February is Black History Month and, while it is important to take note of history all year round, we're using this opportunity to share and honor Black veteran stories. This month, we're highlighting the inspiring story of Black American war veteran Roy M. Johnson, Sr. who fought bravely as a medic in the Korean War, Black Americans faced inequalities on the front lines and at home when they returned from war, despite their contributions to the country.
A story of bravery
Roy Johnson was born in 1922 in Lincolnton, GA. Just over 20 years later, he was drafted into the war in Europe where he served until it ended. His story is one of bravery, perseverance and service to the United States of America.
By 1950, Sergeant Roy Johnson was a medic in the US Army. Like most active military members of the time, there came an opportunity for him to volunteer for a dangerous mission, where he would risk his life further to protect his country and his deep-held beliefs. Sergeant Roy accepted the mission and was sent to the frontlines of the Taejon area in Korea. There, his task was to get the wounded soldiers from the frontline and bring them back to the first aid station.
The backroads of the countryside were notoriously confusing and difficult to navigate, and Sergeant Johnson's journey to the Taejon area was no exception. At a crossroads, his path intersected that of several enemy tanks that had somehow broken through American lines. He came under unexpected enemy fire, especially because his vehicle was marked with the Red Cross symbol. His traveling companion was killed in the onslaught and Sergeant Johnson's hand became badly wounded (later it would be completely amputated).
Sergeant Johnson fell off the vehicle and while laying on the ground, was subsequently shot three times in the back. An hour after this conflict, when the enemy was gone, he climbed onto another medical vehicle and drove himself to find his comrades. Badly wounded, he lost consciousness immediately.
Not yet completely safe, the field hospital where he was taken to be cared for fell under enemy machine gunfire. Escaping the enemy once again before the hospital was taken by the North Koreans, Sergeant Johnson was sent first to Japan and then to Walter Reed Medical Center. Not only is this the hospital where his hand was amputated — it's where he met Sergeant Alfonzo Spencer (the father of current AFBA President, General Larry Spencer). The two would become deep friends for the rest of their lives.
Before being discharged from the army in 1958, Sergeant spent another eight years at Bethesda Naval Hospital where he was an Occupational Therapy Technician who trained other war amputees on how to use their new prosthetics effectively. Along with his honorable memory of service, Sergeant Johnson lives in Maryland today with his children.
To learn more about this inspiring Korean War Veteran, check out our YouTube channel.