Mr. Robert (Bob) S. Johnson
Bob Johnson joined the Naval Reserve in 1942 and went into the B-12 unit until 1944, when he was placed in midshipman school. Completing school as a commissioned ensign, he then was placed aboard the USS Newcomb DD586 Destroyer on way to Okinawa.
The Newcomb was off coast firing in the third wave assault on the beaches where quite a few men were lost. Bob remembers Okinawa as a beautiful land before the bombardment, however, completely destroyed afterward. While sweeping for mines, the Newcomb was hit five times by kamikaze planes attacking both sides of the ship, sustaining much damage and losing 43 crewmen. Bob tells of a gunner mate with a broken hand firing at a suicide plane, hitting it and sending it into the water before it hit the bridge. Most kamikazes were 17- and 18-year-olds who were never trained to land the plane; only to be suicide pilots.
The Newcomb crew was asked to stay with the ship until ordered off and the ship was towed back to the U.S.
Bob served from 1942 until 1946 in the South Pacific, Japan, and China.
When Bob came home he was greeted by his parents and wife at the Kansas City Union Station.
Bob’s military history can be viewed in the Veterans’ Hall in the Independence Parks and Recreation Truman Memorial Building, 416 W. Maple.
– This is part of a weekly feature on local veterans submitted by Helen Matson, volunteer program director for the city of Independence. You can reach her at 816-325-7860.