Robert S. Johnson

Robert S. Johnson
Then, Captain R.S. Johnson, in the cockpit of his P-47 Thunderbolt

Robert S. Johnson was the first USAAF fighter pilot in the European theater to surpass Eddie Rickenbacker's WWI score of 26 victories. His total score was originally considered to be 28. But this was changed to 27 when it was discovered that he was given credit for a double kill on a day when he wasn't even flying!!

He was a member of the 56th Fighter Group, also known as "The Wolf Pack". In this unit, there were more than one pilot named Johnson. What happened was they gave a credit to the other Johnson that rightfully belonged to Bob Johnson, and they gave Bob Johnson a double credit that rightfully belonged to the other Johnson. This was finally rectified about 30 or so years after the fact, in USAF records.

I first read about R.S. Johnson in his book "Thunderbolt" which chronicles his life during WWII. Maybe it was the way he told his story, but after reading his book, he become my favorite USAAF WWII ace.  You can still find his book in various book stores, as well as libraries, so I do recommend it as a good read. You get a good feel for what it must have been like back then. And he tells it like it is. You find out that Americans weren't top notch fighter pilots right away, it took time, and casualties before the survivors learned the skills they needed to survive and succeed at stopping the Luftwaffe.  

And in spite of what some people may think, Robert S. Johnson did NOT come onto the scene in the waning days of the Luftwaffe.  When he started flying combat missions, the Luftwaffe pilots pretty much owned the skies over Europe.  It was men like Johnson and his comrades who took it away from the Germans.  And this was done at no small cost to the Allied Air Forces.

Robert S. Johnson died December 27, 1998

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Created: November 20, 1998
Last updated: January 4, 2004

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