Texarkana, TX 74° View Live Radar Thu H 39° L 20° Fri H 45° L 26° Sat H 48° L 39° Weather Sponsored By:

Rudy's return

Rudy's return

Arkansan who went missing during WWII to be laid to rest today

March 22nd, 2018 by Karl Richter in Arkansas News
Army Pvt. Rudolph "Rudy" Johnson poses for a portrait in his uniform during World War II. Johnson was killed in action in February 1945 in Italy, but the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency positively identified his remains through DNA analysis only recently.

After more than 70 years, a soldier killed in action during World War II has returned home to Arkansas.

Army Pvt. Rudolph "Rudy" Johnson died in February 1945 in Italy, but a government agency positively identified his remains through DNA analysis only recently. The funeral for Johnson that his family at times thought would never happen takes place today in Hope, Ark., and he will be buried Friday in the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock, Ark.

"They're giving him honors that he is due. He gave his life for his country," said Johnson's sister Betty Jean Coulter of Malvern, Ark.

Johnson was born in 1924 and drafted into the Army in 1943 while living in Malvern. He served in the 92nd Infantry Division, the only African-American combat infantry division in Europe, according to a news release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Johnson's unit fought in northern Italy, at one point helping to secure positions along a ridge against strong German counterattacks. He was reported missing in action as of Feb. 6, 1945, and the War Department changed his status to killed in action on Feb. 21, 1945.

American Graves Registration Service personnel recovered Johnson's unidentified remains in May 1947 and designated them Unknown X-298. They were interred first in a United States military cemetery at Castelfiorentino, Italy, and two years later in the U.S. Marine Corps Florence American Cemetery.

"Researchers at DPAA conducted a thorough historical and scientific analysis, and determined that X-298 could likely be identified. After receiving approval, on June 13, 2016, X-298 was disinterred and sent to DPAA for analysis," the release states.

The agency used a technique called mitochondrial DNA analysis to match Johnson's remains to a DNA sample provided by his brother Jessie. Dental and anthropological analysis, as well as historical evidence, helped make the identification certain.

Coulter was only 7-and-a-half years old when Johnson died, but she remembers him as someone who left a positive impression.

"I just remember that he was a very loving brother and he was kind-hearted. The best way I can say it is, 'To know Rudy is to love Rudy.' He loved trying to please people. He was a very amazing young man," she said.

The response to Johnson's story has been gratifying, though it is bittersweet that some family members did not live long enough to welcome him home, Coulter said.

"We didn't know it was going to be this big. There are relatives coming in from Omaha, Neb.; Atlanta, Ga.; different parts of Texas and Malvern, Ark. Just all around, and we're just happy at the respect and honor that Rudy is getting," she said.

The funeral is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. today at Hicks Memorial Chapel in Hope.

Johnson's name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Italy, along with the other MIAs from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

On Twitter: @RealKarlRichter

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com