Johnson, Harold Keith, GEN

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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
2010-Chief of Staff
Primary Unit
1964-1968, 2010, Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army
Service Years
1933 - 1968
Official/Unofficial US Army Certificates
Cold War Certificate



Ten Overseas Service Bars

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Home State
North Dakota
North Dakota
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Theodore Spinning (redtop)-Family to remember Johnson, Harold Keith (24th Army CofS), GEN USA(Ret).

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Contact Info
Home Town
Last Address
Washington, D.C.

Date of Passing
Sep 24, 1983
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Joint Chiefs of Staff 1st Cavalry Division Army Staff Identification Infantry Shoulder Cord

US Army Retired (Pre-2007) Meritorious Unit Commendation 1944-1961

 Unofficial Badges 

Cold War Medal

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity


To All Who Shall See These Presents Greeting:
This is to Certify that
The President of the United States of America
Takes Pride in Presenting





The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Harold K. Johnson, Lieutenant Colonel (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Commanding Officer of the 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment (Infantry), 1st Cavalry Division. Lieutenant Colonel Johnson distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Tabu-dong, Korea, on 4 September 1950. When his battalion had been forced to withdraw from their hill position by a series of fierce attacks by an overwhelming number of the enemy, Colonel Johnson immediately directed a counterattack in an attempt to regain the vitally important dominating terrain. Placing himself with the most forward elements in order to more effectively direct and coordinate the attack, Colonel Johnson rallied his men and led them forward. Moving about exposed to the heavy enemy artillery, mortar and small-arms fire, he directed fire, assigned positions and, by personal example, proved the necessary incentive to stimulate and keep the attack moving. When his battalion began to falter due to the devastating enemy fire, Colonel Johnson moved forward to close proximity of the enemy to establish and personally operate a forward observation post. Remaining in this exposed position, he directed effective mortar counter fire against the enemy. When his mortars became inoperable and his casualties very heavy due to the tremendous firepower and numerically superior enemy forces, he realized the necessity for withdrawal. Remaining in the position until the last unit had withdrawn, he directed the salvaging of both weapons and equipment. Reestablishing a new defensive position, he reorganized his battalion and supervised medical attention and evacuation of the wounded. His conspicuous devotion to duty and selfless conduct under enemy fire provided an inspiring example to his men and prevented a serious penetration of friendly lines.
Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army, Korea: General Orders No. 52 (February 2, 1951)


Other Comments:

Harold Keith Johnson (22 February 1912 - 24 September 1983) was a U.S. 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
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Korean War/UN Offensive (1950)
From Month/Year
September / 1950
To Month/Year
November / 1950

MacArthur planned an amphibious landing at Inch' on, a port of the Yellow Sea 25 miles west of Seoul, to be followed by an advance to recapture the city and block North Korean troop movements and supply routes there. Concurrently the Eighth Army was to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and move northward, driving the North Koreans into the Inch'on landing forces which would be driving south. Maj. Gen. Edward M. Almond, commander of the newly activated X Corps, was to be in command of the invasion troops.

Early on 15 September a Marine battalion of the let Marine Division (which had loaded in Japan for the Inch'on Landing), covered by strong air strikes and naval gunfire, quickly captured Wolmi Island, just offshore from Inch'on. By afternoon, Marine assault waves rode the high tide into the port itself (UN Offensive-16 September to 2 November 1950). The remainder of the 1st Marine Division disembarked and pressed toward Kimpo Airfield, the Han River, and Seoul. The 7th Infantry Division came ashore; some elements turned southeastward toward Suwon, south of Seoul, while the remainder of the division joined the Marines in the advance toward Seoul. Kimpo Airfield was captured by the 18th, and put in use by the cargo-carrying planes of the Far East Air Forces to augment the stream of supplies being landed by the Navy at Inch'on. The 187th RCT was flown into Kimpo Airfield to strengthen U.N. defenses in that area. After heavy fighting between advancing U.N. forces and the determined North Korean forces, which had resolved to fight for Seoul street by street, MacArthur announced on 26 September that the city was again in friendly hands; but fighting continued there for several days. On 29 September MacArthur returned Seoul to President Rhee in a ceremony held in the blackened capitol building.

