Dale Johnson was born on July 25, 1916, in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on May 5, 1936, and served as a Fireman and Machinist's Mate aboard the heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA-28) from September 1936 to March 1940, followed by service as a Machinist's Mate aboard the transport ship USS Chaumont (AP-5) from June to August 1940. His next assignment was as a Machinist's Mate aboard the light cruiser USS Marblehead (CL-12) from August 1940 to December 1942. During this time he participated in the Battle of Makassar Strait on February 4, 1942, and would later be awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism during this action. CPO Johnson next served aboard the patrol craft escort USS PCE 868 from August 1943 to June 1944, followed by shore duty from June 1944 to October 1946. He served as Chief Motor Machinist's Mate aboard the engine repair ship USS Samar (ARG-11) from October 1946 to July 1947, and then as Chief Engineman aboard the water distilling ship USS Pasig (AW-3) from January to June 1948. After four years of shore duty, CPO Johnson served as Chief Engineman with Service Craft Unit ONE from May 1952 to July 1953, and then as Chief Engineman aboard the submarine tender USS Sperry (AS-12) from August to September 1953. He served as Chief Engineman aboard the minesweeper USS Pivot (AM-463) for a short period during July 1954, and then transferred to the minesweeper USS Inflict (AM-456), where he served from July 1954 to October 1955. CPO Johnson then served as Chief Engineman aboard the minesweeper USS Cormorant (MSC-122) from February 1956 to April 1957, and aboard the minesweeper USS Gallant (MSO-489) from April 1957 until his retirement from the Navy on July 25, 1958. Dale Johnson died on November 27, 2002, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Machinist's Mate First Class Dale Leighton Johnson, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty in action during the attack on the Light Cruiser U.S.S. MARBLEHEAD (CL-12), by Japanese enemy bombers on 4 February 1942. After assisting in the task of fighting fires, clearing wreckage and rescuing the wounded, Johnson proceeded aft to the wrecked steering engine room which was flooded shoulder deep with oil and water. There, in a space congested with machinery, the air foul with smoke and chlorine gas from shorted steering battery leads and surrounded by electrical fires, he worked tirelessly and unflinchingly freeing the jammed rudder and locking it amidships. His skill, tenacity and endurance together with an utter disregard for his own personal safety, contributed greatly to the saving of the ship for further war service and the saving of many lives. His conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy of the United States.