b. 11/01/1949 Charleston, South Carolina. d. 05/03/1968 Hill 146, near Quan Duc Valley, Vietnam.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 05/03/1968 Hill 146, near Quan Duc Valley, Vietnam.
Ralph Johnson was born on January 11, 1949, in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended Courtnay Elementary School and Simonton Jr. High School in Charleston, South Carolina. Johnson enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve at Oakland, California, on March 23, 1967, and was discharged to enlist in the regular Marine Corps on July 2, 1967.
Upon completion of recruit training with the 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, MCRD San Diego, California, in September 1967, he was transferred to the Camp Pendleton, California. He underwent individual combat training with Company Y, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, and basic infantry training with the Basic Infantry Training Company, 2nd Infantry Training Regiment, completing the latter in November 1967. He was promoted to private first class on November 1, 1967.
In January 1968, he arrived in the Republic of Vietnam, and served as a reconnaissance scout with Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
On March 5, 1968, while on Operation Rock, a four-day operation by the 3rd Battalion 7th Marines in the “Arizona Territory” northwest of An Hoa Combat Base, his 15-man reconnaissance patrol was attacked by a platoon-sized enemy force on Hill 146 in the Quan Duc Duc Valley. When a hand grenade landed in the fighting hole he shared with fellow Marines, he yelled a warning and immediately hurled his body over the explosive charge. Absorbing the full impact of the blast, he was killed instantly.
His posthumous Medal of Honor was presented to his family by Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew at The White House on April 20, 1970. His body was returned to the US and he was buried in Beaufort National Cemetery.
The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, formerly the Charleston VA Medical Center, was renamed in honor of PFC Johnson, with a formal dedication on September 5, 1991. Johnson’s Medal of Honor, along with his Medal of Honor citation and a portrait of him, is framed and on public display at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s front lobby.
On February 15, 2012, the Navy announced that a new Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer would be named USS Ralph Johnson in his honor. The warship arrived at the Port of Charleston’s Columbus Street Terminal on March 19, 2018, and was commissioned on March 24, 2018. Johnson’s name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (“The Wall”) in Washington, D.C., on Panel 43E, Line 8.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a reconnaissance scout with Company A, in action against the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces. In the early morning hours during Operation Rock, Pfc. Johnson was a member of a 15-man reconnaissance patrol manning an observation post on Hill 146 overlooking the Quan Duc Valley deep in enemy-controlled territory. They were attacked by a platoon-size hostile force employing automatic weapons, satchel charges, and hand grenades. Suddenly, a hand grenade landed in the three-man fighting hole occupied by Pfc. Johnson and two fellow marines. Realizing the inherent danger to his two comrades, he shouted a warning and unhesitatingly hurled himself on the explosive device. When the grenade exploded, Pfc. Johnson absorbed the tremendous impact of the blast and was killed instantly. His prompt and heroic act saved the life of one marine at the cost of his life and undoubtedly prevented the enemy from penetrating his sector of the patrol’s perimeter. Pfc. Johnson’s courage, inspiring valor, and selfless devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
BURIAL LOCATION: BEAUFORT NATIONAL CEMETERY, BEAUFORT, SOUTH CAROLINA.
SECTION 3, GRAVE 21.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: RALPH JOHNSON VETERANS ADMINISTRATION HOSPITAL, CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA.