Robert W. Johns
Biography: Robert William Johns, “Bob”, was born on September 28, 1922, in Bloomington, Indiana. He was one of two sons and a daughter born to Earl Oliver Johns and Docia Melissa DeFord. He graduated from Bloomington High School where he met his future wife, Jean McArtor. He worked at RCA from April, 1941 to June, 1942, when he went to work at the Crane Naval Ammunition Depot in Crane, IN. He and Jean were married Sept. 19, 1942, and Jean went to work at RCA.
Service Time: Bob entered the Army on December 23, 1942, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, IN. He arrived at Company A, 607th Tank Destroyer Battalion, on Dec. 28th, at Camp Hood, Texas. He completed his basic training on February 12, 1943. Promotion to Private First Class (Pfc) came on March 8th, as did his movement from duty to SD (Special Duty) which was to attend radio voice procedure and Morse code classes. Bob later decided he didn’t want to serve in the radio section of the HQ Platoon and returned to the 3rd Platoon of Company A. The unit trained at a number of locations including Camp San Luis Obispo, the Desert Training Center and Camp Cooke, all in California. They shipped overseas on April 13, 1944, arriving in Liverpool, England on the 21st. Company A landed at Utah Beach, Normandy, France, on June 17.
Bob remembered a number of incidents from his time in combat. In mid-September, his platoon moved two guns to Talange, France, along the Moselle River at night. They were sleeping in a building when they heard a large explosion. He jumped out of his sleeping bag and couldn’t find his rifle, forgetting he had laid it on the opposite side of his bags zipper. The next day they found the Germans had returned to blow up a nearby bridge. In November, he took a jeep and drove a couple miles to pick up their rations at the company headquarters. When he returned, one of his fellow soldiers told him the Germans had been firing at him with a machine gun and he didn’t even know it.
The photo at left shows Bob with some of his TD crew mates.
Also in Nov, the unit converted to the M36 tank destroyer, he said everyone was glad to have the self-propelled TD’s to replace the towed guns they had been using. In mid-winter, he met George Patton when the general stopped and had dinner with them at company headquarters. After crossing the Rhine River near the end of March, 1945, they were traveling at night when a German plane came over and dropped parachute flares, lighting up the area like daytime. They thought for sure he would bomb them but he attacked a bridge ahead of the column and failed to destroy it.
Like many other men in the 607th, Bob was transferred out on July 1, 1945, and ended up in the 602nd TD Bn. He was credited with five campaigns, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Germany. He was awarded the EAME, Good Conduct, WWII Victory, American Campaign and the Army of Occupation (Germany) medals. He left the Army at the rank of Private First Class.
The photo at left shows Bob and Jean at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Bob returned to his home and Jean on Dec 11th. After a few weeks, he returned to his job at the Naval Ammunition Depot until he retired after 31 years. They had two children, Steve and Shannon. He liked to fish but his passion was watching Indiana University (IU) Basketball and Pro Football, especially the Indianapolis Colts! He was a member of the American Legion #18 and joined the Sherwood Oaks Christian Church in 1994.
Bob passed away on January 1, 2015, in Bloomington. He was buried in the Garrison Chapel Cemetery. We would like to thank his daughter, Shannon, and her husband, Dan, for providing the information and photos used in this tribute. We would also like to thank Find-A-Grave contributor, Scott Emery, for use of the grave marker photo.