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Howard Johnson

Colonel (Ret.) Howard Johnson was a fighter pilot who flew more than 7,000 hours in 15 different airframes during his career. Early on, Johnson trained World War II aircrew in the art of aerial gunnery, preparing America’s B-17, B-24 and B-29 heavy bomber crews for combat. Eager to make the transition to combat, Johnson volunteered to fly in the Korean War in 1950. At the controls of his P-51, he flew 87 combat missions – 60 as the flight lead of his aptly named formation, “The Ferocious Four,” that included “Daniel ‘Chappie’ James Jr.” In 1953, Johnson transferred to Hamilton Air Force Base, California, where he first heard about the Air Force’s newest, fastest airplane, the F-104. In 1958, with only 30 hours of flight time in the Starfighter, he shattered the world’s altitude record zooming to 91,243 feet. In recognition of the record, Vice President Richard Nixon presented him with the Robert J. Collier trophy for aeronautical achievement. In 1966, Johnson became the deputy commander for operations of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing in Korat, Thailand. He flew more than 115 missions in North Vietnam and Laos in the F-105. Johnson retired in 1972, receiving the Collier Trophy, two Silver Stars, two Legion of Merit, seven Distinguished Flying Crosses and 18 Air Medals.