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Johnnie Johnson
Johnnie Johnson

Location of Service: Korea
Gender: male
Current City: Lima
Current State: Ohio
Honored by Michael Ford

My War Stories
1950 (Courtesy Michael Ford, Delphos Herald). Wayne “Johnnie” Johnson of Lima was taken prisoner by the Communists on July 11, 1950. The Korean War was heating up and he knew many of his fellow POWs would not make it home. Therefore, his primary concern was to keep a record of their names, so they would not be forgotten. Many Korean War veterans feel forgotten despite making it home to tell of their experiences. They especially believe those who did not make it home are forgotten. To combat this, the Johnnie Johnson Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association have a monument at Lima's Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center. One of the chapter’s founding members is Dillon Staas, who was in Korea during 1950 and 1951. He said the chapter has wanted to erect the monument for a long time but funds were short. “We finally decided that if we don’t do it now, it might never get done, so we took what funds we had and did what we could,” he said. The vertical slab reads “The Korean War” with its official dates beneath and the chapter’s name at the bottom. The inscription in the middle declares the monument’s purpose is “to honor those who fought and died to secure the freedom of the people of South Korea.” Like many veterans, Staas does not regard himself as a hero deserving tribute. That, he says, goes to men like Johnson and another Lima man taken prisoner with him. Together, Johnson and George Gingham kept a list of POWs now known as the “Tiger Survivors.” “Johnnie Johnson was taken prisoner with another man from Lima, George Bingham, who stole cooking oil. They mixed it with ashes from the fire to make a paste and kept a list. Johnnie was caught with it and beaten quite severely but he had a backup copy known today as ‘Johnson’s List.’ They gave him the Silver Star in 1996 and he’s still living; he’s down in Texas,” he said. Staas says the tribute goes not only to those who died but to men like Johnson and Bingham, who were beaten so severely their bodies still tell the tales of war. “Those are the men this monument is for,” he said. Staas said he wrote the inscription on the monument, as well as the poem on its back, which declares these defenders of freedom as “forgotten nevermore.”