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Air Force Pilot Killed When Small Aircraft Crashes in Howard County

August 3, 1987

OAKFORD, Ind. (AP) _ An Air Force officer who coordinated the evacuation of prisoners of war from Vietnam died when his private plane crashed in a thunderstorm.

Col. Leonard W. Johnson Jr., 55, who was stationed at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, was killed Saturday morning, authorities said.

Johnson was the only one aboard the single-engine Comanche Piper Cub, which nosedived and imbedded itself 5 feet into a farmer’s soybean field, Howard County Sheriff J.D. Beatty said.

Police blamed the crash on the storm.

Johnson was born in St. Augustine, Fla., in 1932. He graduated from high school at 14.

He joined the Air Force in 1958 and in June 1971 was promoted to full colonel, making him the second-youngest colonel in Air Force Medical Corps at age 39.

Johnson earned a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University in 1968 and that same year became the first black physician certified in aerospace medicine, which became his specialty, according to his resume.

He was the evacuation coordinator for Project Homecoming, which brought home prisoners of war from Vietnam in 1973.

He is survived by his wife, Evelyn, and two children.

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