G Co. 180th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division
Padiglione, Italy
17 February 1944

While standing sentry, PFC Johnston spotted then singlehandedly engaged an attackingjohnston force of approximately 80 Germans, inflicting 25-plus casualties and forcing them to withdraw.

Johnston spent the rest of the day manning his position, while the advancing Germans focused, small arms, Mortar, and Heavy Machinegun fire on Johnston’s position. German Snipers spent most of the day trying to kill PFC Johnston and dislodge him from his position blocking their advance.

Two Germans sappers individually worked so close to his position that his machinegun was ineffective, then attacked PFC Johnston’s position. He killed the first with his sidearm then used the Germans rifle to dispatch the second sapper.

Johnston immediately relocated his machinegun to a position with a better field of fire and volunteered to cover his Platoon’s retreat. In his new position, he maintained an all-night vigil the next day, causing 7 German casualties.

The next afternoon, he again covered the withdrawal of an American platoon.

Johnston was hit in the chest. A retreating American soldier observed Johnston attempting to crawl up the embankment. The soldier helped him back into position at his gun.

His gun sprang back to life, providing covering fire until the Americans heard it stop.  Johnston was assumed to have been killed.

johnston memorial tree
PFC William J. Johnston Memorial Tree 

On the 2nd day -19, Feb.  Pfc. Johnston was seen crawling back to American lines. As he slowly and painfully worked his way back from his overrun position through enemy lines, he made a note of the enemy positions and strength.  This valuable intelligence allowed American guns to destroy the enemy gun emplacements.

PFC Johnston’s MOH citation puts it this way:

“ His (PFC Johnston’s) heroic determination to destroy the enemy and his disregard of his own safety aided immeasurably in halting a strong enemy attack, caused an enormous amount of enemy casualties, and so inspired his fellow soldiers that they fought for and held a vitally important position against greatly superior forces.”

PFC WILLIAM J. JOHNSTON passed on May 29,1990, at the age of 71.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s