“Send Me, I’m Ready”: Combat Experience From Vietnam To Panama To Desert Storm

James H. Johnson Jr.


LTG(R) James Johnson’s father served in the Army National Guard, and was deployed during WWII as part of the 75th Infantry Division. After the war, he served in Germany as part of the Constabulary, and his family moved there to be with him. It was this experience, coupled with older cousins who attended both the United States Military Academy and the Naval Academy, that influenced young James to attend West Point. While a Cadet, he competed in the hurdles, and learned that if you want something bad enough, you can achieve it. Upon graduation, he branched Infantry, and began his career at Fort Bragg, the post that was home to his family more than any other in the Army. He served two tours in Vietnam, and spent much of the remainder of his career in either the 82nd Airborne Division or the XVIII Airborne Corps. While in the 82nd, he commanded the 3rd Brigade longer than anyone in the history of the 505th Infantry Regiment, and he deployed the Division to combat twice as the Division Commander. In this interview he talks about his childhood, including living in Germany shortly after the end of WWII. He discusses his time at West Point and as a junior officer, and reflects on the lessons he learned from his first Platoon Sergeant. He describes his experiences in Vietnam, serving with the 21st ARVN Division during his first tour, and the importance of learning the language and understanding the culture. Finally, he analyzes several operations he led as a senior leader, including Operation Golden Pheasant in Honduras, the combat jump into Panama, and Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm. Finally he explains what his service means to him.


name James H. Johnson Jr.
institution USMA
graduation year 1960
service Infantry
unit MACV; 2-504 IN; 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division; 82nd Airborne Division
service dates 1960 1993