Bessie Coleman. Amelia Earhart. Charles Lindbergh. All three are heroes whose names can be found throughout aviation, from the record books to the names of airports.
Although his name may not ring a bell, Lt. Seymour Johnson was no less a hero.
A test pilot for the U.S. Navy, Johnson was a North Carolina native and Naval Academy grad who earned his pilot wings in 1929 after flight training in Pensacola, Florida.
Johnson spent the next few years serving as a pilot aboard battleships and aircraft carriers until he volunteered for dangerous duty as a test pilot in 1937.
Stationed at Anacostia Naval Air Station in Washington, D.C., Johnson was flying a Grumman F4F-3 fighter plane at 43,000 feet on March 5, 1941, when he reported getting low on oxygen.
The aircraft crashed near Norbeck, Maryland. Johnson had sacrificed his life for his country. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The year before, the U.S. War Department had designated the airport near Johnson’s hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina, as essential to national defense and began building an Army Air Corps technical training school there.
On Oct. 30, 1942, the facility was officially named Seymour Johnson Field. The end of World War II led to its closure, but the field was revived in 1956 as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base—the only USAF base in the world named for a Navy pilot.
Among the units currently assigned there is the 4th Fighter Wing, perhaps the most accomplished fighter group in U.S. history. The 4th operates 95 F-15E Strike Eagles, including one recently photographed by Ethan Minnich—the “SJ” tail code on the vertical stabilizer identifies its home.
About 750 miles down the Atlantic Coast from Goldsboro, Ryan Phillis got a shot of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from the window seat of his Southwest flight, a view we’re sure Lt. Johnson would have appreciated.
Thanks, Ethan and Ryan!
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A view of Fort Lauderdale from above onboard a Southwest 737. (Photo submitted by Ryan Phillis)