slc3-johnson anchor
McKinley R. Johnson, GM2c

USS Salt Lake City CA25


USS SLC...Enlisted Navy...McKinley Rutherford Johnson, GM2c
US FLAG "Johnny" passed away on Dec. 16th, 2010. Information from dau., Jane Mitschele
This story was written by his son, John W. Johnson

In February, 1944 the San Francisco teamed up with Task Force 58, a fast carrier force, and provided air defense as aircraft from Essex, Intrepid and Cabot decimated Truk Lagoon, and most of the ships found there. When Frisco put into Saipan, my father was reassigned to the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Salt Lake City CA25.

I inquired about what happened in the next few months on the Swayback Maru, and was surprised at my father's insightful answer: You've got to remember I was only a kid and not a full-grown man. I didn't know where I was most of the time. It's not like they had a map and told you where you were. Besides, there were no reference points on the ocean to go by. A lot of times, I just didn't care where I was or I cared enough to wish I wasn't there. It was so peaceful and beautiful, yet deadly at the same time. We used to pray for a storm so the submarines and planes couldn't get to us. We looked for a squall just to cool off.

If you've ever been frightened of something, and get a sick feeling in your stomach, you can magnify that ten times and that's how it was. I stayed that way for four years. After a while it affects you. They used to say of someone in this condition, He's Asiatic.

At daybreak on October 25th, 1944 a superior Japanese naval force emerged from San Bernardino straight and sped south along the Samar Coast to Leyte Gulf. The only sentinel left guarding the US invasion area was Taffy 1, 2 and 3 of Admiral Kinkaid's seventh fleet, composed of escort carriers and their screening destroyers. My uncle Roy, on one of the jeep carriers, as they were known, asked, What are those ships over there?

At that moment 14-inch shells began making giant geysers all around us. Admiral Kinkaid pleaded to Admiral Halsey for relief from his attacker. Responsible for defending the Leyte invasion area with his Third Fleet, Admiral Bull Halsey had been lured into engaging a decoy force north of the Philippine's, at Cape Enjano. When Admiral Nimitz intercepted Kinkaid's plea for help, he sent an urgent message to Admiral Halsey. It inquired, Turkey trots to water. From Cincpac. Where is, repeat, where is Task Force 38.4?

The World Wonders. Nimitz tried to be as delicate as he could, but he might as well have driven a nail into his head. Halsey was real gung ho. My dad served with Admiral Halsey in this last major naval action of the war, in Task Force 38.4.

With the bombardment of Iwo Jima underway, the Salt Lake City took up her assigned bombardment area. This was the last combat my father was involved in. He served on the Sway back Maru for approximately ten months.

Participating in a contest for specialized training in the United States, my father had won first place on the Salt Lake City. He was eventually sent to Anacosta, Maryland for gunners school, but when he got there he was given a choice of schools. He decided to learn how to be a movie-projectionist instead.

My Uncle ball-red-02 Deceased Frederick Trippe, Jr's (who was awarded a Purple Heart) petty officer and friend on the Salt Lake City. Before my dad departed from the ship in January, 1945, my uncle asked him to pay a visit to his mother in Virginia and tell her he was all right. Dad asked him if he had a sister and my uncle said, Yes, but you stay away from her. She's a good girl. After that first visit, my dad would travel by train from Anacosta to see my uncle's sister (my mother), whenever he could.

When my father was ordered to report to Vero Beach, Florida for small craft landing school, he contacted Reverend Francis B. Sayre, Jr. in Washington, D.C. He told the reverend that he didn't think his nerves could stand any more combat. My dad didn't hear from him again, but was assigned to Dam Neck, Virginia.

With his four years cruise up, my father received $600 from the navy to extend the cruise for two years. He used the money to take my mother home with him to Port Angelos, Washington to meet his family. On July 14, 1945, after only four dates in six months, my mother and father were married. Japan surrendered while they were still honeymooning at Virginia Beach, Virginia. My dad was so happy the war was over, he jumped in the ocean and started to swim to England to congratulate the victors, however he could only dog paddle! The only thing my mother could say was, Oh my Lord!

In early 1946, my father was assigned to the fleet tanker U.S.S Passumpsic A0107. He is a plank owner because he was in the tanker's first crew after she was commissioned by the navy. My dad served as No.1 Master-of-Arms on the Passumpsic by virtue of his seniority. One of his few duties was to check on the ammunition magazine every so often. Sometimes he would tear down his 20mm gun, and reassemble it, just to have something to do. So, with few responsibilities, my dad spent much of his time sitting in a covered walkway, outside the crews quarters, just thinking. He was depressed and wanted to go home to his new wife, my mother and their baby boy. He thought the navy should have let him go home, after all the combat he'd seen. The Passompsic's itinerary was to leave empty from Yokosuka, Japan, then to go to Subic Bay in the Philippines, then to Singapore on the tip of the Malay Peninsula. Finally, she went to Ras Tannura, Arabia to take on fuel oil. She retraced this course going back to Yokosuka, to dump the fuel oil. Once, the oiler went to Seoul, Korea after leaving Japan. The ship made several of these circuits in the ten months my father was on board. During this time, he was able to visit places he couldn't in wartime, such as the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

One incident that occurred while my father was on the Passumpsic was when a crewman was late from Liberty. The sailor was put in the ship's brig on bread and water. Dad slipped him food whenever he thought no one was looking. Later, the captain told him that he knew every time he fed the man.

When it was time for his discharge from the navy, in 1947, my dad said he got his only break of the war. He was standing in a line, about 3/4 of a football field long, waiting to be released on Goat Island, in the San Francisco Bay. Answering a call to come to the front office, he was greeted by Chief Yoeman Schultz, who he had served with on the San Francisco.

Schultz said he recognized his name on the list, which is unusual. He gave my dad a three day pass, and informed him that when he got back his discharge papers would be ready.

The people of the city of San Francisco preserved the remnant of the San Francisco's old battered bridge. In 1950 they constructed a memorial from it, to Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callahan, and the officers and men who died with him, at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. It is located at Point Lobos, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Straits.

My father had won three battle stars by the time he was eighteen, and ten by the time he was twenty. He was in the Naval Reserves until 1950. Soon after my dad left the reserves, his unit was called up to fight in the Korean War.

My Dad, McKinley Rutherford (Johnny) Johnson, Pearl Harbor Survivor.

Thank You Daddy, Johnny, Jane and Kathy

Kathy Johnson, dau.
Jane Mitschele, dau.

Also served on the following ships during WWII: USS San Francisco & USS Passumpsic
SLC Deck Logs Apr. 1944  Jan. 1945
2004 SLC Reunion


Margaret Alma Trippe Johnson

McKinley & Margaret Johnson



McKinley R. Johnson (on left) & Brother, Ray Johnson



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