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Thread: Dwight Johnson

  1. #1
    WE'RE ALL GOING HOME HERO's Avatar
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    Default Dwight Johnson

    Dwight Hal Johnson: ESI, SLI, or EII; or Beta ST









    “From Dakto to Detroit: Death of a Troubled Hero” (1971) by Jon Nordheimer: A few tenants living in the E. J. Jeffries Homes, a dreary public housing project in Corktown, an old Detroit neighborhood, can still remember Dwight Johnson as a little boy who lived in one of the rust-brown buildings with his mother and baby brother. They think it strange, after all that has happened to Dwight, to remember him as a gentle boy who hated to fight.

    Dwight Johnson died one week from his 24th birthday, shot and killed as he tried to rob a grocery store a mile from his home. The store manager later told the police that a tall Negro had walked in shortly before midnight, drawn a revolver out of his topcoat and demanded money from the cash register.

    The manager pulled his own pistol from under the counter and the two men struggled. Seven shots were fired.

    Four and one-half hours later, on an operating table at Detroit General Hospital, Dwight (Skip) Johnson died from five gunshot wounds.

    Ordinarily, the case would have been closed right there, a routine crime in a city where there were 13, 583 armed robberies last year.

    But when the detectives went through the dead man’s wallet for identification, they found a small white card with its edges rubbed thin from wear. “Congressional Medal of Honor Society—United States of America,” it said. “This certifies that Dwight H. Johnson is a member of this society.”

    The news of the death of Sergeant Dwight Johnson shocked the black community of Detroit. Born out of wedlock when his mother was a teenager and raised on public welfare, he had been the good boy on his block in the dreary housing project, an altar boy and Explorer Scout, one of the few among the thousands of poor black youngsters in Detroit who had struggled against the grinding life of the ghetto and broken free, coming home from Vietnam tall and strong and a hero.

    The story of Dwight Johnson and his drift from hero in Dakto, Vietnam, to villain in Detroit is a difficult one to trace. The moments of revelation are rare. There were, of course, those two brief episodes that fixed public attention on him: 30 minutes of “uncommon valor” one cold morning in combat that earned him the nation’s highest military decoration, and the 30-second confrontation in the Detroit grocery that ended his life.

    Oddly, they are moments of extreme violence, and everyone who knew Dwight Johnson—or thought he did—knew he was not a violent man.

    Now that the funeral is over and the out-of-town relatives have gone home and the family conferences that sought clues to explain Dwight’s odd behavior have ended in bitter confusion, his mother can sit back and talk wistfully about the days when Skip was a skinny kid who was chased home after school by the Corktown bullies.

    “Mama,” he would ask, “what do I do if they catch me?” His mother would place an arm around his thin shoulders and draw him close. “Skip,” she would say, “don’t you fight, honey, and don’t let them catch you.” The boy would look downcast and worried. “Yes, Mama,” he’d say.

    “Dwight was a fabulous, all-around guy, bright and with a great sense of humor,” reflected Barry Davis, an auburn-haired Californian who flew with his wife to Detroit when he heard on a news report that Dwight had been killed. Three others who had served with him in Vietnam, all of them white, also came, not understanding what aberration had led to his death.

    “I can remember our first day at Fort Knox and Dwight was the only colored guy in our platoon,” Barry Davis recalled. “So we’re in formation and this wise guy from New Jersey says to Dwight, ‘Hey, what’s the initials N.A.A.C.P. stand for?’

    “And Dwight says, ‘The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.’

    “And this wise guy from New Jersey says, ‘Naw, that ain’t it. It stands for ******s Acting As Colored People.’

    “And I said to myself, ‘Wow, those are fighting words,’ but Dwight just laughed. From then on he was just one of the guys. As it turned out, Dwight liked this wise guy from New Jersey in the end as much as he liked anybody.”

    Most of the men who served with Sergeant Dwight Johnson remembered him that way—easy-going, hard to rattle, impossible to anger.

    But Stan Enders remembers him another way. Stan was the gunner in Skip’s tank that morning in Vietnam three years ago, during the fighting at Dakto.

    “No one who was there could ever forget the sight of this guy taking on a whole battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers,” Stan said as he stood in the sunshine outside Faith Memorial Church in Corktown three weeks ago, waiting for Skip’s funeral service to begin.

    Their platoon of four M-48 tanks was racing down a road toward Dakto, in the Central Highlands near the Cambodian border and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, when it was ambushed. Communist rockets knocked out two of the tanks immediately, and waves of foot soldiers sprang out of the nearby woods to attack the two tanks still in commission.

    Skip hoisted himself out of the turret hatch and manned the mounted .50-caliber machine gun. He had been assigned to this tank only the night before. His old tank, and the crew he had spent 11 months and 22 days with in Vietnam and had never seen action before, was 60 feet away, burning.

    “He was really close to those guys in that tank,” Stan said. “He just couldn’t sit still and watch it burn with them inside.”

    Skip ran through heavy crossfire to the tank and opened its hatch. He pulled out the first man he came across in the turret, burned but still alive, and got him to the ground just as the tank’s artillery shells exploded, killing everyone left inside.

    “When the tank blew up Dwight saw the bodies all burned and black, well, he just sort of cracked up,” said Stan.

    For 30 minutes, armed first with a .45-caliber pistol and then with a submachine gun, Skip hunted the Vietnamese on the ground, killing from five to 20 enemy soldiers, nobody knows for sure. When he ran out of ammunition, he killed one with the stock of the machine gun.

    At one point he came face to face with a Communist soldier who squeezed the trigger on his weapon aimed point blank at him. The gun misfired and Skip killed him. But the soldier would come back to haunt him late at night in Detroit, in those dreams in which that anonymous soldier stood in front of him, the barrel of his AK-47 as big as a railroad tunnel, his finger on the trigger, slowly pressing it.

    “When it was all over,” Stan said, walking up the church steps as the funeral service got under way, “it took three men and three shots of morphine to hold Dwight down. He was raving. He tried to kill the prisoners we had rounded up. They took him away to a hospital in Pleiku in a straight-jacket.”

    Stan saw Skip the next day. He had been released from the hospital, and came by to pick up his personal gear. His Vietnam tour was over and he was going home.

    No one there would know anything about Dakto until 10 months later, at the White House Medal of Honor Ceremony.

    Sergeant Johnson returned home in early 1968, outwardly only little changed from the quiet boy named Skip who had grown up in Detroit and been drafted. Even when he and other black veterans came home and could not find a job, he seemed to take it in stride.

    He had been discharged with $600 in his pocket, and it was enough to buy cigarettes and go out at night with his cousin, Tommy Tillman, and with Eddie Wright, a friend from the Jefferies Homes, and make the rounds to the Shadowbox or the Little Egypt, to drink a little beer and have a few dates.

    And at home no one knew about the bad dreams he was having. They would have to learn about that later from an Army psychiatrist.

    If anyone asked him about Vietnam, he would just shake his head, or laugh and say, “Aw, man, nothing happened,” and he would change the subject and talk about the girls in Kuala Lumpur, where he went for R and R, or the three-day pass he spent in Louisville, Ky., drinking too much whisky for the first time in his life and ending up in jail.

    He returned home just as the Communist Tet offensive erupted in Vietnam, and everyone talked about how lucky he had been to get out before things got hot. They teased him then about his lackluster military career.

    “When he came home from Vietnam he was different, sure, I noticed it, all jumpy and nervous and he had to be doing something all the time, it seems,” said Eddie Wright. “But mostly he was the same fun-time guy.”

    Carmen Berry, a close friend of Katrina May, the girl Skip started dating after his discharge, thought she detected nuances of change she attributed to the same mental letdown she had seen in other Vietnam veterans.

    “They get quiet,” she said, “It’s like they don’t have too much to say about what it was like over there. Maybe it’s because they’ve killed people and they don’t really know why they killed them.”

    “The only thing that bugged me about Skip then,” reflected his cousin Tommy, “and the one thing I thought was kind of strange and unlike him, was the pictures he brought back. He had a stack of pictures of dead people, you know, dead Vietnamese. Color slides.”

    In the fall he started looking for a job, along with Tommy Tillman.

    “We’d go down to the state employment agency every day and take a look at what was listed,” his cousin recalled. “Skip was funny; he wouldn’t try for any of the hard jobs. If we wrote down the name of a company that had a job that he didn’t feel qualified for, he wouldn’t even go into the place to ask about it. He’d just sit in the car while I went in.

    “Or if he did go in someplace, he’d just sit and mumble a few words when they’d ask him questions. It was like he felt inferior. He’d give a terrible impression. But once we got back in the car, it was the same old Skip, laughing and joking.”

    One day in October two military policemen came to his house. His mother saw the uniforms and before opening the door whispered urgently, “What did you do?”

    “I didn’t do nothing, honest, Ma,” he answered.

    The M.P.’s asked Skip a few questions. They wanted to know what he was doing and if he had been arrested since his discharge. Fifteen minutes after they left, the telephone rang. It was a colonel, calling from the Department of Defense in Washington. Sergeant Johnson was being awarded the Medal of Honor, he said. Could he and his family be in Washington on November 19 so President Johnson could personally present the award?

    One week later, on November 19, 1968, they were all there in the White House, Skip tall and handsome in his dress-blue uniform, his mother, Katrina and Tommy Tillman. The President [Lyndon Johnson] gave a little speech. The national election was over, the Democrats had lost, but there were signs of movement at the Paris peace talks.


    “Our hearts and our hopes are turned to peace as we assemble here in the East Room this morning,” the President said. “All our efforts are being bent in its pursuit. But in this company we hear again, in our minds, the sound of distant battles.”


