Raymond “Page” Johnson
SP4 – U.S. Army
4th Inf Division, 2nd Bde LRRP – Company K (Ranger), 75th Infantry
13 October 1948 – 09 August 1969
Morgan City, Louisiana
Panel 20W – Line 118
Service: Army (Regular)
Grade at loss: E4
Rank: Specialist Four
ID Number: 436748892
MOS: 11B20: Infantryman
Len Svc: 1 year
Unit: 4 INF DIV, 2nd BDE LRRP, K/75 REGIMENT
Start Tour: 01/21/1969
Cas Date: 08/09/1969
Age at Loss: 20
Remains: Body recovered
Location: Kontum Province, South Vietnam
Type: Non-hostile, died of other causes, ground casualty
Reason: Other causes (undefined)
Patterson Protestant Cemetery, Patterson, Louisiana
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Link to Remembrances:
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2/3/15 – by Terry A. Mayon Sr.
Johnson, Raymond Page, a resident of Patterson, Louisiana, was born on 13 Oct 1948 in Houston, Harris County, Texas to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Johnson. His enlistment papers indicate he was from Morgan City, Louisiana and at the time of his death, his parents were living in Bayou Vista, Louisiana. US Army Specialist 4th Class Raymond Page Johnson, Service Number 436-74-8892, died at Kontum Province, South Vietnam on August 9, 1969. Page Johnson, while on a long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP), was killed and dragged from the encampment area during the night. His body was discovered the next day and all indications were he was killed by a tiger. Specialist R. Page Johnson’s death is listed in military records as a Non-hostile ground casualty, cause of death undetermined . SPEC 4 Raymond Page Johnson is buried at Patterson Protestant Cemetery, Patterson, Louisiana, and his tombstone is inscribed US ARMY 2nd BRIGADE . SPEC4 Johnson was awarded a Bronze Star Medal.
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August 9-10, 1969
INTO THIN AIR
It was evening and I had gone up the hill to the BTOC to research my next mission. As I read over the intelligence reports and maps of my next mission, I could hear the radio operator Sgt. Gary Crowder talking to the LRRP teams as they checked in. “This is Bravo Tango, did Johnson say where he was going?”
My ears perked up as I recognized Sgt. Kurtz’s voice on the radio. Johnson was still new in country. I had only met him once but he didn’t seem like someone that would step out of sight without letting the rest of the team know. Even if it wasn’t a rule, it shouldn’t be difficult to recognize the danger of stepping away in the middle of the night. Accidentally waking a soldier with a loaded rifle who believes his only friends are next to him, could be deadly.
“Negative Bravo Tango, I logged your last comm check ten minutes ago.” Replied the radio operator.
It was not all that late, but since a LRRP team didn’t use lights at night we normally would go into our night cycle of sleep 3 hours and set up 1 hour from the time it was dark until the sun rose the next morning. Sgt. Kurtz’s team was already in this cycle. We were required to check in every hour during the night, so everything must have been OK ten minutes ago.
“It’s Johnson’s watch. I woke up and he’s just gone.” Came Sgt. Kurtz’s voice over the radio.
At night we would lay our backpacks side by side on the ground. We would lay out a poncho on the ground and then all four of us would lay side by side, shoulder to shoulder on the ground. The person on watch would set up in his sleeping position. A mere touch on the shoulder would silently wake each team member into action. It was hard to imagine how Johnson could have gotten to his feet without waking another team member.
“How’s your visibility?” asked the operator.
“We’re in elephant grass.” Replied Sgt. Kurtz.
Elephant grass was one of our favorite night locations as a LRRP. The grass would be from four to six feet high. We could walk into it and trample down an area of grass large enough for us to sleep. The trampled grass made a nice mattress. It was easy to understand how Johnson could have gotten disoriented if he stepped into the wall of grass, but how could he have moved into the grass without waking the others.
Under normal circumstances you could flip on a flashlight and call out for Johnson, but advertising your position with lights and sounds could be deadly in this situation. The only reasonable solution was to wait it out and hope Johnson knew what he was doing and would return on his own.
“Did you hear anything?” asked the operator.
“No we didn’t hear anything. One of the guys said he thought he heard someone say â€˜tiger tiger’, but he’s not sure if he dreamed it or really heard it.” Replied Sgt. Kurtz.
Tiger! I had seen what I thought was tiger tracks by a stream on one of my missions. On one of my first nights in the field, one of my men shared his tiger story. He was on patrol and woke up looking into the face of a tiger. He slugged the tiger in the face and the tiger left. Later that night, with everyone watching for the tiger, he returned and grabbed and killed a man without anyone knowing when it happened. I was convinced that a soldier had been killed by a tiger. But, I was also convinced the stealthness of the tiger had been exaggerated to make sure a new sergeant in country didn’t run short of things to worry about.
I conceded in my mind the team could have been helpless in stopping a tiger from taking Johnson. But, I could not reconcile in my mind how a tiger could snatch one of four men in elephant grass and nobody see or hear anything.
I listened to the radio exchange for another hour. Some parachute flares were fired into the area in hopes of giving Johnson enough light to find his way back to the team. It was getting late, and if I didn’t get some sleep I would be putting my own mission in jeopardy. When I left they were discussing the risk of sending out helicopters with search lights on them.
As I walked back down to my bunk, I recalled seeing a new TV show called Star Trek before I went into the Army. In the show, the space ship could just fly over and dematerialize someone on the ground and reassemble them in the space ship. As weird as it sounded, this theory fit the facts better then Johnson walking away or being taken by a tiger.
The next morning I woke up to Sgt. Kurtz dropping his pack by his bunk. I could see in his face he had not slept since I had heard his radio voice the previous night. I quickly sat up and asked him if he had found Johnson.
“Yea, we found him this morning not far from our night location. He was killed by a tiger.” Answered Sgt. Kurtz. He went on to explain the condition of the body and why they were sure it was a tiger. I could only shake my head in disbelief.
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10/10/06 – by Richard
Additional information regarding the field conditions experienced by Raymond Johnson, Lawrence Budzinski, Randall Ruggs, and other members of their team can be read in the nonfiction book “Time Heals No Wounds” by Jack Leninger, published in 1993 by Ivy Books/Ballantine Books. We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Sp4 Johnson and the other members of our military who gave so much.
Page was my cousin.
3/29/03 – by Larry Watkins
Page was a year and 1/2 older than me. He picked on me when we were kids. It was all good natured. He was a sweet and loving person. His mom and dad miss him very much. We all do. I named my youngest son after Page. I also got paybacks for him in 1970, in the Republic of Vietnam.
Dwain Pangle – Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Page was a school friend from 1st grade on. His dad and mine worked together for years in the Louisiana oilfields. His dad fought for years to get Page recognized as a caualty.Page was killed by a tiger while on a cross border mission into Cambodia years before we admitted to going there. I remember his dad coming to our house and crying and suffering because the army would not admit what happened to him. The army even denied him any medals because they wouldn’t admit where he was when he was killed. Live on Page. We won’t forget!