He was only 19 when he died fighting for his country.
He was killed in action Feb. 21, 1945, in heavy combat with his African-American division — the “Buffalo Soldiers” — against the desperate German army in northern Italy.
Pvt. Rudolph Johnson’s remains were recently disinterred, were forensically identified, and have been returned to his family and to his nation.
Pvt. Johnson, a graduate of Howard County Training School at Tollette, had been drafted near the end of WWII. The Army could give the family few details of his death. He was reported Missing in Action on Feb. 6, 1945, and 15 days later the Army changed his status to Killed in Action.
A funeral service will be held at Hicks Funeral Home Chapel in Hope at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 22. Then his remains will be transported to the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock for burial. The graveside service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday.
After graduating from the high school at Tollette, he worked for a time in the “Proving Grounds.” By the time he was drafted he had moved to Malvern and was living with relatives. According to an obituary furnished by Hicks funeral Home, Pvt. Johnson was due to be returned “home” Tuesday, March 20.
He was born Nov. 4, 1924, the son of Samuel Odie and Vera B. Bishop Johnson. He was eldest of six children.
At the time of his death he was survived by his parents; two brothers, Leroy and Jessie Johnson; three sisters, Mossie B., Odessa Marie and Betty Jean Johnson.
His survivors today include: brothers Leroy Johnson of Nashville, and Jessie Johnson of Omaha, Neb.; sisters Mossie Shephard of Nashville, Odessa Marie Jordan of Denver, Colo., and Betty Jean Coulter of Mineral Springs.
The newspaper was unable to determine Pvt. Johnson’s place of birth, but his name is listed on the Howard County courthouse monument to war dead from the county. Sixty Howard Countians died in WWII. County veterans service officer Milton Puryear was able to furnish additional information about Pvt. Johnson and his combat action in WWII.
There are almost 74,000 Americans still unaccounted-for from WWII.