    Five men received the Medal of Honor that morning. And when Sergeant Johnson stepped stiffly forward and the President looped the pale blue ribbon and sunburst medal around his neck, a citation was read that described his valor.

    Later, in the receiving line, when his mother reached Skip, she saw tears streaming down his face.

    “Honey,” she whispered, “what are you crying about? You’ve made it back.”

    After he officially became a hero, it seemed that everyone in Detroit wanted to hire Dwight Johnson, the only living Medal of Honor winner in Michigan. Companies that had not been interested in a diffident ex-G.I. named Johnson suddenly found openings for Medal of Honor Winner Johnson.

    Among those who wanted him was the United States Army.

    “The brass wanted him in the Detroit recruiting office because—let’s face it—here was a black Medal of Honor winner, and blacks are our biggest manpower pool in Detroit,” said an Army employee who had worked with Skip after he rejoined the service a month after winning the medal. “Personally, I think a lot of promises were made to the guy that couldn’t be kept. You got to remember that getting this guy back into the Army was a feather in the cap of a lot of people.”

    Events began moving quickly then for Skip. He married Katrina in January (the Pontchartrain Hotel gave the couple its bridal suite for their wedding night), and the newlyweds went to Washington in January as guests at the Nixon inaugural. Sergeant Johnson began a long series of personal appearances across Michigan in a public relations campaign mapped by the Army.

    In February, 1,500 persons paid $10 a plate to attend a testimonial dinner for the hero in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, co-sponsored by the Ford Motor Company and the Chamber of Commerce. A special guest was General William C. Westmoreland, Army Chief of Staff and former commander of United States forces in Vietnam.

    “Dwight was a hot property back in those days,” recalled Charles Bielak, a civilian information officer for the Army’s recruiting operations in Detroit. “I was getting calls for him all over the state. Of course, all this clamor didn’t last. It reached a saturation point somewhere along the way and tapered off.”

    But while it lasted, Skip’s life was frenetic. Lions Clubs . . . Rotary . . . American Legion. Detroit had a new hero. Tiger Stadium and meet the players. Sit at the dais with the white politicians. Be hailed by the black businessmen who would not have bothered to shake his hand before. Learn which fork to use for the salad. Say something intelligent to the reporters. Pick up the check for dinner for friends. Live like a man who had it made.

    But Leroy May, the hero’s father-in-law, could still see the child behind the man.

    “Dwight and Katrina were a perfect match—they both had a lot of growing up to do,” he said.

    “They didn’t know how to handle all the attention they got in those early days. They’d go out to supper so much Katrina complained she couldn’t eat any more steak. I had to take them out and buy them hot dogs and soda pop. They were just like a couple of kids.”

    Bills started piling up. “They were in over their heads as soon as they were married,” Mr. May said.

    Everyone extended credit to the Medal of Honor winner. Even when he bought the wedding ring, the jeweler would not take a down payment. Take money from a hero? Not then. Later, the Johnsons discovered credit cards.

    At first they lived in an $85-a-month apartment. But Katrina wanted a house. Skip signed a mortgage on a $16,000 house on the west side of Detroit. Monthly payments were $160.

    In the spring of 1970, he wrote a bad check for $41.77 at a local market. The check was made good by a black leader in Detroit who was aghast that the Medal of Honor winner had gotten himself into a financial hole.

    “I went to see him and told him he couldn’t go on like this,” said the man, a lawyer who asked to remain anonymous. “I said he was young and black and had the Medal of Honor. He could do anything he wanted. I tried to get him to think about college and law school. The black businessmen would pick up the tab. He wouldn’t have any part of it.”

    Looking back on this meeting, the lawyer said he suspected Skip was burdened by a “ghetto mentality” that limited his horizons. His world had been a public housing project and schools a few blocks away. Now, suddenly, events had thrust him outside the security of his boyhood neighborhood into a world dominated by whites.

    He was paralyzed, the lawyer speculated, by an inability to formulate a plan of action in this alien culture that he had been transported to by something that happened on the other side of the globe.

    “What does he do when he’s introduced to Bunkie Knudsen, the president of Ford?” asked the lawyer. “Does he come across strong and dynamic because he knows there is a $75,000-a-year job waiting for him if he makes a good impression? And what happens to him when he just stands there and fumbles and doesn’t know if he should shake hands or just nod his head? He was forced to play a role he was never trained for and never anticipated.”

    Tommy Tillman remembers how Skip would take several friends downtown to the Pontchartrain Hotel for an expensive meal and sit fumbling with the silverware, watching the others to see what fork to use first. “I’d say to him, ‘Shoot, man, what do you care? Go ahead and use anything you want.’

    “I wondered how he must feel when he’s the guest of honor at one of those fancy meetings he was all the time going to.”

    It was about this time that the stomach pains started.

    “It was all that rich food he was eating,” said his father-in-law. His mother recalled that “Skip always did have a nervous stomach.”

    He began staying away from his job as a recruiter, missed appointments and speaking engagements. “It got so bad I had to pick him up myself and deliver him to a public appearance,” said Mr. Bielak. “I had to handcuff myself to the guy to get him someplace. It was embarrassing. I couldn’t understand his attitude.”

    Last summer it was decided that Sergeant Johnson should report to Selfridge Air Force Base, not far from Detroit, for diagnosis of stomach complaints.

    From Selfridge he was sent in September to Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania. An Army psychiatrist later mulled over his notes on the patient and talked about them.


    Maalox and bland diet prescribed. G.I. series conducted. Results negative. Subject given 30-day convalescent leave 16 October 1970. Absent without leave until 21 January 1971 when subject returned to Army hospital on own volition. Subsequent hearing recommended dismissal of A.W.O.L. charge and back pay reinstated. Subject agreed to undergo psychiatric evaluation. In cognizance of subject’s outstanding record in Vietnam, the division’s chief psychiatrist placed in charge of the case. Preliminary analysis: Depression caused by post-Vietnam adjustment problem.


    In February, Eddie Wright bumped into Skip on a Detroit street.

    “Hey, man, where’ve you been?”

    “I just got out of Valley Forge on a pass.”

    “How things going there?”

    “They got me in the psycho ward.”

    “Huh, you got to be kidding.”

    “No, man, they think I’m crazy.”

    During the convalescent leave, Sergeant Johnson borrowed $4,992 from a Detroit credit union. In his wallet he had a cashier’s check for $1,500, the back pay the Army had awarded him. Most of his time he spent at home on the pass but when he went out he would drive to the Jeffries Homes and play basketball with the teenagers after school.

    “He was a big man down there with the kids,” recalls his cousin. “We had all lived in the project and had been on welfare, just like these kids there today, and we were like heroes because we had broken out of there. We had made it to the outside world, and to them we were big successes. We had made it.

    “Skip was something special. He had that medal, and they were proud of him. He’d be down there five minutes and the kids would come around and say, ‘Hey man, ain’t you Dwight Johnson?’”

    Back in Detroit on leave on one occasion, his mother asked him to drive her to a doctor’s appointment. In the office, an off-duty black Detroit policeman, Ronald Turner, recognized the Medal of Honor winner. When he asked for an account of his experience in Vietnam, Skip replied: “Don’t ask me anything about the medal. I don’t even know how I won it.”

    Later, the policeman reported, Skip complained that he had been exploited by the Army. He told him that ever since he won the medal he had been set on a hero’s path as an inspiration to black kids.

    Others recalled how upset he had become when his recruiting talks at some black high schools in Detroit had been picketed by militants who called him an “electronic ******,” a robot the Army was using to recruit blacks for a war in Asia.

    With his psychiatrist, he began to discuss his deeper anxieties.


    Since coming home from Vietnam the subject has had bad dreams. He didn’t confide in his mother or wife, but entertained a lot of moral judgment as to what had happened at Dakto. Why had he been ordered to switch tanks the night before? Why was he spared and not the others? He experienced guilt about his survival. He wondered if he was sane. It made him sad and depressed.


    Skip signed out of the hospital on March 28 on a three-day pass to Philadelphia. The next day the newspapers and television were filled with reports of the conviction of First Lieut. William L. Calley, Jr., on charges of murdering Vietnamese civilians. Skip turned up in Detroit a few days later and never returned to the Army hospital.

    He settled in at home once again and dodged the telephone calls from the Army.

    “How can you take punitive action against a Medal of Honor holder?” asked a major at the hospital who tried to convince him to return.

    The Army did contact the Ford Motor Company, however, which had been letting Skip use a Thunderbird for the past two years. Ford picked up the car on the theory that without it he might be inconvenienced enough to return to the hospital. Instead, he cashed the cashier’s check for $1,500, his Army back pay, and bought a 1967 Mercury for $850. He changed his unlisted phone number to avoid the Army callers and a growing number of bill collectors.

    By April, his house mortgage had not been paid for the previous nine months, and foreclosing proceedings had been started. He owed payments on his credit union loan.

    The car had to go into a garage for brake repairs on Wednesday, April 28, and Skip was told that it would cost $78.50 to get it out. The same day, Katrina entered a hospital for removal of an infected cyst, and he told the admitting office clerk he would pay the $25 deposit the next day.

    His old high school crowd was concerned about some of his new friends, though. “They were strung out on drugs, and they just seemed to be hanging around Skip for his money,” said his mother. “I asked him one night if he was taking anything, and he rolled up his sleeves and showed me there were no tracks {needle marks}. ‘Ma,’ he said, ‘I’m not taking a thing.’”

    “On his return to the hospital, he began analysis with the chief attending psychiatrist.


