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Hansford Tillman Johnson
General Hansford T. Johnson
United States Secretary of the Navy

In office
February 7, 2003 – September 30, 2003
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Susan Livingstone
Succeeded by Gordon R. England
Personal details
Born January 3, 1936(1936-01-03) (age 84)
Aiken, South Carolina
Military service
Nickname(s) HT
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service 1959—1992
Rank General
Commands 22nd Bombardment Wing
U.S. Transportation Command
Air Mobility Command
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Gulf War
Iraq War
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal1st Class

Hansford Tillman (HT) Johnson (born January 3, 1936)[1] is a retired four-star general in the U.S. Air Force who served as the Acting United States Secretary of the Navy, overseeing the United States Navy and Marine Corps (Acting) in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. He is the only retired Air Force officer to ever hold that position. Prior to that he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installation and Environment). He currently works at the Institute for Defense Analyses.

Early life and air force career[edit | edit source]

Johnson was born in 1936, in Aiken, South Carolina. He graduated from high school in 1953 and then attended Clemson College. He was the outstanding graduate in thermodynamics and aerodynamics from the United States Air Force Academy in 1959, received a Master's Degree in aeronautics from Stanford University in 1967 and a Master's Degree in business from the University of Colorado in 1970. Johnson also graduated from the Air Force Squadron Officer School, Army Command and General Staff College, National War College, and the advanced management program at Dartmouth College. General Johnson was the first graduate of the United States Air Force Academy to achieve the rank of General.

After graduation from the Air Force Academy, Johnson married Linda Whittle of Augusta, Georgia, and attended flight training at Bartow Air Base, Florida, and then Laredo Air Force Base, Texas, receiving his pilot wings in 1960. His first operational assignment was to the 317th Troop Carrier Wing, Evreux-Fauville Air Base, France, where he flew C-130 Hercules transports throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and West Asia. He continued flying with the 317th when it transferred to Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio.

General Hansford Johnson, 1990.

After completing graduate school at Stanford University, Johnson volunteered for duty in Vietnam. In 1967 he flew with the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron as a forward air controller, and directed tactical close air support strike missions against enemy supply, storage, vehicle and troop targets. During his tour, he flew 423 combat missions, 71 of which were over North Vietnam or the demilitarized zone. After returning from Vietnam, he served as an assistant professor of aeronautics at the United States Air Force Academy, and then served as Commander of the 22d Bombardment Wing at March Air Force Base, California and on the staff of Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

From 1982 to 1985, he led the team that successfully rebalanced the Air Force programs in the $100 billion annual Air Force budget, then led Strategic Air Command operations in 1985, where he directed the refueling and strategic reconnaissance forces during the bombing of Libya. Following his tour in SAC, General Johnson became the Vice Commander of the Pacific Air Forces. In 1987, he became the Deputy Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida during Operation Earnest Will, the U.S. reflagging of Kuwaiti oil tankers and escort operations in the Persian Gulf. Following his tour at USCENTCOM, General Johnson served the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as Director of the Joint Staff.

Johnson ended his military career as the dual-hatted Commander of U.S. Transportation Command and Commander of Military Airlift Command. Military forces under his command provided all airlift and special operations forces for Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, the movement of troops, equipment, and supplies to and from the Persian Gulf being the most concentrated movement in American military history. Johnson retired from active duty on August 31, 1992.

Awards and decorations[edit | edit source]

Capt. H. T. Johnson back from a mission, La Vang airfield, Quảng Trị Province, Republic of Vietnam, August 1967.

Johnson is a USAF Command Pilot with more than 7,800 flying hours, more than 1,000 of which were flown under combat conditions. He is also a qualified navigator and parachutist. His military awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with 22 oak leaf clusters, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy-Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with "V" device and three oak leaf clusters, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Combat Readiness Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with service star, Vietnam Service Medal with three service stars, Humanitarian Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal First Class with service star and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Later work[edit | edit source]

After retiring from the Air Force, Johnson continued to serve active and former military personnel as the Vice Chairman of USAA and Chairman of the USAA Bank, Investment Management Company, Buying Service and Real Estate. While at USAA, Johnson was appointed by President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton to the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).

When Kelly Air Force Base was closed by the 1995 BRAC, Johnson was appointed by the City of San Antonio to serve as the Chair of the Local Reuse Authority, which very successfully transformed a “closed” base into a vibrant industrial center. Subsequently, Johnson served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in Madison, Wisconsin. He also served as President and CEO of EG&G Technical Services and later of EG&G when purchased by The Carlyle Group.

On August 3, 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Johnson to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Environment) and he was sworn in four days later. The President directed him to assume the duties as the Acting Secretary of the Navy on February 7, 2003, the only Air Force officer to ever hold that position.

After leaving the Department of the Navy, Johnson became a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defenses Analyses (IDA).

Family[edit | edit source]

HT Johnson was married to Linda until her death in January 2011. They are the parents of son, Richard, and daughter, Beth, and six grandchildren.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Who's Who in America - 2008, 62nd Edition (pub. 2007)

External links[edit | edit source]

Government offices
Preceded by
Robert B. Pirie, Jr.
Duncan Holaday (acting)
Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Environment)
August 7, 2001 – 2005
Succeeded by
B. J. Penn
Preceded by
United States Secretary of the Navy (acting)
February 7, 2003 - September 30, 2003
Succeeded by
Gordon R. England

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