Paul T. Johnson had an illustrious career in the U.S. Air Force. His incredible search and rescue mission of a U.S. Navy pilot in Iraq earned him one of the military’s highest honors — the Air Force Cross.
Retired Iraq War Pilot and Hero
by Melissa LaScaleia
Paul T. Johnson was born on April 26, 1958, in Gadsden, Alabama. He joined the United States Air Force in 1985, and was a pilot stationed with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base during the Desert Storm Combat Operations over Iraq. He served in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Northern Watch, and Operation Enduring Freedom.
He is renowned for his heroism exacted in enemy territory; rescuing a stranded U.S. Navy pilot; and pushing the A-10 aircraft past its known tested limits. For these military accomplishments, Major General Johnson received one of the military’s highest honors— the Air Force Cross. The award was presented to him in a ceremony at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in 1991.
On January 21, 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, Paul, who was then a captain, was leading an aerial search and rescue alert team. While enroute, he received word to search for a F-14 crew that had been shot down the previous evening.
For six hours, he lead his flight team in search of the missing crew. The team refueled aerially three times, and Paul risked his life on the search mission, flying at a mere 500 feet to pinpoint the location of the survivors.
For three hours, he took his A-10 aircraft deeper into enemy territory than any A-10 had ever been, and eventually identified the surviving craft, as well as an enemy truck headed directly for it. Paul successful destroyed the enemy truck, ensuring the success of the mission.
His superior orchestration of maneuvering of aircraft and leadership of his team was the difference between life and death for the F-14 crew. A rescue of this magnitude was also the first of its kind for the A-10. Paul set a new record— bringing the highest credit to himself as well as the United States Air Force.
Paul also acted as commander of the 355th Fighter Group at Myrtle Beach from 2008-2010. His other awards include: Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit; Distinguished Flying Cross; Bronze Star; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; and Air Medal.
Johnson Avenue, which intersects Farrow Parkway and runs parallel with Shine Avenue in the Market Common, is named in his honor.
Today, Major Johnson is retired from the military.