    Subject is bright. His Army G.T. rating is equivalent of 120 I.Q. In first interviews he does not volunteer information. He related he grew up in a Detroit ghetto and never knew his natural father. He sort of laughed when he said he was a “good boy” and did what was expected of him. The only time he can remember losing his temper as a youth was when neighborhood bullies picked on his younger brother. He was so incensed grownups had to drag him off the other boys. In general, there is evidence the subject learned to live up to the expectations of others while there was a build-up of anger he continually suppressed.


    The Army hospital is actually in Phoenixville, Pa., several miles from Valley Forge. It is the principal treatment center for psychiatric and orthopedic patients in the Northeast, with 1,200 beds now occupied.

    Because of the large number of amputees and wheelchair patients, the hospital has only two floors and is spread over several acres. Long oak-floored corridors run in all directions, connected by covered walkways and arcades. Someone once measured the hospital and found there were seven miles of corridors in a maze-like jumble. To prevent patients from losing their way, wards are painted different colors.

    Dressed in hospital blue denims, the warrior-hero walked the labyrinth late at night, wrestling with the problems that tormented his mind and drained his spirit.

    “The first day Dwight arrived here, the hospital’s sergeant major brought him to us,” said Spec. 6 Herman Avery, a tall Negro with a flat face and close-set eyes, who was master of the ward Dwight was first assigned to at the hospital. “It was the first time the sergeant major ever did that. We got the message. This guy was something special.

    “Well, practically the first night he’s here they dress him up and take him over to the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge to shake hands. When he got back he told me that if they ever did that again he would go A.W.O.L.”

    There was further psychiatric evaluation.


    Subject expressed doubts over his decision to re-enter the Army as a recruiter. He felt the Army didn’t honor its commitment to him. The public affairs were satisfactory to him at first, but he started to feel inadequate. People he would meet would pump his hand and slap his back and say, “Johnson, if you ever think about getting out of the Army, come look me up.” On several occasions he contacted these individuals and they didn’t remember him. It always took several minutes to remind them who he was.


    Lonely and depressed at home, Skip telephoned his cousin. “Let’s go out and grab some beers,” he said. But his cousin was busy.

    He made another phone call that night and spoke to a friend in the Army. “I have a story I’m writing and I want you to peddle it for me,” he said. “It starts out like this:

    “Stg. Dwight Johnson is dead and his home has been wiped out . . .”

    On April 30, Skip visited Katrina at the hospital. She said they were asking about the hospital deposit. He left at 5:30, promising to return later that evening with her hair curlers and bathrobe.

    “He was just the same old Dwight, just kidding and teasing,” his wife recalled. “When he was going, he said, ‘Ain’t you going to give me a little kiss good-by?’ He said it like a little boy with his thumb in his mouth. So I kissed him and he went.”

    When Eddie Wright got home from work that night about 9 o’clock, he got a call from Skip. He said he needed a ride to pick up some money someone owed him and wanted to know if Eddie could get his stepfather to drive him. He said he would pay $15 for the ride.

    Around 11 o’clock, Eddie, his mother and his stepfather picked up Skip at his home. At his direction they drove west for about a mile to the corner of Orangelawn and Prest.

    “Stop here,” Skip told him, getting out of the car. “This guy lives down the street and I don’t want him to see me coming.”

    The family waited in the car for 30 minutes. They became nervous, parked in a white neighborhood, and as Eddie explained later to the police, it may have looked odd for a car filled with blacks to be parked on a dark street. “So we pulled the car out under a street light so everybody could see us,” he said.

    At about 11:45 a police car pulled up sharply and two officers with drawn pistols got out. “What are you doing here?” they asked.

    “We’re waiting for a friend.”

    “What his name?”

    “Dwight Johnson.”

    “Dwight Johnson’s on the floor of a grocery store around the corner,” the officers said. “He’s been shot.”

    “I first hit him with two bullets,” the manager, Charles Landeghem, said later. “But he just stood there, with the gun in his hand, and said, ‘I’m going to kill you . . .’

    “I kept pulling the trigger until my gun was empty.”

    Skip’s psychiatrist recalled one of the interviews with him.


    The subject remembered coming face to face with a Vietnamese with a gun. He can remember the soldier squeezing the trigger. The gun jammed. The subject has since engaged in some magical thinking about this episode. He also suffers guilt over surviving it and later winning a high honor for the one time in his life when he lost complete control of himself. He asked: “What would happen if I lost control of myself in Detroit and behaved like I did in Vietnam?” The prospect of such an event apparently was deeply disturbing to him.


    The burial at Arlington National Cemetery took place on a muggy and overcast day. The grave, on a grassy slope about 200 yards east of the Kennedy Memorial, overlooks the Potomac and the Pentagon, gray and silent, to the south.

    The Army honor guard, in dress blues, carried out its assignment with precision, the sixth burial of the day for the eight-man unit, while tourists took photographs at a discreet distance from the grieving family.

    For a few days after the burial, the family weighed the possibility that Skip had been taking narcotics in the last few months of his life and the demands of drugs had sent him into the grocery store with a gun. But the autopsy turned up no trace of narcotics.

    Eddie Wright and his family were released by homicide detectives after questioning, even after Eddie could not produce any plausible reason why his best friend had carried out a bizarre crime and implicated him at the same time.

    The dead man’s mother was the only one who uttered the words that no one else dared to speak.

    “Sometimes I wonder if Skip tired of this life and needed someone else to pull the trigger,” she said late one night in the living room of her home, her eyes fixed on a large color photograph of her son, handsome in his uniform, with the pale blue ribbon of his country’s highest military honor around his neck.


    http://books.google.ca/books?id=d7q1...page&q&f=false

    http://aavw.org/served/homepage_djohnson.html

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...r&GRid=5758187

    “After his return to the United States, he was posted in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan for recruiting and public affairs duty. On April 30, 1971 he happened to walk into a Detroit Liquor store during a robbery, and was shot to death by the store owner, who assumed that being an African-American like the two men who were holding up the store, Dwight Hal Johnson was also one of the robbers. Sergeant Johnson was in reality only stopping in to buy food for his infant son. His murder was never investigated by the Detroit police.”
    Last edited by HERO; 05-08-2014 at 03:51 AM.

  2. #2
    WE'RE ALL GOING HOME HERO's Avatar
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    Dwight Johnson: ESI, SLI, or EII; or Beta ST









    “From Dakto to Detroit: Death of a Troubled Hero” (1971) by Jon Nordheimer: A few tenants living in the E. J. Jeffries Homes, a dreary public housing project in Corktown, an old Detroit neighborhood, can still remember Dwight Johnson as a little boy who lived in one of the rust-brown buildings with his mother and baby brother. They think it strange, after all that has happened to Dwight, to remember him as a gentle boy who hated to fight.

    Dwight Johnson died one week from his 24th birthday, shot and killed as he tried to rob a grocery store a mile from his home. The store manager later told the police that a tall Negro had walked in shortly before midnight, drawn a revolver out of his topcoat and demanded money from the cash register.

    The manager pulled his own pistol from under the counter and the two men struggled. Seven shots were fired.

    Four and one-half hours later, on an operating table at Detroit General Hospital, Dwight (Skip) Johnson died from five gunshot wounds.

    Ordinarily, the case would have been closed right there, a routine crime in a city where there were 13,583 armed robberies last year.

    But when the detectives went through the dead man’s wallet for identification, they found a small white card with its edges rubbed thin from wear. “Congressional Medal of Honor Society—United States of America,” it said. “This certifies that Dwight H. Johnson is a member of this society.”

    The news of the death of Sergeant Dwight Johnson shocked the black community of Detroit. Born out of wedlock when his mother was a teenager and raised on public welfare, he had been the good boy on his block in the dreary housing project, an altar boy and Explorer Scout, one of the few among the thousands of poor black youngsters in Detroit who had struggled against the grinding life of the ghetto and broken free, coming home from Vietnam tall and strong and a hero.

    The story of Dwight Johnson and his drift from hero in Dakto, Vietnam, to villain in Detroit is a difficult one to trace. The moments of revelation are rare. There were, of course, those two brief episodes that fixed public attention on him: 30 minutes of “uncommon valor” one cold morning in combat that earned him the nation’s highest military decoration, and the 30-second confrontation in the Detroit grocery that ended his life.

    Oddly, they are moments of extreme violence, and everyone who knew Dwight Johnson—or thought he did—knew he was not a violent man.

    Now that the funeral is over and the out-of-town relatives have gone home and the family conferences that sought clues to explain Dwight’s odd behavior have ended in bitter confusion, his mother can sit back and talk wistfully about the days when Skip was a skinny kid who was chased home after school by the Corktown bullies.

    “Mama,” he would ask, “what do I do if they catch me?” His mother would place an arm around his thin shoulders and draw him close. “Skip,” she would say, “don’t you fight, honey, and don’t let them catch you.” The boy would look downcast and worried. “Yes, Mama,” he’d say.

    “Dwight was a fabulous, all-around guy, bright and with a great sense of humor,” reflected Barry Davis, an auburn-haired Californian who flew with his wife to Detroit when he heard on a news report that Dwight had been killed. Three others who had served with him in Vietnam, all of them white, also came, not understanding what aberration had led to his death.

    “I can remember our first day at Fort Knox and Dwight was the only colored guy in our platoon,” Barry Davis recalled. “So we’re in formation and this wise guy from New Jersey says to Dwight, ‘Hey, what’s the initials N.A.A.C.P. stand for?’

    “And Dwight says, ‘The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.’

    “And this wise guy from New Jersey says, ‘Naw, that ain’t it. It stands for N****rs Acting As Colored People.’

    “And I said to myself, ‘Wow, those are fighting words,’ but Dwight just laughed. From then on he was just one of the guys. As it turned out, Dwight liked this wise guy from New Jersey in the end as much as he liked anybody.”

    Most of the men who served with Sergeant Dwight Johnson remembered him that way—easy-going, hard to rattle, impossible to anger.

    But Stan Enders remembers him another way. Stan was the gunner in Skip’s tank that morning in Vietnam three years ago, during the fighting at Dakto.

    “No one who was there could ever forget the sight of this guy taking on a whole battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers,” Stan said as he stood in the sunshine outside Faith Memorial Church in Corktown three weeks ago, waiting for Skip’s funeral service to begin.

    Their platoon of four M-48 tanks was racing down a road toward Dakto, in the Central Highlands near the Cambodian border and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, when it was ambushed. Communist rockets knocked out two of the tanks immediately, and waves of foot soldiers sprang out of the nearby woods to attack the two tanks still in commission.

    Skip hoisted himself out of the turret hatch and manned the mounted .50-caliber machine gun. He had been assigned to this tank only the night before. His old tank, and the crew he had spent 11 months and 22 days with in Vietnam and had never seen action before, was 60 feet away, burning.

    “He was really close to those guys in that tank,” Stan said. “He just couldn’t sit still and watch it burn with them inside.”

    Skip ran through heavy crossfire to the tank and opened its hatch. He pulled out the first man he came across in the turret, burned but still alive, and got him to the ground just as the tank’s artillery shells exploded, killing everyone left inside.

    “When the tank blew up Dwight saw the bodies all burned and black, well, he just sort of cracked up,” said Stan.

    For 30 minutes, armed first with a .45-caliber pistol and then with a submachine gun, Skip hunted the Vietnamese on the ground, killing from five to 20 enemy soldiers, nobody knows for sure. When he ran out of ammunition, he killed one with the stock of the machine gun.

    At one point he came face to face with a Communist soldier who squeezed the trigger on his weapon aimed point blank at him. The gun misfired and Skip killed him. But the soldier would come back to haunt him late at night in Detroit, in those dreams in which that anonymous soldier stood in front of him, the barrel of his AK-47 as big as a railroad tunnel, his finger on the trigger, slowly pressing it.

    “When it was all over,” Stan said, walking up the church steps as the funeral service got under way, “it took three men and three shots of morphine to hold Dwight down. He was raving. He tried to kill the prisoners we had rounded up. They took him away to a hospital in Pleiku in a straight-jacket.”

    Stan saw Skip the next day. He had been released from the hospital, and came by to pick up his personal gear. His Vietnam tour was over and he was going home.

    No one there would know anything about Dakto until 10 months later, at the White House Medal of Honor Ceremony.

    Sergeant Johnson returned home in early 1968, outwardly only little changed from the quiet boy named Skip who had grown up in Detroit and been drafted. Even when he and other black veterans came home and could not find a job, he seemed to take it in stride.

    He had been discharged with $600 in his pocket, and it was enough to buy cigarettes and go out at night with his cousin, Tommy Tillman, and with Eddie Wright, a friend from the Jefferies Homes, and make the rounds to the Shadowbox or the Little Egypt, to drink a little beer and have a few dates.

    And at home no one knew about the bad dreams he was having. They would have to learn about that later from an Army psychiatrist.

    If anyone asked him about Vietnam, he would just shake his head, or laugh and say, “Aw, man, nothing happened,” and he would change the subject and talk about the girls in Kuala Lumpur, where he went for R and R, or the three-day pass he spent in Louisville, Ky., drinking too much whisky for the first time in his life and ending up in jail.

    He returned home just as the Communist Tet offensive erupted in Vietnam, and everyone talked about how lucky he had been to get out before things got hot. They teased him then about his lackluster military career.

    “When he came home from Vietnam he was different, sure, I noticed it, all jumpy and nervous and he had to be doing something all the time, it seems,” said Eddie Wright. “But mostly he was the same fun-time guy.”

    Carmen Berry, a close friend of Katrina May, the girl Skip started dating after his discharge, thought she detected nuances of change she attributed to the same mental letdown she had seen in other Vietnam veterans.

    “They get quiet,” she said, “It’s like they don’t have too much to say about what it was like over there. Maybe it’s because they’ve killed people and they don’t really know why they killed them.”

    “The only thing that bugged me about Skip then,” reflected his cousin Tommy, “and the one thing I thought was kind of strange and unlike him, was the pictures he brought back. He had a stack of pictures of dead people, you know, dead Vietnamese. Color slides.”

    In the fall he started looking for a job, along with Tommy Tillman.

    “We’d go down to the state employment agency every day and take a look at what was listed,” his cousin recalled. “Skip was funny; he wouldn’t try for any of the hard jobs. If we wrote down the name of a company that had a job that he didn’t feel qualified for, he wouldn’t even go into the place to ask about it. He’d just sit in the car while I went in.

    “Or if he did go in someplace, he’d just sit and mumble a few words when they’d ask him questions. It was like he felt inferior. He’d give a terrible impression. But once we got back in the car, it was the same old Skip, laughing and joking.”

    One day in October two military policemen came to his house. His mother saw the uniforms and before opening the door whispered urgently, “What did you do?”

    “I didn’t do nothing, honest, Ma,” he answered.

    The M.P.’s asked Skip a few questions. They wanted to know what he was doing and if he had been arrested since his discharge. Fifteen minutes after they left, the telephone rang. It was a colonel, calling from the Department of Defense in Washington. Sergeant Johnson was being awarded the Medal of Honor, he said. Could he and his family be in Washington on November 19 so President Johnson could personally present the award?

    One week later, on November 19, 1968, they were all there in the White House, Skip tall and handsome in his dress-blue uniform, his mother, Katrina and Tommy Tillman. The President [Lyndon Johnson] gave a little speech. The national election was over, the Democrats had lost, but there were signs of movement at the Paris peace talks.

    “Our hearts and our hopes are turned to peace as we assemble here in the East Room this morning,” the President said. “All our efforts are being bent in its pursuit. But in this company we hear again, in our minds, the sound of distant battles.”

    Five men received the Medal of Honor that morning. And when Sergeant Johnson stepped stiffly forward and the President looped the pale blue ribbon and sunburst medal around his neck, a citation was read that described his valor.

    Later, in the receiving line, when his mother reached Skip, she saw tears streaming down his face.

    “Honey,” she whispered, “what are you crying about? You’ve made it back.”

    After he officially became a hero, it seemed that everyone in Detroit wanted to hire Dwight Johnson, the only living Medal of Honor winner in Michigan. Companies that had not been interested in a diffident ex-G.I. named Johnson suddenly found openings for Medal of Honor Winner Johnson.

    Among those who wanted him was the United States Army.

    “The brass wanted him in the Detroit recruiting office because—let’s face it—here was a black Medal of Honor winner, and blacks are our biggest manpower pool in Detroit,” said an Army employee who had worked with Skip after he rejoined the service a month after winning the medal. “Personally, I think a lot of promises were made to the guy that couldn’t be kept. You got to remember that getting this guy back into the Army was a feather in the cap of a lot of people.”

    Events began moving quickly then for Skip. He married Katrina in January (the Pontchartrain Hotel gave the couple its bridal suite for their wedding night), and the newlyweds went to Washington in January as guests at the Nixon inaugural. Sergeant Johnson began a long series of personal appearances across Michigan in a public relations campaign mapped by the Army.

    In February, 1,500 persons paid $10 a plate to attend a testimonial dinner for the hero in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, co-sponsored by the Ford Motor Company and the Chamber of Commerce. A special guest was General William C. Westmoreland, Army Chief of Staff and former commander of United States forces in Vietnam.

    “Dwight was a hot property back in those days,” recalled Charles Bielak, a civilian information officer for the Army’s recruiting operations in Detroit. “I was getting calls for him all over the state. Of course, all this clamor didn’t last. It reached a saturation point somewhere along the way and tapered off.”

    But while it lasted, Skip’s life was frenetic. Lions Clubs . . . Rotary . . . American Legion. Detroit had a new hero. Tiger Stadium and meet the players. Sit at the dais with the white politicians. Be hailed by the black businessmen who would not have bothered to shake his hand before. Learn which fork to use for the salad. Say something intelligent to the reporters. Pick up the check for dinner for friends. Live like a man who had it made.

    But Leroy May, the hero’s father-in-law, could still see the child behind the man.

    “Dwight and Katrina were a perfect match—they both had a lot of growing up to do,” he said.

    “They didn’t know how to handle all the attention they got in those early days. They’d go out to supper so much Katrina complained she couldn’t eat any more steak. I had to take them out and buy them hot dogs and soda pop. They were just like a couple of kids.”

    Bills started piling up. “They were in over their heads as soon as they were married,” Mr. May said.

    Everyone extended credit to the Medal of Honor winner. Even when he bought the wedding ring, the jeweler would not take a down payment. Take money from a hero? Not then. Later, the Johnsons discovered credit cards.

    At first they lived in an $85-a-month apartment. But Katrina wanted a house. Skip signed a mortgage on a $16,000 house on the west side of Detroit. Monthly payments were $160.

    In the spring of 1970, he wrote a bad check for $41.77 at a local market. The check was made good by a black leader in Detroit who was aghast that the Medal of Honor winner had gotten himself into a financial hole.

    “I went to see him and told him he couldn’t go on like this,” said the man, a lawyer who asked to remain anonymous. “I said he was young and black and had the Medal of Honor. He could do anything he wanted. I tried to get him to think about college and law school. The black businessmen would pick up the tab. He wouldn’t have any part of it.”

    Looking back on this meeting, the lawyer said he suspected Skip was burdened by a “ghetto mentality” that limited his horizons. His world had been a public housing project and schools a few blocks away. Now, suddenly, events had thrust him outside the security of his boyhood neighborhood into a world dominated by whites.

