Retired July 1, 1961. Died Nov. 10, 1997.
Leon W. Johnson was born in Columbia, Mo., in 1904. He spent his boyhood in Columbia and Moline, Kan. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and was commissioned a second lieutenant in June 1926. He later received a master of science degree in meteorology from the California Institute of Technology.
He was one of the first four flying officers of the Eighth Air Force and served as assistant chief of staff for operations for that command and during its formative period at Savannah, Ga. He accompanied the Eighth Air Force to England in June 1942. In January 1943, he assumed command of the 44th Bomb Group and, in June of that year, took the group to Africa to assist the Ninth Air Force in the attack on the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania. For his part in that raid, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. On his return to England in September 1943, he organized the 14th Combat Wing and commanded it until the end of the war in Europe.
After V-E Day, he was assigned as chief of personnel services, Headquarters Army Air Forces in Washington, later becoming deputy to the assistant chief of air staff for personnel. In April 1947 he was assigned to Strategic Air Command as commanding general of the Fifteenth Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Air Force returned to England for the first time since World War II when General Johnson organized the Third Air Division (later redesignated the Third Air Force) there in August 1948, as a separate major command of the U.S. Air Force. The division provided facilities for maintenance and support of Strategic Air Command aircraft on rotational training missions to Europe and for transport aircraft used in the Berlin Airlift. In February 1950 General Johnson was appointed, in addition to his other duties, chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group for the United Kingdom.
In February 1952, he was named commander of the Continental Air Command at Mitchel Air Force Base, N.Y. He was appointed in July 1953, U.S. Air Force Representative, Military Staff Committee, United Nations in addition to his primary duty as Continental Air Command commander.
Three years later he was named the U.S. Representative to the North Atlantic Military Committee, Military Representatives Committee and Standing Group of NATO, with duty station in Washington, D.C.
General Johnson next assumed duties in May 1958 as air deputy to the supreme allied commander Europe, at SHAPE Headquarters, Paris, France. He was retired July 31, 1961 with more than 34 years of military service. Six weeks later he was recalled to active duty to become the director, Net Evaluation Subcommittee Staff/National Security Council, with duty station in the Pentagon.
General Johnson is a command pilot and in addition to the Medal of Honor he has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, and the Air Medal with three clusters. His foreign decorations include the French Legion of Honor in the Grade of Chevalier, French Croix de Guerre with palms, Belgian Croix de Guerre with palms, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross. He was promoted to general Aug. 31, 1957.