Corporal James T. Johnson was born 16 August 1947 in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967, and was trained as an Infantry Assaultman. He deployed to Vietnam in 1968, initially assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, 1st Marine Division, and later transferred to the 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. Johnson repeatedly distinguished himself by his courage and composure in the face of the enemy. He was put in many positions normally assigned to a more senior ranking Marine.
Initially assigned as a grenadier, then as an Assistant Squad Leader, Company C, Johnson was on a search and rescue mission near Da Nang, Vietnam. On 5 June 1968, in support of Operation Allen Brook, his company came under severe North Vietnamese Army mortar and automatic weapons fire. The well-concealed enemy battalion was able to inflict numerous casualties on U.S. Marine forces. Although seriously injured himself, Johnson, then Lance Corporal, ignored his painful injuries and delivered rapid counterfire with his grenade launcher until hostile fire destroyed his weapon. Then disregarding his own safety, Johnson crawled through the hazardous area to a forward machine gun position and fed ammunition into the weapon until all rounds were exhausted. Refusing medical treatment, he organized a unit of litter bearers from among the lesser injured Marines and moved resolutely across the fire-swept terrain from one position to the next, directing the movement of 13 casualties to places of safety. Johnson only allowed himself medical evacuation and treatment after he ensured all fellow injured Marines were embarked on medical evacuation helicopters.
Cpl Johnson's heroic and timely actions inspired all the Marines who witnessed his efforts that day, and earned him the Silver Star with "V" and Purple Heart Medals. He was also awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star.