    He was paralyzed, the lawyer speculated, by an inability to formulate a plan of action in this alien culture that he had been transported to by something that happened on the other side of the globe.

    “What does he do when he’s introduced to Bunkie Knudsen, the president of Ford?” asked the lawyer. “Does he come across strong and dynamic because he knows there is a $75,000-a-year job waiting for him if he makes a good impression? And what happens to him when he just stands there and fumbles and doesn’t know if he should shake hands or just nod his head? He was forced to play a role he was never trained for and never anticipated.”

    Tommy Tillman remembers how Skip would take several friends downtown to the Pontchartrain Hotel for an expensive meal and sit fumbling with the silverware, watching the others to see what fork to use first. “I’d say to him, ‘Shoot, man, what do you care? Go ahead and use anything you want.’

    “I wondered how he must feel when he’s the guest of honor at one of those fancy meetings he was all the time going to.”

    It was about this time that the stomach pains started.

    “It was all that rich food he was eating,” said his father-in-law. His mother recalled that “Skip always did have a nervous stomach.”

    He began staying away from his job as a recruiter, missed appointments and speaking engagements. “It got so bad I had to pick him up myself and deliver him to a public appearance,” said Mr. Bielak. “I had to handcuff myself to the guy to get him someplace. It was embarrassing. I couldn’t understand his attitude.”

    Last summer it was decided that Sergeant Johnson should report to Selfridge Air Force Base, not far from Detroit, for diagnosis of stomach complaints.

    From Selfridge he was sent in September to Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania. An Army psychiatrist later mulled over his notes on the patient and talked about them.


    Maalox and bland diet prescribed. G.I. series conducted. Results negative. Subject given 30-day convalescent leave 16 October 1970. Absent without leave until 21 January 1971 when subject returned to Army hospital on own volition. Subsequent hearing recommended dismissal of A.W.O.L. charge and back pay reinstated. Subject agreed to undergo psychiatric evaluation. In cognizance of subject’s outstanding record in Vietnam, the division’s chief psychiatrist placed in charge of the case. Preliminary analysis: Depression caused by post-Vietnam adjustment problem.


    In February, Eddie Wright bumped into Skip on a Detroit street.

    “Hey, man, where’ve you been?”

    “I just got out of Valley Forge on a pass.”

    “How things going there?”

    “They got me in the psycho ward.”

    “Huh, you got to be kidding.”

    “No, man, they think I’m crazy.”

    During the convalescent leave, Sergeant Johnson borrowed $4,992 from a Detroit credit union. In his wallet he had a cashier’s check for $1,500, the back pay the Army had awarded him. Most of his time he spent at home on the pass but when he went out he would drive to the Jeffries Homes and play basketball with the teenagers after school.

    “He was a big man down there with the kids,” recalls his cousin. “We had all lived in the project and had been on welfare, just like these kids there today, and we were like heroes because we had broken out of there. We had made it to the outside world, and to them we were big successes. We had made it.

    “Skip was something special. He had that medal, and they were proud of him. He’d be down there five minutes and the kids would come around and say, ‘Hey man, ain’t you Dwight Johnson?’”

    Back in Detroit on leave on one occasion, his mother asked him to drive her to a doctor’s appointment. In the office, an off-duty black Detroit policeman, Ronald Turner, recognized the Medal of Honor winner. When he asked for an account of his experience in Vietnam, Skip replied: “Don’t ask me anything about the medal. I don’t even know how I won it.”

    Later, the policeman reported, Skip complained that he had been exploited by the Army. He told him that ever since he won the medal he had been set on a hero’s path as an inspiration to black kids.

    Others recalled how upset he had become when his recruiting talks at some black high schools in Detroit had been picketed by militants who called him an “electronic n****r,” a robot the Army was using to recruit blacks for a war in Asia.

    With his psychiatrist, he began to discuss his deeper anxieties.


    Since coming home from Vietnam the subject has had bad dreams. He didn’t confide in his mother or wife, but entertained a lot of moral judgment as to what had happened at Dakto. Why had he been ordered to switch tanks the night before? Why was he spared and not the others? He experienced guilt about his survival. He wondered if he was sane. It made him sad and depressed.


    Skip signed out of the hospital on March 28 on a three-day pass to Philadelphia. The next day the newspapers and television were filled with reports of the conviction of First Lieut. William L. Calley, Jr., on charges of murdering Vietnamese civilians. Skip turned up in Detroit a few days later and never returned to the Army hospital.

    He settled in at home once again and dodged the telephone calls from the Army.

    “How can you take punitive action against a Medal of Honor holder?” asked a major at the hospital who tried to convince him to return.

    The Army did contact the Ford Motor Company, however, which had been letting Skip use a Thunderbird for the past two years. Ford picked up the car on the theory that without it he might be inconvenienced enough to return to the hospital. Instead, he cashed the cashier’s check for $1,500, his Army back pay, and bought a 1967 Mercury for $850. He changed his unlisted phone number to avoid the Army callers and a growing number of bill collectors.

    By April, his house mortgage had not been paid for the previous nine months, and foreclosing proceedings had been started. He owed payments on his credit union loan.

    The car had to go into a garage for brake repairs on Wednesday, April 28, and Skip was told that it would cost $78.50 to get it out. The same day, Katrina entered a hospital for removal of an infected cyst, and he told the admitting office clerk he would pay the $25 deposit the next day.

    His old high school crowd was concerned about some of his new friends, though. “They were strung out on drugs, and they just seemed to be hanging around Skip for his money,” said his mother. “I asked him one night if he was taking anything, and he rolled up his sleeves and showed me there were no tracks {needle marks}. ‘Ma,’ he said, ‘I’m not taking a thing.’”

    “On his return to the hospital, he began analysis with the chief attending psychiatrist.


    Subject is bright. His Army G.T. rating is equivalent of 120 I.Q. In first interviews he does not volunteer information. He related he grew up in a Detroit ghetto and never knew his natural father. He sort of laughed when he said he was a “good boy” and did what was expected of him. The only time he can remember losing his temper as a youth was when neighborhood bullies picked on his younger brother. He was so incensed grownups had to drag him off the other boys. In general, there is evidence the subject learned to live up to the expectations of others while there was a build-up of anger he continually suppressed.


    The Army hospital is actually in Phoenixville, Pa., several miles from Valley Forge. It is the principal treatment center for psychiatric and orthopedic patients in the Northeast, with 1,200 beds now occupied.

    Because of the large number of amputees and wheelchair patients, the hospital has only two floors and is spread over several acres. Long oak-floored corridors run in all directions, connected by covered walkways and arcades. Someone once measured the hospital and found there were seven miles of corridors in a maze-like jumble. To prevent patients from losing their way, wards are painted different colors.

    Dressed in hospital blue denims, the warrior-hero walked the labyrinth late at night, wrestling with the problems that tormented his mind and drained his spirit.

    “The first day Dwight arrived here, the hospital’s sergeant major brought him to us,” said Spec. 6 Herman Avery, a tall Negro with a flat face and close-set eyes, who was master of the ward Dwight was first assigned to at the hospital. “It was the first time the sergeant major ever did that. We got the message. This guy was something special.

    “Well, practically the first night he’s here they dress him up and take him over to the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge to shake hands. When he got back he told me that if they ever did that again he would go A.W.O.L.”

    There was further psychiatric evaluation.


    Subject expressed doubts over his decision to re-enter the Army as a recruiter. He felt the Army didn’t honor its commitment to him. The public affairs were satisfactory to him at first, but he started to feel inadequate. People he would meet would pump his hand and slap his back and say, “Johnson, if you ever think about getting out of the Army, come look me up.” On several occasions he contacted these individuals and they didn’t remember him. It always took several minutes to remind them who he was.


    Lonely and depressed at home, Skip telephoned his cousin. “Let’s go out and grab some beers,” he said. But his cousin was busy.

    He made another phone call that night and spoke to a friend in the Army. “I have a story I’m writing and I want you to peddle it for me,” he said. “It starts out like this:

    “Stg. Dwight Johnson is dead and his home has been wiped out . . .”

    On April 30, Skip visited Katrina at the hospital. She said they were asking about the hospital deposit. He left at 5:30, promising to return later that evening with her hair curlers and bathrobe.

    “He was just the same old Dwight, just kidding and teasing,” his wife recalled. “When he was going, he said, ‘Ain’t you going to give me a little kiss good-by?’ He said it like a little boy with his thumb in his mouth. So I kissed him and he went.”

    When Eddie Wright got home from work that night about 9 o’clock, he got a call from Skip. He said he needed a ride to pick up some money someone owed him and wanted to know if Eddie could get his stepfather to drive him. He said he would pay $15 for the ride.

    Around 11 o’clock, Eddie, his mother and his stepfather picked up Skip at his home. At his direction they drove west for about a mile to the corner of Orangelawn and Prest.

    “Stop here,” Skip told him, getting out of the car. “This guy lives down the street and I don’t want him to see me coming.”

    The family waited in the car for 30 minutes. They became nervous, parked in a white neighborhood, and as Eddie explained later to the police, it may have looked odd for a car filled with blacks to be parked on a dark street. “So we pulled the car out under a street light so everybody could see us,” he said.

    At about 11:45 a police car pulled up sharply and two officers with drawn pistols got out. “What are you doing here?” they asked.

    “We’re waiting for a friend.”

    “What his name?”

    “Dwight Johnson.”

    “Dwight Johnson’s on the floor of a grocery store around the corner,” the officers said. “He’s been shot.”

    “I first hit him with two bullets,” the manager, Charles Landeghem, said later. “But he just stood there, with the gun in his hand, and said, ‘I’m going to kill you . . .’

    “I kept pulling the trigger until my gun was empty.”

    Skip’s psychiatrist recalled one of the interviews with him.


