LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – The remains of an Arkansas soldier killed in action in 1945 are returned to his home state.
Private Rudolph Johnson was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 365th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division. The 92nd Infantry Division, the only African American combat infantry division in Europe, fought from November 1944 until April 1945 at the Gothic Line in northern Italy.
With the exception of one, each of these regiments was composed of African American enlisted personnel. The historical significance along with being an American Son of Arkansas is that Private Rudy Johnson was one of the Buffalo Soldiers of WWII as an African American.
The heaviest fighting took place in early February 1945, during Operation Fourth Term, when the 365th Infantry Regiment fought for days to secure positions along the Lama di Sotto ridge against strong German counterattacks.
While in Italy, Private Johnson's unit initially reported him Missing in Action (MIA) on February 6, 1945. With no additional information regarding his whereabouts, the U.S. Army changed his status for MIA to Killed in Action (KIA) on February 21, 1945.
After many years of separation, Private Johnson will make his long-awaited return home on March 20, 2018. A funeral service will be held 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 22 at Hicks Memorial Chapel for funerals. Interment will be at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 23 at the Arkansas State Veteran’s Cemetery in North Little Rock. Arrangements entrusted to Hicks Funeral Home, Inc.
Rudolph Johnson was born to Samuel Odie and Verna B. Bishop Johnson November 4, 1924. He was the firstborn of his six siblings; one sister, Christine, died as a baby. Rudy, as he was lovingly called, attended Howard County Training School in Tollette, Arkansas. Rudy worked at WPA (proving ground) in Hope, Arkansas. He later moved to Malvern with relatives seeking employment. It was in Malvern he received his notice to the Army during World War II. Rudy was drafted into the Army April 16, 1943. Private Rudolph Johnson gave his life for his country at the age of 19. At his death, he left to cherish his memory, his father, Samuel Odie Johnson; his mother, Verna B. Johnson; two brothers, Leroy and Jessie Johnson; three sisters, Mossie B., Odessa Marie and Betty Jean Johnson. Left to honor his long-awaited return to the U.S.A are two brothers, Leroy Johnson (the late Geneve) of Nashville, Arkansas and Jessie Johnson (the late Learlean) of Omaha, Nebraska; three sisters, Mossie Shepard (the late Lawrence) of Nashville, Arkansas, Odessa Marie Jordan (the late Lee Augustus) of Denver, CO and Betty Jean Coulter (Cleophus) of Mineral Springs, Arkansas.