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Harold Keith Johnson: Wikis


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Joseph Richards Essig's portrait of General Johnson

Harold Keith Johnson (22 February 1912 - 24 September 1983) was a United States General. He served as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army between 1964 and 1968.


Early career

General Johnson was born in Bowesmont, Pembina County, North Dakota in 1912. He came from a poor but close family and his early life was one of hard work and study. General Johnson joined the Boy Scouts as a youth and supported Scouting activities all his life. As Chief of Staff, he kept a Bible and a copy of the Boy Scout handbook on his desk. He often quoted the Scout oath in speeches, "On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country".

Johnson was a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1933, he graduated 232nd in a class of 347 and was not expected to have a promising career. During World War II, he fought the Japanese as an officer in the Philippine Scouts' 57th Infantry Regiment during the Battle of Bataan, and survived the Bataan Death March, spending three years in captivity. Johnson also served in the Korean War, during which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest medal for bravery.

Chief of Staff

In 1964, General Johnson became the 24th Chief of Staff of the United States Army, having been unexpectedly promoted over several more senior generals. Johnson was the Army's leading tactician, having served as commandant of the Command and General Staff College, and was an outspoken skeptic of deploying troops except as a last resort and accompanied by the total commitment of the civilian leadership.

During his term as Chief of Staff, he was involved in many policy debates regarding the escalation of the Vietnam War. He was a strong proponent of full military mobilization: declare a national emergency, call up the reserves, fight a quick and decisive war, and withdraw. He considered resigning in protest over President Lyndon B. Johnson's decision not to mobilize the reserves, and at the end of his life expressed regret at not doing so.

As Chief of Staff, one of Johnson's noteworthy accomplishments was creating the office of the Sergeant Major of the Army to improve the quality of life for enlisted personnel. He selected Sergeant Major William O. Wooldridge to be the first to hold this post. Johnson also served as acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a few months in 1967 during the convalescence of General Earle Wheeler. He retired from the Army in 1968.

Johnson married Dorothy Rennix in 1935. He was the subject of a biography, Honorable Warrior, by Lewis Sorley. He died September 24, 1983, in Washington, D.C..


"If you want it, you can't get it. If you can get it, it can't find you. If it can find you, it can't identify the target. If it can identify the target, it can't hit it. But if it does hit the target, it doesn't do a great deal of damage anyway." - On Combat Air Support in the Korean War

Military history

  • 1933: graduated from the United States Military Academy
  • 1933–1937: Commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the 3d Infantry at Fort Snelling
  • 1936: Promoted to first lieutenant
  • 1938: Graduated from the Infantry School at Fort Benning
  • 1938-1940: Served in the 28th Infantry at Fort Niagara
  • 1940: Assigned to the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, at Fort McKinley
  • 1940: Promoted to temporary rank of captain
  • 1941: Promoted to temporary rank of major
  • 1942: Promoted to temporary rank of lieutenant colonel
  • 1943: Promoted to permanent rank of captain
  • 1942–1945: Was a battalion commander in the defense of the Philippines, was taken prisoner when Bataan fell, survived the Bataan Death March and imprisonment in the Philippines, Japan, and Korea, and was liberated by the 7th Infantry Division
  • 1945: Promoted to temporary colonel
  • 1947–1949: Instructor at Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth
  • 1950: Commanded the 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry, at Fort Devens, 1950;
  • 1950–1951: Battalion commander and commander of both the 5th and 8th Cavalry in Korean War operations
  • 1951: Plans and operations officer of the I Corps, Far East Command
  • 1951-1952: Plans and operations officer in the Office of the Chief of Army Field Forces at Fort Monroe
  • 1953: Graduated from the National War College
  • 1954–1955: Chief of the Joint War Plans Branch, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G–3
  • 1956: Promoted to temporary brigadier general
  • 1956: Promoted to permanent colonel
  • 1955–1956: Executive officer in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G–3
  • 1956–1957: Assistant division commander of the 8th Infantry Division
  • 1957–1959: Chief of staff of the American Seventh Army in Germany
  • 1959–1960: Chief of staff of the Central Army Group, North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • 1959: Promoted to temporary major general
  • 1960: Promoted to permanent brigadier general
  • 1960–1963: Commandant of the Command and General Staff College
  • 1963: Assistant and then acting deputy chief of staff for military operations
  • 1963: Promoted to permanent major general
  • 1963: Promoted to temporary lieutenant general
  • 1964: Promoted to temporary general
  • 1963–1964: Deputy chief of staff for military operations
  • July 3, 1964 – July 2, 1968: Chief of Staff of the United States Army
  • 1968: Retired from active service


See also

References and external links

Military offices
Preceded by
Earle G. Wheeler
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
William C. Westmoreland
Preceded by
Harry Jacob Lemley, Jr.
Commandant of the Command and General Staff College
February 1963 - August 1966
Succeeded by
Lionel C. McGarr


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