    The subject remembered coming face to face with a Vietnamese with a gun. He can remember the soldier squeezing the trigger. The gun jammed. The subject has since engaged in some magical thinking about this episode. He also suffers guilt over surviving it and later winning a high honor for the one time in his life when he lost complete control of himself. He asked: “What would happen if I lost control of myself in Detroit and behaved like I did in Vietnam?” The prospect of such an event apparently was deeply disturbing to him.


    The burial at Arlington National Cemetery took place on a muggy and overcast day. The grave, on a grassy slope about 200 yards east of the Kennedy Memorial, overlooks the Potomac and the Pentagon, gray and silent, to the south.

    The Army honor guard, in dress blues, carried out its assignment with precision, the sixth burial of the day for the eight-man unit, while tourists took photographs at a discreet distance from the grieving family.

    For a few days after the burial, the family weighed the possibility that Skip had been taking narcotics in the last few months of his life and the demands of drugs had sent him into the grocery store with a gun. But the autopsy turned up no trace of narcotics.

    Eddie Wright and his family were released by homicide detectives after questioning, even after Eddie could not produce any plausible reason why his best friend had carried out a bizarre crime and implicated him at the same time.

    The dead man’s mother was the only one who uttered the words that no one else dared to speak.

    “Sometimes I wonder if Skip tired of this life and needed someone else to pull the trigger,” she said late one night in the living room of her home, her eyes fixed on a large color photograph of her son, handsome in his uniform, with the pale blue ribbon of his country’s highest military honor around his neck.


    http://books.google.ca/books?id=d7q1...page&q&f=false

    http://aavw.org/served/homepage_djohnson.html

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...r&GRid=5758187

    “After his return to the United States, he was posted in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan for recruiting and public affairs duty. On April 30, 1971 he happened to walk into a Detroit Liquor store during a robbery, and was shot to death by the store owner, who assumed that being an African-American like the two men who were holding up the store, Dwight Hal Johnson was also one of the robbers. Sergeant Johnson was in reality only stopping in to buy food for his infant son. His murder was never investigated by the Detroit police.”







    - double-spaced version:



    “From Dakto to Detroit: Death of a Troubled Hero” (1971) by Jon

    Nordheimer: A few tenants living in the E. J. Jeffries Homes, a dreary

    public housing project in Corktown, an old Detroit neighborhood, can

    still remember Dwight Johnson as a little boy who lived in one of the

    rust-brown buildings with his mother and baby brother. They think it

    strange, after all that has happened to Dwight, to remember him as a

    gentle boy who hated to fight.

    Dwight Johnson died one week from his 24th birthday, shot and killed

    as he tried to rob a grocery store a mile from his home. The store

    manager later told the police that a tall Negro had walked in shortly

    before midnight, drawn a revolver out of his topcoat and demanded

    money from the cash register.

    The manager pulled his own pistol from under the counter and the two

    men struggled. Seven shots were fired.

    Four and one-half hours later, on an operating table at Detroit General

    Hospital, Dwight (Skip) Johnson died from five gunshot wounds.

    Ordinarily, the case would have been closed right there, a routine

    crime in a city where there were 13, 583 armed robberies last year.

    But when the detectives went through the dead man’s wallet for

    identification, they found a small white card with its edges rubbed thin

    from wear. “Congressional Medal of Honor Society—United States of

    America,” it said. “This certifies that Dwight H. Johnson is a member of

    this society.”

    The news of the death of Sergeant Dwight Johnson shocked the black

    community of Detroit. Born out of wedlock when his mother was a

    teenager and raised on public welfare, he had been the good boy on his

    block in the dreary housing project, an altar boy and Explorer Scout,

    one of the few among the thousands of poor black youngsters in

    Detroit who had struggled against the grinding life of the ghetto and

    broken free, coming home from Vietnam tall and strong and a hero.

    The story of Dwight Johnson and his drift from hero in Dakto, Vietnam,

    to villain in Detroit is a difficult one to trace. The moments of

    revelation are rare. There were, of course, those two brief episodes

    that fixed public attention on him: 30 minutes of “uncommon valor”

    one cold morning in combat that earned him the nation’s highest

    military decoration, and the 30-second confrontation in the Detroit

    grocery that ended his life.


    Oddly, they are moments of extreme violence, and everyone who

    knew Dwight Johnson—or thought he did—knew he was not a violent

    man.


    Now that the funeral is over and the out-of-town relatives have gone

    home and the family conferences that sought clues to explain Dwight’s

    odd behavior have ended in bitter confusion, his mother can sit back

    and talk wistfully about the days when Skip was a skinny kid who was

    chased home after school by the Corktown bullies.

    “Mama,” he would ask, “what do I do if they catch me?” His mother

    would place an arm around his thin shoulders and draw him close.

    “Skip,” she would say, “don’t you fight, honey, and don’t let them catch

    you.” The boy would look downcast and worried. “Yes, Mama,” he’d

    say.

    “Dwight was a fabulous, all-around guy, bright and with a great sense of

    humor,” reflected Barry Davis, an auburn-haired Californian who flew

    with his wife to Detroit when he heard on a news report that Dwight

    had been killed. Three others who had served with him in Vietnam, all

    of them white, also came, not understanding what aberration had led to

    his death.

    “I can remember our first day at Fort Knox and Dwight was the only

    colored guy in our platoon,” Barry Davis recalled. “So we’re in

    formation and this wise guy from New Jersey says to Dwight, ‘Hey,

    what’s the initials N.A.A.C.P. stand for?’

    “And Dwight says, ‘The National Association for the Advancement of

    Colored People.’

    “And this wise guy from New Jersey says, ‘Naw, that ain’t it. It stands

    for N****rs Acting As Colored People.’

    “And I said to myself, ‘Wow, those are fighting words,’ but Dwight just

    laughed. From then on he was just one of the guys. As it turned out,

    Dwight liked this wise guy from New Jersey in the end as much as he

    liked anybody.”


    Most of the men who served with Sergeant Dwight Johnson

    remembered him that way—easy-going, hard to rattle, impossible to

    anger.


    But Stan Enders remembers him another way. Stan was the gunner in

    Skip’s tank that morning in Vietnam three years ago, during the fighting

    at Dakto.

    “No one who was there could ever forget the sight of this guy taking

    on a whole battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers,” Stan said as he

    stood in the sunshine outside Faith Memorial Church in Corktown

    three weeks ago, waiting for Skip’s funeral service to begin.

    Their platoon of four M-48 tanks was racing down a road toward

    Dakto, in the Central Highlands near the Cambodian border and the

    Ho Chi Minh Trail, when it was ambushed. Communist rockets

    knocked out two of the tanks immediately, and waves of foot soldiers

    sprang out of the nearby woods to attack the two tanks still in

    commission.

    Skip hoisted himself out of the turret hatch and manned the mounted

    .50-caliber machine gun. He had been assigned to this tank only the

    night before. His old tank, and the crew he had spent 11 months and 22

    days with in Vietnam and had never seen action before, was 60 feet

    away, burning.

    “He was really close to those guys in that tank,” Stan said. “He just

    couldn’t sit still and watch it burn with them inside.”

    Skip ran through heavy crossfire to the tank and opened its hatch. He

    pulled out the first man he came across in the turret, burned but still

    alive, and got him to the ground just as the tank’s artillery shells

    exploded, killing everyone left inside.

    “When the tank blew up Dwight saw the bodies all burned and black,

    well, he just sort of cracked up,” said Stan.

    For 30 minutes, armed first with a .45-caliber pistol and then with a

    submachine gun, Skip hunted the Vietnamese on the ground, killing

    from five to 20 enemy soldiers, nobody knows for sure. When he ran

    out of ammunition, he killed one with the stock of the machine gun.


    At one point he came face to face with a Communist soldier who

    squeezed the trigger on his weapon aimed point blank at him. The gun

    misfired and Skip killed him. But the soldier would come back to haunt

    him late at night in Detroit, in those dreams in which that anonymous

    soldier stood in front of him, the barrel of his AK-47 as big as a railroad

    tunnel, his finger on the trigger, slowly pressing it.

    “When it was all over,” Stan said, walking up the church steps as the

    funeral service got under way, “it took three men and three shots of

    morphine to hold Dwight down. He was raving. He tried to kill the

    prisoners we had rounded up. They took him away to a hospital in

    Pleiku in a straight-jacket.”

    Stan saw Skip the next day. He had been released from the hospital,

    and came by to pick up his personal gear. His Vietnam tour was over

    and he was going home.

    No one there would know anything about Dakto until 10 months later,

    at the White House Medal of Honor Ceremony.

    Sergeant Johnson returned home in early 1968, outwardly only little

    changed from the quiet boy named Skip who had grown up in Detroit

    and been drafted. Even when he and other black veterans came home

    and could not find a job, he seemed to take it in stride.

    He had been discharged with $600 in his pocket, and it was enough to

    buy cigarettes and go out at night with his cousin, Tommy Tillman, and

    with Eddie Wright, a friend from the Jefferies Homes, and make the

    rounds to the Shadowbox or the Little Egypt, to drink a little beer and

    have a few dates.

    And at home no one knew about the bad dreams he was having. They

    would have to learn about that later from an Army psychiatrist.

    If anyone asked him about Vietnam, he would just shake his head, or

    laugh and say, “Aw, man, nothing happened,” and he would change the

    subject and talk about the girls in Kuala Lumpur, where he went for R

    and R, or the three-day pass he spent in Louisville, Ky., drinking too

    much whisky for the first time in his life and ending up in jail.

    He returned home just as the Communist Tet offensive erupted in

    Vietnam, and everyone talked about how lucky he had been to get out

    before things got hot. They teased him then about his lackluster military

    career.

