On March 5, 1968, Charleston-native and United States Marine Private First Class Ralph Johnson was a member of a fifteen-man reconnaissance patrol manning an observation post deep behind enemy lines overlooking the Quan Duc Duc Valley. During one of many attacks by a significantly larger enemy force, a hand-grenade landed in the three-man fighting hole occupied by Private First Class Johnson and two fellow Marines. Realizing the inherent danger to his comrades, he quickly shouted a warning and unhesitatingly hurled himself upon the explosive device. When the grenade exploded, Private First Class Johnson absorbed the tremendous impact of the blast and was killed instantly. His prompt and heroic act not only saved the life of one Marine, but prevented the enemy from penetrating his sector of the patrol's perimeter and killing the remaining members of his patrol. For his heroic actions, Private First Class Johnson received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
In February 2012 The Secretary of the Navy designated the Navy’s 64th Arleigh Burke Destroyer DDG 114 to be named USS RALPH JOHNSON in honor of Ralph’s sacrifice and service. She was christened in April 2016 by her sponsor, Mrs. Georgeann McRaven and will commission in Charleston, SC on March 24, 2018.
Whether a member of the Charleston community, a United States Marine, South Carolinian, military veteran or citizen of the United States, Ralph was one of our own and as such we can all take great pride in his extraordinary example of courage under fire and selfless sacrifice. Naming of the Navy’s most advanced destroyer for him is most fitting. Although the Navy League works with the Navy to put on the time-honored commissioning ceremony, this is an event for all of us. We hope you will join us as we celebrate and honor Ralph Johnson’s legacy; an impressive legacy provided by one of our own!