The Eighth Army began its offensive northward on 16 September. The ROK I and II Corps were in position on the north side of the perimeter. The U.S. I Corps, composed to the 1st Cavalry Division, the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade, the 24th Division, and the 1st ROK Division, was on the Taegu front. The remainder of the Eighth Army, positioned along the Naktong, included the U.S. 2d and 25th Divisions and attached ROK units. Progress was limited at first, but as the portent of the converging attacks became clear to the North Koreans, they fled north with heavy losses in men and materiel. Elements of the 7th Division (X Corps) and the 1st Cavalry Division (Eighth Army) made contact late on 26 September just south of Suwon, thus effecting a juncture of U.N. forces. Organized enemy resistance continued in the Eighth Army sector until the last days of September. Although large numbers of enemy troops escaped through the eastern mountains, more than 100,000 prisoners were captured during this period; by 30 September the North Korean Army had ceased to exist as an organized force below the 38th parallel. However, remnants of the army, fighting as guerrillas, continued to pose a considerable threat to the security of the U.N. forces.

During the latter part of September the Eighth Army was reinforced by a battalion each of Philippine and Australian troops. Early in October the U.S. 3d Division arrived in the Far East.

Meanwhile Walker's ROK I Corps crossed the 38th parallel on 1 October 1950 and advanced up the east coast, capturing Wonsan, North Korea's major seaport, on 10 October. The R0K II Corps also crossed the parallel and advanced northward through central Korea. In the west, Walker's remaining forces relieved the X Corps in the Seoul area and crossed the parallel on 9 October toward P'yongyang. By mid-October the U.N. forces had penetrated about 20 miles into North Korean territory.

In the second half of October 1950 the advance quickened as enemy resistance weakened and thousands of enemy troops surrendered. U.N. objectives were the destruction of the remaining Communist divisions and the capture of important North Korean cities. ROK troops spread through central and east Korea. Some turned north toward the industrial area centering around Hamhung and Hungnam, others west along the Wonsan-P'yongyang road. In the west the 1st Cavalry Division, after fighting through pill box defenses at Kumch'on, a few miles north of the parallel, progressed up the Seoul-P'yongyang railroad. The 24th Division drove to the south bank of the Taedong River in the vicinity of Chinnamp'o, the port for P'yongyang. The 1st Cavalry and 1st ROK Divisions entered P'yongyang on 19 October and secured the city in the next forty-eight hours. On 20 October the 187th Airborne RCT, complete with vehicles and howitzers, dropped on Sukch'on and Sunch'on, about 30 miles above the city of P'yongyang, to trap North Koreans fleeing northward. In northwest Korea a ROK regiment, leading the advance of the Eighth Army, entered the town of Ch'osan on 26 October, thereby becoming the first U.N. element to reach the Yalu River. Farther south additional U.N. forces crossed the Ch'ongch'on River at Sinanju and pushed toward the Manchurian border. For all practical purposes the North Korean Army had dissolved by the last week in October, and had melted away in the mountains adjacent to Manchuria and the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile Almond's X Corps had been withdrawn from combat and prepared for amphibious landings on the east coast of Korea. Since the rapid advance of ROK ground units and the fall of Wonsan made a combat landing there unnecessary, the 1st Marine Division carried out an administrative landing at Wonsan on 26 October, despite the heavily mined harbor which caused a long delay in unloading. On 29 October the 7th Division landed unopposed at Iwon, 80 miles farther north.

General Almond, adding the ROK I Corps to his command, set out to capture the industrial and communications areas, the port installations, and the power and irrigation plants of northeastern Korea. The ROK I Corps moved up the coastline toward Ch'ongjin, 120 miles north of Iwon. The 1st Marine Division moved 50 miles north of Hamhung and its port of Hungnam, then turned inland toward the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir, 45 miles to the northwest. Elements of the 7th Division attacked northwestward toward the Pujon Reservoir and the Yalu River.
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
From Month/Year
September / 1950
To Month/Year
November / 1950
Last Updated:
Mar 16, 2020
Personal Memories

People You Remember
Lt Col Johnson continued to command 3rd Bn, 8th Cav, 1st Cav div.

After the 1st Mar Div landed at Inchon, the 1st Cav Div, as part of Eight Army launched a break-out operation against the NKPA. They crossed the Han River, made their way to the Imjin, and on to Kaesong.

Units Participated in Operation

1st Cavalry Division

545th Military Police Company

212th Military Police Company

563rd Military Police Company

19th Military Police Battalion (CID)

My Photos From This Battle or Operation
No Available Photos

  592 Also There at This Battle:
  • Barnes, John, T/Sgt, (1949-1952)
  • Black, Robert
  • Blue, Albert, SFC, (1949-1960)
  • Carter, Lee Burt, MSG, (1944-1970)
  • Cortez, Agapito, S/Sgt, (1949-1952)
  • Crary, William Burton, 1LT, (1940-1950)
  • Cummings, Barnard, Jr., 1LT, (1945-1950)
  • Donovan, George Thomas, M/Sgt, (1943-1951)
  • Eaton, Ivan, Cpl, (1950-1954)
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