PRIVATE FIRST CLASS JOSEPH H. JOHNSON was born in New Jersey in 1908 to Edward and Williamina Johnson. The family lived at 423 Cumberland Street in Gloucester City NJ at the time of the 1930 census. Joseph H. Johnson had a grammar school education and was working as an express truck driver at that time. He followed that trade until he entered the United States Army in Camden on October 24, 1942. He was unmarried at the time, but did marry prior to going overseas. Private Johnson was assigned with several other Camden men who were inducted at the same time to the newly formed 31st Signal Construction Battalion. After training in the United States, the unit shipped out for North Africa, with India and Burma being its intended destination. The battalion transferred to a British-owned troop carrier, HMT Rohna in North Africa, and was headed for the Suez Canal when attacked by German airplanes on November 26, 1943. The Rohna was struck by an air-to-ship guided missile, the first recorded attack of its kind, and sank, taking 1015 American servicemen to their deaths.
Due to the nature of the German "secret weapon" and the enormity of the loss, details of the sinking were kept secret for almost 50 years. A memorial service was held in Camden for Joseph Johnson and the 19 other South Jersey victims in July of 2002 at American Legion Post 274 in Camden, not far from Private Johnson's peacetime home of 1273 South Merrimac Road. He was survived by his wife, Julia, and brothers Herman, Everett, and Lester, and a sisiter, Mrs. Viola Black, of Gloucester City NJ.
15 DEAD, 2 MISSING
FROM SOUTH JERSEY
Fifteen South Jersey men were among the 1511 reported by the War Department today as killed in action on the six fighting fronts. Two others from this area are reported missing.
3 On Troopship Lost
Ballerino, Koscianski, and Carr are believed to have met their fates on the same transport. War Department telegrams to families of all three men reveal that each was a passenger on a troopship that was lost due to enemy action in the Mediterranean on Nov. 27, 1943. All have been awarded Purple Hearts.
Also listed as dead in today's official casualty list but previously reported in these columns are: Private Michael Yachus, 679 Ferry Avenue, Camden; Joseph H. Johnson, 1273 South Merrimac Road, Camden; Private Harry V. Taylor, 3 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield; Private Merl H. Reagle, Maple Avenue, Lindenwold; Private Jacob K. Jenkins, Marne Highway, Mt. Holly, formerly of Pennsauken; Private Harry E. Harker, 6 Beach Avenue Blackwood; PFC Jack S. Dubois, Church Street, Williamstown, and Charles R. Stewart Jr., 319 Linden Street, Camden.
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