By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Billy Johnson was 18 when he left his family's farm near Noxapater to enlist in the Army. It was 1954, two years after the Korean War.
"I was in Fox Company. That was in the 24th Infantry Division
They carried me straight in to South Korea, to the closest town to where the 24th Infantry Division was, you see. And I went back down there with the Company Commander and the Generals and the Captains, carrying them back down there for different things.
I was the company commander's driver. Wherever he needed to go, that's where I went, in that jeep I was driving."
The men patrolled the border between North and South Korea, and while driving was Johnson's main duty, it wasn't his only one. He had some parachuting training, so at one point he was tapped to go on a mission across enemy lines.
"Whenever they found an American man in North Korea, since I went to paratrooper school, they automatically come got me."
He found the AWOL man right after he dropped in.
"That GI, he come hug my neck, said, 'You come to get me?' And I said 'Yes, we're gonna cross the EmJem River on the Freedom Bridge.' 'No sir, it's boogy-trapped,' he said. So that left us going across on the ice. And out there in the middle of it, we broke through and you got good and wet because you had that big M1 rifle hanging on your back and them combat boots, you see. So when we got out, we started up the hills, that was in there around where the 24th division done all their guard work. And all them GI's asked me, 'Johnson, what are you doing coming out of North Korea'?"
Shortly after he got back to South Korea, he was injured.
"I got shot through the knee and through this muscle. And an old South Korean, he made a dirt patty, boiled the dirt in water and patted that to stop the blood from bleeding."
After he left the Army, Johnson worked building bridges all across Mississippi. He retired in 1993. He's proud of his service, but would be in no hurry to do it again.
"I didn't enjoy it, but I went and done my job. And I'm still walking today, even if I've got holes in my legs."
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