PFC Ralph Johnson, USMC

Private First Class Ralph Johnson is one of two men from South Carolina who won Congressional Medals of Honor for their deeds in Vietnam. (The other is Sergeant Webster Anderson of the 101st Airborne.) Born to Mrs. Rebecca Johnson on January 11, 1949 in Charleston where he attended public schools, Johnson began his Marine Corps service in the reserves in March 1967. He became a regular Marine a few months later. Within a year, before he would have reached his twentieth birthday, he would make the ultimate sacrifice.

On New Year's Day 1968, Johnson began his tour of duty in Vietnam, where he was attached to the First Reconnaissance Battalion. Two months and four days later, on March 5, 1968, Johnson gave his life to save the lives of his fellow Marines. The citation that explains his actions that led to his posthumous award of the Congressional Medal of Honor reads as follows:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Reconnaissance Scout with Company A, First Reconnaissance Battalion, First Marine Division in action against the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong Forces in the Republic of Vietnam. In the early morning hours of 5 March 1968, during operation ROCK, Private First Class Johnson was a member of a fifteen-man reconnaissance patrol manning an observation post on Hill 146 overlooking the Quan Duc Cuc Valley deep in enemy-controlled territory. They were attacked by platoon-size hostile force employing automatic weapons, satchel charges and hand grenades. Suddenly, a hand grenade landed in the three-man fighting hole occupied by Private Johnson and two fellow marines. Realizing the inherent danger to his two comrades, he shouted a warning and unhesitatingly hurled himself upon the explosive device. When the grenade exploded, Private Johnson absorbed the tremendous impact of the blast and was killed instantly. His prompt and heroic act saved the life of one marine at the cost of his own and undoubtedly prevented the enemy from penetrating his sector of the patrol's perimeter. Private Johnson's courage, inspiring valor and selfless devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."


Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Defenders of America, 1775-1973. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., 1974, p.271.

last updated 1/7/98


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