George Owen Johnson

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George Owen Johnson
Nickname(s) G.O.
Born (1896-01-24)January 24, 1896
Woodstock, Ontario, Canada
Died March 28, 1980(1980-03-28) (aged 84)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Allegiance  Canada
Service/branch Canada Royal Canadian Air Force
Years of service 1913–1947
Rank Air Marshal
Unit No. 84 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath
Military Cross
Croix de Guerre
Légion d'honneur
Legion of Merit
King Haakon VII's Cross of Liberation (Norway)

Air Marshal George Owen Johnson CB, MC (January 24, 1896 – March 28, 1980) was a Canadian aviator, World War I Flying Ace and a senior commander in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.

Military career[edit]

World War I service[edit]

Born in Woodstock, Ontario in 1896, George Owen Johnson initially served as a subaltern with the Corps of School Cadet Instructors (CSCI) from 1913 to 1916. He was accepted for the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in Canada, but transferred to the Royal Flying Corps before going overseas in May 1917. Serving with No. 84 Squadron he became an ace with one aircraft destroyed, two shared aircraft destroyed, and three 'out of control'. Later, serving with No.24 squadron, he was credited with one aircraft destroyed, one shared balloon destroyed, two 'out of control', and one shared aircraft captured[1] including Leut. Kurt Wüsthoff.[2] In total he was credited with 11 victories.

He served as a fighter pilot in Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 aircraft[3] on the Western Front—in No. 84 Squadron RAF, 22 October 1917 to 18 April 1918; in No. 24 Squadron RAF, 18 April to 19 June 1918. He was awarded the Military Cross (MC) and Croix de Guerre avec Etoile en Bronze. After some months instructing in England in training squadrons (served at Training Depot Station (TDS) No.56, Cranwell, No.4 TDS, Hooton (Flight Commander and Instructor) and No.51 TDS, Shotworth), he was posted to No. 1 (Canadian) Squadron upon its formation overseas in November 1918.

His MC citation read in part:

"He has destroyed two hostile machines, has driven down two others out of control, and has always displayed the greatest courage and coolness in the most difficult situations."

Interwar years[edit]

In July 1919 he returned to Canada and was commissioned as a flight lieutenant in the Canadian Air Force (CAF) in 1920 (His service number was 4—just four[4]), and appointed an Assistant Director of Flying Operations under Wing Commander Robert Leckie in the Air Board. He participated in the first trans-Canada flight (which started from Halifax, October 7, 1920) as a navigator. He commanded flying stations, commanded Station Winnipeg (May 1925 to August 1927), attended RAF Staff College, Andover, commanded CFB Trenton for two years; attended Imperial Defence College (1936–37) (now known as Royal College of Defence Studies), and became Assistant Director of Civil Government Air Operations. From June to December 1933 he was Acting Senior Air Officer, RCAF. In March 1938 appointed first Commanding Officer of Western Air Command, based in Vancouver at Jericho Beach Seaplane base. Throughout this period he was involved in the expansion of civil and military aviation, the use of aircraft in the exploration and mapping of Canada, and the creation of national and international air mail service.[5]

World War II service[edit]

He was made Air Member for Organization and Training (October 1939) and began work on creating and executing the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, then served as Deputy Chief of Air Staff (November 1940), AOC No.1 Training Command of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (July 1942),[6] AOC Eastern Air Command (January 1943), and AOC RCAF Overseas (April 1945 to July 1946). He was awarded the Commander of the Bath (Military), the Legion of Merit (Commander) and the Légion d'honneur (Commandeur) as a result of his World War II service. He retired as Air Marshal in 1947. He died in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, March 28, 1980.

His CB citation read in part:

"Air Vice Marshal Johnson, as Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, was responsible for the excellent planning and construction of the vast number of stations required for the successful operation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan as well as the increased Home War plans."


There was a school named in his honour at the Royal Canadian Air Force base and training school in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. The Air Marshal Johnson School opened its doors in 1949 and served as an elementary school for the children of Canadian Forces personnel from Kindergarten through Grade IX until the base was closed in 1989.[7]

According to Air Marshal Robert Leckie:

"During Air Marshal Johnson's many senior appointments in the Royal Canadian Air Force, including his responsibilities in such positions as Deputy Chief of Air Staff, and Air Officer Commanding in Chief of Eastern Air Command and the Royal Canadian Air Force Overseas, he at all times was considered a brilliant leader and an inspiration to those with whom he came in contact."[8]


  • Another Kind of Justice: Canadian Military Law from Confederation to Somalia Published in 1999 by UBC Press. Author Chris Madsen ISBN 0-7748-0719-9 (page 91).

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
J L Gordon
Senior Air Officer (RCAF)

Succeeded by
G M Croil
Preceded by
L S Breadner
Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief RCAF Overseas
1945 – 1946
Post abolished