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Army Pvt. Rosamond Johnson Jr. was only 15 years old when he enlisted in the army and only 17 years old when he saved two soldiers in battle during the Korean War on July 26, 1950. While attempting to save a third, Johnson was killed, marking him as the first black soldier and first resident of Escambia County to be killed in the Korean War. On August 21, 1950, Rosamond was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for the wounds he sustained while saving his fellow soldiers.
At the time of his death, most Pensacola Bay Area beaches were not open to blacks except for one in Perdido Key. In honor of his ultimate sacrifice, and in recognition as the first Escambia County resident to be killed in action during the Korean War, the recreational area became known as Rosamond Johnson Beach. The area became a part of Gulf Islands National Seashore in 1971, and the name was retained. Today, a monument and wayside honor Private Johnson and his service to the United States of America.
Annually, the Gulf Islands National Seashore commemorates his memory with a ceremony and wreath laying at Johnson Beach. The commemoration will take place May 5, 2018, at 10 a.m. The event is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend.
The keynote speaker at this year’s commemoration will be Dan Brown, Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent. He will be joined by Pam Johnson Gleen, Private Johnson’s niece. The NATTC Color Guard and Vocalist group will perform. Additionally, the ceremony will feature music as well as artwork from the Global Learning Academy of Pensacola. The ceremony will conclude with a wreath lying ceremony at the Johnson monument. This program is made possible by the support of the Perdido Key Area Chamber of Commerce, Johnson Beach Society, and Florida Black Chamber of Commerce.