Overlord Hearts and Minds
Original Caption, June 6,1944: “French civilians give directions to American paratroopers who made successful landings, on Utah Beach, at St. Marcouf, France.”
I’m not sure which unit the above Camel-smoking junior officer is from, but the same photo is identified in other records as “Capt. Kenneth L. Johnson and paratroopers of HHC S-2 Intelligence Section, 508th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division ‘All Americans,’ talking with two Francs-tireurs partisans in the village of Saint Marcouf, Normandy, France. D-Day, 6 June 1944.” The Frenchman certainly looks to have a slung rifle or shotgun over his shoulder, something the Captain would surely be interested in.
The interaction was captured on film as well.
Saint-Marcouf saw scattered sticks of both the 101st Airborne’s 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) as well as the 508th PIR landed in the area.
They were one of the first to make contact with the Germans as, at 0220, Naval Commander Normandy (Konteradmiral Walther Hennecke) reported paratroopers near Batterie Marcouf.
The fight for the city and its nearby battery was an all-paratrooper affair until the afternoon of 7 June when the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment (4th Infantry Division) arrived inland from Utah Beach.
Brigadier General (later Major General) K. L. Johnson enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in 1940 and was called to active duty with the 135th Infantry, 34th Division in February 1941. After serving at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana; Fort Barrancas, Florida; and Fort Dix, New Jersey, he entered OCS and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Infantry on 3 July 1942.General Johnson joined the 363rd Infantry, 91st Infantry Division at Camp White, Oregon, in November of 1942, volunteered for parachute training and was reassigned to the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. Subsequently, the organization was moved to Camp McCall, North Carolina, for advanced training.In October of 1943, General Johnson proceeded to North Ireland as a member of the Advance Detachment of the 2nd Parachute Brigade. After a brief period of training, his regiment joined the 82nd Airborne Division and was moved to Nottingham, England, where it prepared for the invasion of France. General Johnson made combat parachute jumps in Normandy and Holland, and fought with the 82nd Airborne Division throughout the European Campaign, including the Battle of the Bulge.Following World War II, he returned to the U.S. briefly and was reassigned to Europe to join the U.S. Constabulary in July of 1946. After serving in the 68th Constabulary Squadron and the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment, he returned to the U.S. in 1949 to attend the Advanced Course at The Infantry School. Subsequently, he served as an instructor and group chief in the Airborne Department of The Infantry School.Following graduation from the Regular Course at the Command and General Staff College in 1953, he joined the 40th Infantry Division in Korea where he served as G-3. Later, he was assigned as Plans Officer, I Corps (Group) until he returned to the U.S. in November 1954 for assignment to the Officers Assignment Division, Department of the Army.After four years on the Department of the Army Staff, General Johnson was selected to attend the Army War College, graduating with the class of 1959. His next assignment was to the Staff of the Commander in Chief Pacific where he served as a Joint Plans Officer and Executive Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Foreign Affairs and Logistics. In 1961, he joined the 25th Infantry Division where he commanded the 2nd Battle Group, 21st Infantry and 1st Battle Group, 5th Infantry, successively until the fall of 1963.Returning to The Pentagon, he served briefly as Chief of Plans and Policy, Enlisted Personnel Directorate, Office of Personnel Operations and then for the next two years on the General Staff as Chief of the Special Review Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. He was selected for promotion to Brigadier General in November 1965 and assigned to the 2d Infantry Division. He joined the Division as Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver) in April 1966.General Johnson has been awarded the Senior Parachutist Badge with two combat-stars; the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star w/ V for Valor and Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal w/3 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.Retired Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Johnson died on August 21, 1990 at the age of 71 and is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA.