiles and fuzes for defects, brought up ammunition from prime mover or ammunition dump to rear of emplacement, passed shells to loader, inserted shells in fuze cutter, loaded into breech, or removed empty shells from gun position.' 

Private First Class Johnson performed these duties, among others, in some of the fiercest conditions (physical and foe) encountered during the entire Second World War. Positioned in New Guinea, Johnson and his unit served in the Northern Solomons Campaign, a major offensive concerted with other Allied nations whose ultimate goal was to regain Japanese seized territories in the Pacific. The Allies also defended their communication and supply lines in the South Pacific by supporting a counteroffensive in New Guinea. These combined efforts riddled with significant casualties led to the Liberation of the Philippines and eventual victory in the Pacific Theater by the Allied Nations. 

Private First Class Jim Bowden Johnson suffered physically throughout his active duty. Over the course of 13 months, Johnson required hospitalization in the makeshift medical facilities erected throughout the jungles. After receiving treatment for malaria, vitamin deficiencies, and skin disease courtesy of the torturous elements, Johnson returned to his unit and battled on. 

For his service Private First Class Johnson received the Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, the Philippine Liberation Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. 

​​​​​​​At the conclusion of the war, PFC Johnson sailed for home, arriving in the states on December 31, 1945. On January 16, 1946 he received his discharge from the Separation Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Shortly after returning home, Jim married Bessie Ola Johnson. Together they worked and resided in the small Wilkes County town of Boomer, North Carolina trying to make a go of things in a post-war world. Private First Class Jim Bowden Johnson passed away on February 3, 1955, no doubt the result of a war-torn body and spirit. He and his wife are buried beside each other at Lewis Baptist Church Cemetery in North Wilkesboro.