CHANDLER W. JOHNSON, LTCOL, USMC

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Chandler Johnson '29

Date of birth: October 8, 1905

Date of death: March 2, 1945

Age: 39

Lucky Bag

From the 1929 Lucky Bag:

Loss

1929 Johnson 1.jpg

Chandler was lost on March 2, 1945 when he was killed in action on Iwo Jima. He was the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines — the unit that raised the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi on February 23, 1945, resulting in one of the most recognizable images of the 20th century.

From 5th Marine Division:

Chandler W. Johnson was born in Ft. Dodge, Iowa on October 8, 1905. Johnson was the commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 28th Marines when they landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. On D+1, in a cold rain, 2/28 prepared to assault Mt. Suribachi. Johnson set the tone for the morning as he deployed his tired troops forward saying, "It's going to be a hell of a day in a hell of a place to fight the damned war!"

On February 23, Capt. Dave Severance was ordered by Lt. Col. Johnson to send a platoon to take the mountain. Severance ordered 1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier to lead the patrol. Just before Schrier was to head up the mountain, Johnson handed him a flag saying, "If you get to the top put it up." The flag was a 54x28 inch American flag from the transport ship the USS Missoula. The patrol reached the top without incident and the flag was raised.

The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, had decided the previous night that he wanted to go ashore and witness the final stage of the fight for the mountain. His boat touched the beach just after the flag went up, and the mood among the high command turned jubilant. Gazing upward at the flag, Forrestal remarked to General Holland Smith, "Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years." Forrestal decided he wanted the Suribachi flag as a souvenir. The news of this wish did not sit well with Chandler Johnson. "To hell with that!" Johnson spat when the message reached him. The flag belonged to the battalion, as far as Johnson was concerned. He decided to secure it as soon as possible, and dispatched his assistant operations officer, Lt. Ted Tuttle, to the beach to obtain a replacement flag. As an afterthought, Johnson called after Tuttle, "And make it a bigger one."

Johnson was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his leadership on Iwo Jima as his men secured Mt. Suribachi and then drove on northward toward the sea. Johnson was instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell as he was moving between companies on March 2, 1945. He is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.

He was survived by his wife and daughter, Miriam.

Career

From Together We Served:

  • 1929-1930: Marine Barracks NAD Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1930-1930: Marine Barracks NAS Norfolk
  • 1930-1931: Marine Barracks Portsmouth, NH/Naval Prison Detachment
  • 1930-1933: 5th Marine Regiment/1st Bn, 5th Marine Regiment (1/5)
  • 1931-1931: Nicaraguan National Guard Detachment
  • 1931-1932: Marine Barracks Port Au Prince, Haiti
  • 1932-1933: Nicaraguan National Guard Detachment
  • 1933-1933: Marine Barracks Norfolk Naval Shipyard Portsmouth, VA
  • 1933-1934: Marine Barracks Boston, MA
  • 1934-1934: Marine Barracks Puget Sound Naval Shipyard/Guard Co 1
  • 1934-1935: Marine Barracks Quantico, VA
  • 1935-1935: Marine Barracks Mare Island, CA
  • 1935-1936: Marine Barracks Olongapo PI
  • 1936-1938: 4th Marine Regiment/2nd Bn, 4th Marine Regiment (2/4)
  • 1938-1938: Marine Barracks Norfolk Naval Shipyard Portsmouth, VA/1st Guard Co
  • 1938-1939: Marine Barracks Puget Sound Naval Shipyard/Guard Co 1
  • 1939-1940: 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6)
  • 1940-1940: 1st Defense Bn
  • 1940-1942: 3rd Defense Bn
  • 1942-1944: 3rd Defense Bn
  • 1944-1945: 2nd Bn, 28th Marine Regiment (2/28)

Navy Cross

1929 Johnson 2.jpg

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Colonel Chandler Wilce Johnson (MCSN: 0-4434), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of the Second Battalion, Twenty-Eighth Marines, FIFTH Marine Division, during operations against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, from 19 February to 2 March 1945. Landing his force in the wake of an assault battalion on D-Day, Lieutenant Colonel Johnson advanced his men against savage hostile resistance as they executed a difficult turning maneuver to protect the left flank of assault troops moving across the island and, completing this initial mission in a minimum of time, forged steadily onward to penetrate the intricate network of fortifications circling the base of Mount Suribachi. Scaling the steep, gun-studded face of the mountain, he maintained close control of operations, blasting the defending garrisons from their deeply-entrenched positions and seizing the volcanic stronghold with its commanding gun batteries on D-plus-4. With Mount Suribachi secured, Lieutenant Colonel Johnson waged a relentless drive northward toward the sea, smashing through seemingly impregnable Japanese defenses, fighting the enemy with indomitable force and annihilating them with inexorable determination. Gaining the rugged, difficult terrain north of Hill 362 on D-plus-11, he discovered that strongly fortified, well-concealed Japanese forces were inflicting heavy casualties on his forward companies. Instantly proceeding to the front lines, he fearlessly made his way among the besieged units, ordering corrective measures, rallying and reorganizing his stout-hearted fighters for renewed assault. Although instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell as he moved from the right assault company to the adjacent company's observation post, Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, by his outstanding valor, dynamic energies and skilled combat tactics in the face of tremendous odds, had inspired his men to heroic effort throughout twelve days of fierce conflict, thereby contributing essentially to the ultimate capture of this vital Japanese outpost. His brilliant leadership and astute military acumen throughout reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

General Orders: Commander in Chief Pacific Forces: Serial 35137 (September 13, 1945)
Service: Marine Corps
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Legion of Merit

From Hall of Valor:

SYNOPSIS: Lieutenant Colonel Chandler Wilce Johnson (MCSN: 0-4434), United States Marine Corps, was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States in the Pacific Theater of Operations during the period from 7 August 1942 through 9 February 1943.

Service: Marine Corps
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel


Class of 1929

Chandler is one of 29 members of the Class of 1929 in Memorial Hall.