A. J. Johnson faced deadly confrontation in The Philippines - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

A. J. Johnson faced deadly confrontation in The Philippines

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DeBerry, Texas -  A. J. Johnson was fired up. A sailor wounded at sea was back home telling him and three of his buddies how the Japanese sank his ship.  So Johnson and his buds all decided to join the Navy, too.

But Johnson was the only one to pass the physical.  He to war alone.  He would go on to pass another test -- a test of courage and fighting skill.

"You're scared," Johnson recalls of those seaborn assaults.  "Them machine gun bullets (were) flying."

His job was to drive troops from ship to shore in the face of enemy fire.   But during one assault in The Philippines, Johnson's transport boat was hit.

"We took a bazooka," he says.  

His boat disabled, Johnson had to go ashore with the troops, crawling up the beach below enemy fire.  Johnson says he crawled over a log and felt something -- someone --  on the other side hiding.

"When I looked around I could see them big shiny teeth, gold teeth looking," Johnson says. "I knew it was a Jap. He was fixing to come up and I come up with him and when we did we went into hand to hand combat." 

Johnson says he quickly got the upper hand, thanks to his Navy training.  He described going for the enemy's feet.

"When you get to their feet, you pull one up and throw it over there," Johnson said, demonstrating the move. "And that gets him away from you and you can use your feet then.  And course when you stomp down on his helmet and get his neck there, that breaks it." 

Johnson then began wiping tears as he finished recalling the life or death experience.

"When you start thinking of things like that, well, your eyes start leaking you know," he said as he dabbed a handkerchief. 

Johnson has a collection of medals from the invasions he made -- not just in The Philippines, but also Guam and Okinawa seven decades ago.  He also has memories of new buddies he made in the Navy after leaving home at age 17.

"I growed up. And sometimes I think it might have grew you up too fast," Johnson says. "But I wouldn't change any of the experiences."

After the war when he was just about 20 years old, Johnson went home to Houston and began driving a truck with his dad.  He's lived in DeBerry with his wife for about the last decade. 
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