Battlefield heroes: Smiley Johnson

Cold, Hard Football Facts for May 23, 2007



 
Few remember Howard W. "Smiley" Johnson's exploits on the football field. But his name holds a special place of honor at two of the nation's most storied football programs.
 
Johnson was a star fullback and guard at the University of Georgia from 1937 to 1939. He then spent two seasons as a guard for the Green Bay Packers before joining the Marine Corps soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
 
Johnson set no records on the football field, but his name appears on the War Memorial at the University of Georgia campus and in the Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field. He's the only player in the history of the Packers who has been killed in combat. His Green Bay memorial was not created until last year, at the urging of former Packers general manager Ron Wolf.
 
Johnson is one of three former NFLers killed in the battle for Iwo Jima in February-March 1945. He was posthumously awarded a Gold Star for his actions on Iwo Jima. In fact, his concern for the welfare of his own men may have contributed to his death. After getting hit by a shell, Johnson directed a corpsman to help others who had also been hit. He died of his wounds while those others were being aided.
 
According to a report on PackersNews.com, the 28-year-old Johnson left behind a wife and a 1-year-old daughter.
 
His wife Marie's struggles to raise a child without a father were chronicled in the book "Roads and Crossroads."
 
A year earlier, Johnson earned a Silver Star for "conspicuous gallantry" during the battle for Saipan.
 
Johnson's memory is honored each year during college bowl season. The outstanding lineman in the Peach Bowl is presented with the Smiley Johnson Award.
 
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Also read about:
 
Hero of Iwo Jima: Jack Lummus – N.Y. Giants end and winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor; killed on Iwo.

Hero of Iwo Jima: Jack Chevigny – Cardinals coach and Notre Dame legend who scored winning TD in "Win one for the Gipper" game; killed in Iwo.

Badass American mo-fos – A CHFF look at the toughest, ballsiest men in American military history.
 
The NFL's war dead – 26 members of the NFL have been killed in combat from World War II to Afghanistan.
 
Pro football's battlefield heroes – Football is intricately intertwined into American culture, a unique sport played by a historically unique country.

Pro Football Hall of Fame list of WWII veterans – 995 members of the NFL served in the military in World War II, including legends such as George Halas, Wellington Mara and Marv Levy.

Pro Football Hall of Fame list of Korean War veterans  – 200 members of the NFL served in the military in the Korean War, including Hall of Famers such as Ollie Matson and Night Train Lane.

Pro Football Hall of Fame list of Vietnam War veterans  – 28 members of the NFL served in the military during the Vietnam War, including Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner, Ray Nitschke and Roger Staubach.

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