    “When he came home from Vietnam he was different, sure, I noticed it,

    all jumpy and nervous and he had to be doing something all the time, it

    seems,” said Eddie Wright. “But mostly he was the same fun-time guy.”


    Carmen Berry, a close friend of Katrina May, the girl Skip started dating

    after his discharge, thought she detected nuances of change she

    attributed to the same mental letdown she had seen in other Vietnam

    veterans.

    “They get quiet,” she said, “It’s like they don’t have too much to say

    about what it was like over there. Maybe it’s because they’ve killed

    people and they don’t really know why they killed them.”

    “The only thing that bugged me about Skip then,” reflected his cousin

    Tommy, “and the one thing I thought was kind of strange and unlike

    him, was the pictures he brought back. He had a stack of pictures of

    dead people, you know, dead Vietnamese. Color slides.”

    In the fall he started looking for a job, along with Tommy Tillman.

    “We’d go down to the state employment agency every day and take a

    look at what was listed,” his cousin recalled. “Skip was funny; he

    wouldn’t try for any of the hard jobs. If we wrote down the name of a

    company that had a job that he didn’t feel qualified for, he wouldn’t

    even go into the place to ask about it. He’d just sit in the car while I

    went in.

    “Or if he did go in someplace, he’d just sit and mumble a few words

    when they’d ask him questions. It was like he felt inferior. He’d give a

    terrible impression. But once we got back in the car, it was the same

    old Skip, laughing and joking.”

    One day in October two military policemen came to his house. His

    mother saw the uniforms and before opening the door whispered

    urgently, “What did you do?”

    “I didn’t do nothing, honest, Ma,” he answered.

    The M.P.’s asked Skip a few questions. They wanted to know what he

    was doing and if he had been arrested since his discharge. Fifteen

    minutes after they left, the telephone rang. It was a colonel, calling from

    the Department of Defense in Washington. Sergeant Johnson was being

    awarded the Medal of Honor, he said. Could he and his family be in

    Washington on November 19 so President Johnson could personally

    present the award?

    One week later, on November 19, 1968, they were all there in the

    White House, Skip tall and handsome in his dress-blue uniform, his

    mother, Katrina and Tommy Tillman. The President [Lyndon Johnson]

    gave a little speech. The national election was over, the Democrats had

    lost, but there were signs of movement at the Paris peace talks.


    “Our hearts and our hopes are turned to peace as we assemble here in

    the East Room this morning,” the President said. “All our efforts are

    being bent in its pursuit. But in this company we hear again, in our

    minds, the sound of distant battles.”

    Five men received the Medal of Honor that morning. And when

    Sergeant Johnson stepped stiffly forward and the President looped the

    pale blue ribbon and sunburst medal around his neck, a citation was

    read that described his valor.

    Later, in the receiving line, when his mother reached Skip, she saw

    tears streaming down his face.

    “Honey,” she whispered, “what are you crying about? You’ve made it

    back.”

    After he officially became a hero, it seemed that everyone in Detroit

    wanted to hire Dwight Johnson, the only living Medal of Honor winner

    in Michigan. Companies that had not been interested in a diffident ex

    G.I. named Johnson suddenly found openings for Medal of Honor

    Winner Johnson.

    Among those who wanted him was the United States Army.

    “The brass wanted him in the Detroit recruiting office because—let’s

    face it—here was a black Medal of Honor winner, and blacks are our

    biggest manpower pool in Detroit,” said an Army employee who had

    worked with Skip after he rejoined the service a month after winning

    the medal. “Personally, I think a lot of promises were made to the guy

    that couldn’t be kept. You got to remember that getting this guy back

    into the Army was a feather in the cap of a lot of people.”

    Events began moving quickly then for Skip. He married Katrina in

    January (the Pontchartrain Hotel gave the couple its bridal suite for

    their wedding night), and the newlyweds went to Washington in January

    as guests at the Nixon inaugural. Sergeant Johnson began a long series

    of personal appearances across Michigan in a public relations campaign

    mapped by the Army.

    In February, 1,500 persons paid $10 a plate to attend a testimonial

    dinner for the hero in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, co-sponsored by the Ford

    Motor Company and the Chamber of Commerce. A special guest was

    General William C. Westmoreland, Army Chief of Staff and former

    commander of United States forces in Vietnam.

    “Dwight was a hot property back in those days,” recalled Charles

    Bielak, a civilian information officer for the Army’s recruiting operations

    in Detroit. “I was getting calls for him all over the state. Of course, all

    this clamor didn’t last. It reached a saturation point somewhere along

    the way and tapered off.”

    But while it lasted, Skip’s life was frenetic. Lions Clubs . . . Rotary . . .

    American Legion. Detroit had a new hero. Tiger Stadium and meet the

    players. Sit at the dais with the white politicians. Be hailed by the black

    businessmen who would not have bothered to shake his hand before.

    Learn which fork to use for the salad. Say something intelligent to the

    reporters. Pick up the check for dinner for friends. Live like a man who

    had it made.

    But Leroy May, the hero’s father-in-law, could still see the child behind

    the man.

    “Dwight and Katrina were a perfect match—they both had a lot of

    growing up to do,” he said.

    “They didn’t know how to handle all the attention they got in those

    early days. They’d go out to supper so much Katrina complained she

    couldn’t eat any more steak. I had to take them out and buy them hot

    dogs and soda pop. They were just like a couple of kids.”

    Bills started piling up. “They were in over their heads as soon as they

    were married,” Mr. May said.

    Everyone extended credit to the Medal of Honor winner. Even when

    he bought the wedding ring, the jeweler would not take a down

    payment. Take money from a hero? Not then. Later, the Johnsons

    discovered credit cards.

    At first they lived in an $85-a-month apartment. But Katrina wanted a

    house. Skip signed a mortgage on a $16,000 house on the west side of

    Detroit. Monthly payments were $160.

    In the spring of 1970, he wrote a bad check for $41.77 at a local

    market. The check was made good by a black leader in Detroit who

    was aghast that the Medal of Honor winner had gotten himself into a

    financial hole.

    “I went to see him and told him he couldn’t go on like this,” said the

    man, a lawyer who asked to remain anonymous. “I said he was young

    and black and had the Medal of Honor. He could do anything he

    wanted. I tried to get him to think about college and law school. The

    black businessmen would pick up the tab. He wouldn’t have any part of

    it.”

    Looking back on this meeting, the lawyer said he suspected Skip was

    burdened by a “ghetto mentality” that limited his horizons. His world

    had been a public housing project and schools a few blocks away. Now,

    suddenly, events had thrust him outside the security of his boyhood

    neighborhood into a world dominated by whites.

    He was paralyzed, the lawyer speculated, by an inability to formulate a

    plan of action in this alien culture that he had been transported to by

    something that happened on the other side of the globe.


    “What does he do when he’s introduced to Bunkie Knudsen, the

    president of Ford?” asked the lawyer. “Does he come across strong

    and dynamic because he knows there is a $75,000-a-year job waiting for

    him if he makes a good impression? And what happens to him when he

    just stands there and fumbles and doesn’t know if he should shake

    hands or just nod his head? He was forced to play a role he was never

    trained for and never anticipated.”


    Tommy Tillman remembers how Skip would take several friends

    downtown to the Pontchartrain Hotel for an expensive meal and sit

    fumbling with the silverware, watching the others to see what fork to

    use first. “I’d say to him, ‘Shoot, man, what do you care? Go ahead and

    use anything you want.’

    “I wondered how he must feel when he’s the guest of honor at one of

    those fancy meetings he was all the time going to.”

    It was about this time that the stomach pains started.

    “It was all that rich food he was eating,” said his father-in-law. His

    mother recalled that “Skip always did have a nervous stomach.”

    He began staying away from his job as a recruiter, missed appointments

    and speaking engagements. “It got so bad I had to pick him up myself

    and deliver him to a public appearance,” said Mr. Bielak. “I had to

    handcuff myself to the guy to get him someplace. It was embarrassing. I

    couldn’t understand his attitude.”

    Last summer it was decided that Sergeant Johnson should report to

    Selfridge Air Force Base, not far from Detroit, for diagnosis of stomach

    complaints.

    From Selfridge he was sent in September to Valley Forge Army Hospital

    in Pennsylvania. An Army psychiatrist later mulled over his notes on the

    patient and talked about them.


    Maalox and bland diet prescribed. G.I. series conducted. Results

    negative. Subject given 30-day convalescent leave 16 October 1970.

    Absent without leave until 21 January 1971 when subject returned to

    Army hospital on own volition. Subsequent hearing recommended

    dismissal of A.W.O.L. charge and back pay reinstated. Subject agreed to

    undergo psychiatric evaluation. In cognizance of subject’s outstanding

    record in Vietnam, the division’s chief psychiatrist placed in charge of

    the case. Preliminary analysis: Depression caused by post-Vietnam

    adjustment problem.



    In February, Eddie Wright bumped into Skip on a Detroit street.

    “Hey, man, where’ve you been?”

    “I just got out of Valley Forge on a pass.”

    “How things going there?”

    “They got me in the psycho ward.”

    “Huh, you got to be kidding.”

    “No, man, they think I’m crazy.”

    During the convalescent leave, Sergeant Johnson borrowed $4,992

    from a Detroit credit union. In his wallet he had a cashier’s check for

    $1,500, the back pay the Army had awarded him. Most of his time he

    spent at home on the pass but when he went out he would drive to the

    Jeffries Homes and play basketball with the teenagers after school.

    “He was a big man down there with the kids,” recalls his cousin. “We

    had all lived in the project and had been on welfare, just like these kids

    there today, and we were like heroes because we had broken out of

    there. We had made it to the outside world, and to them we were big

    successes. We had made it.

