Wounded War Veteran From Hawley, Minnesota Prepares For Honor Flight

Curtis Johnson Was Wounded During The War In Korea In 1952

HAWLEY, Minn. — On Sunday, another group of our local war heroes will board a plane for our nation’s capital.

Veterans from World War Two, Korea and Vietnam are taking the Honor Flight to see the memorials in their honor.

KVRR anchor TJ Nelson and chief photographer John Hanson are going on the trip.

They had the privilege of meeting just one of those war heroes before taking off this weekend.

“You think you know you’re going to walk into a death trap really. Goodbye, you know?,” said Curtis Johnson of Hawley, Minnesota.

It was known as Operation Showdown and The Battle of Triangle Hill, a military mission during the Korean War. Americans tried to gain control of “The Iron Triangle” and encourage a return to peace talks. It was October 14, 1952.

“That’s the day the day it started and I got wounded going up the hill.”

“What happened?,” TJ asked.

“I got too close to hand grenades,” said Johnson.

The battle lasted just 42 days. It was the bloodiest contest of the year. But the day it began is also the day it ended for a young soldier from Alexandria, Minnesota, Sgt. Curtis Johnson.

“A hand grenade landed next to me as I was on top of the hill and I got hit in the arm, the back of the head and my knee.”

Johnson didn’t know how bad he was hurt but knew it was serious.

“Reached behind my head pulled out a handful of blood and a piece of shrapnel that had stuck in my head. It didn’t go all the way in it just stuck in my skull.”

He was taken to a hospital in Japan for treatment. A week later this message arrived back home in Alexandria addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson.

It read, in part: “The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your son was wounded in action in Korea.”

“That was kind of the end of my big to do.

“That was it?,” TJ asked.

“That was kind of the end of it.” And he laughed.

The battle ended with 365 American soldiers killed and more than 1,100 wounded. Chinese casualties totaled nearly 5,000.

“We lost, I wouldn’t say any of my good friends, but part of our platoon yes we lost not that many, most of them are wounded.”

For being wounded in the war, Johnson was awarded the Purple Heart.

Years later, another award to commemorate his service: a plaque made by his nephew.

When Johnson arrives in Washington, D.C. on the Honor Flight, he’ll be joined by family members to tour the memorials and relive the memories of the time he served.

“It’s going to be interesting. I’m happy they’re going to join me.”

The husband and father of 6 and former banker credits the local V-A for getting him signed up for the trip and for taking such good care of him.
The retiree lives in Hawley and has health issues but he also has to be one of the jolliest wounded soldiers I’ve ever met.

“I got kidney problems and heart problems,” Johnson said with a laugh.

TJ said, “But you’re still here”.

I’m still here. And I feel pretty good. I can still golf. I can hit the ball, I used to say 200 yards, it goes 100 now. Pretty good,” he laughed.

He really is a special guy and just one of the 88 local heroes who will be a part of the latest Veterans Honor Flight of North Dakota-Minnesota.

We will bring you coverage of the trip “Live” from Washington, D.C. on Sunday night and again on Monday at 6.

You can also watch for updates on KVRR’s Facebook page.

Categories: Local News, Minnesota News, North Dakota News