Kenneth C. Johnston was born on March 18, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up during The Great Depression, he worked a number of odd jobs, and spent time with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to support his mother. In 1942, Johnston enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, with the outbreak of World War II, where he volunteered for flight training. Commissioned as a Pilot in 1943, he was assigned to the Army Air Corps Navigation School at Monroe, Louisiana, where he flew training missions with Air Corps Students. In 1945, he resigned his commission, and returned to Brooklyn, where he spent a year studying at The Delahanty Institute on the G.I. Bill.

In 1946, he joined the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and was assigned as a Patrolman to the 13th Precinct, which covers part of mid-town Manhattan. In his career as a patrolman Johnston was cited by the department sixth times for action above and beyond the call of duty, which included such feats as catching a group about to commit a payroll robbery, tracking down the suspects responsible for twenty-two liquor store hold-ups, and assisting in transporting blood needed for an emergency operation. Johnston was also briefly injured in the line of duty when he was clipped by a hit and run driver on a New York street. He also passed the Sergeant and Lieutenant Promotion Exams.
In 1950, Johnston transferred to the New York Police Department Aviation Bureau, in order to get back to flying, as well as claim the monthly stipend offered to officers on Aviation Duty. He flew the department’s fixed wing aircraft for a year, before being checked out on the Bureau’s new Bell 47-G Helicopters. In 1953, Captain Gus Crawford, the Bureau’s leader left the job, and Johnston were made first acting, and then permanent director of the Bureau.

In 1957, the Bureau purchased new Bell-47J model helicopters, and Johnston went to Bell Helicopter to receive flight training and to the Alison Engine Company for mechanical and systems training. While with the Bureau, Johnston participated in several rescues at sea, including the 1958 rescue of a New York Air National Guard pilot who had ditched his aircraft in the waters of Jamaica Bay, New York, and a group of teenagers who had to be rescued from a jetty at Coney Island in 1961. Johnston also flew numerous VIPs around the New York City area such as Admiral Hyman Rickover of the United States Navy, New York State Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, and New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr.

In 1968, Johnston left the Bureau and the New York City Police Department, and joined Bell Helicopter as a consultant on the use of helicopters in law enforcement operations. In 1969, he left Bell and took the job of manager of the East 60th Street Heliport in Manhattan. The heliport was owned by Pan Am, which provided helicopter connections between local area airfields and the New York City areas’ three major airports (John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport). In 1974, Johnston went to work for Island Helicopters to develop an aerial sightseeing, tourism program in New York City. In 1979, Johnston retired to Port Lucie, Florida.

As of the date of this finding aid, Kenneth C. Johnston still lives in Florida. His wife Anne, who he married in 1940, passed away in 2008, and he has three children and six grandchildren.

Recent Submissions

  • Guide to the Kenneth C. Johnston Papers, 1918 - 

    Allen, Thomas (2012-04-19)
    Kenneth C. Johnston was born on March 18, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York. In 1942, Johnston enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, with the outbreak of World War II, where he volunteered for flight training. Commissioned ...