    “Skip was something special. He had that medal, and they were proud

    of him. He’d be down there five minutes and the kids would come

    around and say, ‘Hey man, ain’t you Dwight Johnson?’”

    Back in Detroit on leave on one occasion, his mother asked him to

    drive her to a doctor’s appointment. In the office, an off-duty black

    Detroit policeman, Ronald Turner, recognized the Medal of Honor

    winner. When he asked for an account of his experience in Vietnam,

    Skip replied: “Don’t ask me anything about the medal. I don’t even

    know how I won it.”

    Later, the policeman reported, Skip complained that he had been

    exploited by the Army. He told him that ever since he won the medal

    he had been set on a hero’s path as an inspiration to black kids.

    Others recalled how upset he had become when his recruiting talks at

    some black high schools in Detroit had been picketed by militants who

    called him an “electronic n****r,” a robot the Army was using to

    recruit blacks for a war in Asia.

    With his psychiatrist, he began to discuss his deeper anxieties.


    Since coming home from Vietnam the subject has had bad dreams.

    He didn’t confide in his mother or wife, but entertained a lot of moral

    judgment as to what had happened at Dakto. Why had he been

    ordered to switch tanks the night before? Why was he spared and not

    the others? He experienced guilt about his survival. He wondered if he

    was sane. It made him sad and depressed.



    Skip signed out of the hospital on March 28 on a three-day pass to

    Philadelphia. The next day the newspapers and television were filled

    with reports of the conviction of First Lieut. William L. Calley, Jr., on

    charges of murdering Vietnamese civilians. Skip turned up in Detroit a

    few days later and never returned to the Army hospital.

    He settled in at home once again and dodged the telephone calls from

    the Army.

    “How can you take punitive action against a Medal of Honor holder?”

    asked a major at the hospital who tried to convince him to return.

    The Army did contact the Ford Motor Company, however, which had

    been letting Skip use a Thunderbird for the past two years. Ford picked

    up the car on the theory that without it he might be inconvenienced

    enough to return to the hospital. Instead, he cashed the cashier’s check

    for $1,500, his Army back pay, and bought a 1967 Mercury for $850.

    He changed his unlisted phone number to avoid the Army callers and a

    growing number of bill collectors.

    By April, his house mortgage had not been paid for the previous nine

    months, and foreclosing proceedings had been started. He owed

    payments on his credit union loan.

    The car had to go into a garage for brake repairs on Wednesday, April

    28, and Skip was told that it would cost $78.50 to get it out. The same

    day, Katrina entered a hospital for removal of an infected cyst, and he

    told the admitting office clerk he would pay the $25 deposit the next

    day.

    His old high school crowd was concerned about some of his new

    friends, though. “They were strung out on drugs, and they just seemed

    to be hanging around Skip for his money,” said his mother. “I asked him

    one night if he was taking anything, and he rolled up his sleeves and

    showed me there were no tracks {needle marks}. ‘Ma,’ he said, ‘I’m not

    taking a thing.’”

    “On his return to the hospital, he began analysis with the chief

    attending psychiatrist.


    Subject is bright. His Army G.T. rating is equivalent of 120 I.Q. In first

    interviews he does not volunteer information. He related he grew up in

    a Detroit ghetto and never knew his natural father. He sort of laughed

    when he said he was a “good boy” and did what was expected of him.

    The only time he can remember losing his temper as a youth was when

    neighborhood bullies picked on his younger brother. He was so

    incensed grownups had to drag him off the other boys. In general, there

    is evidence the subject learned to live up to the expectations of others

    while there was a build-up of anger he continually suppressed.



    The Army hospital is actually in Phoenixville, Pa., several miles from

    Valley Forge. It is the principal treatment center for psychiatric and

    orthopedic patients in the Northeast, with 1,200 beds now occupied.

    Because of the large number of amputees and wheelchair patients, the

    hospital has only two floors and is spread over several acres. Long oak-

    floored corridors run in all directions, connected by covered walkways

    and arcades. Someone once measured the hospital and found there

    were seven miles of corridors in a maze-like jumble. To prevent

    patients from losing their way, wards are painted different colors.


    Dressed in hospital blue denims, the warrior-hero walked the labyrinth

    late at night, wrestling with the problems that tormented his mind and

    drained his spirit.

    “The first day Dwight arrived here, the hospital’s sergeant major

    brought him to us,” said Spec. 6 Herman Avery, a tall Negro with a flat

    face and close-set eyes, who was master of the ward Dwight was first

    assigned to at the hospital. “It was the first time the sergeant major

    ever did that. We got the message. This guy was something special.


    “Well, practically the first night he’s here they dress him up and take

    him over to the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge to shake hands.

    When he got back he told me that if they ever did that again he would

    go A.W.O.L.”

    There was further psychiatric evaluation.


    Subject expressed doubts over his decision to re-enter the Army as a

    recruiter. He felt the Army didn’t honor its commitment to him. The

    public affairs were satisfactory to him at first, but he started to feel

    inadequate. People he would meet would pump his hand and slap his

    back and say, “Johnson, if you ever think about getting out of the Army,

    come look me up.” On several occasions he contacted these individuals

    and they didn’t remember him. It always took several minutes to

    remind them who he was.



    Lonely and depressed at home, Skip telephoned his cousin. “Let’s go

    out and grab some beers,” he said. But his cousin was busy.

    He made another phone call that night and spoke to a friend in the

    Army. “I have a story I’m writing and I want you to peddle it for me,”

    he said. “It starts out like this:

    “Stg. Dwight Johnson is dead and his home has been wiped out . . .”

    On April 30, Skip visited Katrina at the hospital. She said they were

    asking about the hospital deposit. He left at 5:30, promising to return

    later that evening with her hair curlers and bathrobe.

    “He was just the same old Dwight, just kidding and teasing,” his wife

    recalled. “When he was going, he said, ‘Ain’t you going to give me a

    little kiss good-by?’ He said it like a little boy with his thumb in his

    mouth. So I kissed him and he went.”

    When Eddie Wright got home from work that night about 9 o’clock, he

    got a call from Skip. He said he needed a ride to pick up some money

    someone owed him and wanted to know if Eddie could get his

    stepfather to drive him. He said he would pay $15 for the ride.

    Around 11 o’clock, Eddie, his mother and his stepfather picked up Skip

    at his home. At his direction they drove west for about a mile to the

    corner of Orangelawn and Prest.

    “Stop here,” Skip told him, getting out of the car. “This guy lives down

    the street and I don’t want him to see me coming.”

    The family waited in the car for 30 minutes. They became nervous,

    parked in a white neighborhood, and as Eddie explained later to the

    police, it may have looked odd for a car filled with blacks to be parked

    on a dark street. “So we pulled the car out under a street light so

    everybody could see us,” he said.

    At about 11:45 a police car pulled up sharply and two officers with

    drawn pistols got out. “What are you doing here?” they asked.

    “We’re waiting for a friend.”

    “What his name?”

    “Dwight Johnson.”

    “Dwight Johnson’s on the floor of a grocery store around the corner,”

    the officers said. “He’s been shot.”

    “I first hit him with two bullets,” the manager, Charles Landeghem, said

    later. “But he just stood there, with the gun in his hand, and said, ‘I’m

    going to kill you . . .’

    “I kept pulling the trigger until my gun was empty.”

    Skip’s psychiatrist recalled one of the interviews with him.


    The subject remembered coming face to face with a Vietnamese with

    a gun. He can remember the soldier squeezing the trigger. The gun

    jammed. The subject has since engaged in some magical thinking about

    this episode. He also suffers guilt over surviving it and later winning a

    high honor for the one time in his life when he lost complete control of

    himself. He asked: “What would happen if I lost control of myself in

    Detroit and behaved like I did in Vietnam?” The prospect of such an

    event apparently was deeply disturbing to him.




    The burial at Arlington National Cemetery took place on a muggy and

    overcast day. The grave, on a grassy slope about 200 yards east of the

    Kennedy Memorial, overlooks the Potomac and the Pentagon, gray and

    silent, to the south.

    The Army honor guard, in dress blues, carried out its assignment with

    precision, the sixth burial of the day for the eight-man unit, while

    tourists took photographs at a discreet distance from the grieving

    family.

    For a few days after the burial, the family weighed the possibility that

    Skip had been taking narcotics in the last few months of his life and the

    demands of drugs had sent him into the grocery store with a gun. But

    the autopsy turned up no trace of narcotics.

    Eddie Wright and his family were released by homicide detectives after

    questioning, even after Eddie could not produce any plausible reason

    why his best friend had carried out a bizarre crime and implicated him

    at the same time.

    The dead man’s mother was the only one who uttered the words that

    no one else dared to speak.

    “Sometimes I wonder if Skip tired of this life and needed someone else

    to pull the trigger,” she said late one night in the living room of her

    home, her eyes fixed on a large color photograph of her son, handsome

    in his uniform, with the pale blue ribbon of his country’s highest military

    honor around his neck.


    http://books.google.ca/books?id=d7q1...page&q&f=false

    http://aavw.org/served/homepage_djohnson.html


    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...r&GRid=5758187


    “After his return to the United States, he was posted in his hometown

    of Detroit, Michigan for recruiting and public affairs duty. On April 30,

    1971 he happened to walk into a Detroit Liquor store during a

    robbery, and was shot to death by the store owner, who assumed that

    being an African-American like the two men who were holding up the

    store, Dwight Hal Johnson was also one of the robbers. Sergeant

    Johnson was in reality only stopping in to buy food for his infant son.

    His murder was never investigated by the Detroit police.”
    Last edited by HERO; 05-08-2014 at 04:07 AM.

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