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The first time we see Johnson, he's lifting a pump onto a truck when three other soldiers can't do it. That's one strong dude. He doesn't say much when he does this, and maybe that's why Peewee calls him "that country fool." (74)
But Johnson's more than just the strong, silent type. He doesn't say much, but he doesn't keep to himself either. As the soldiers spend time together, Johnson takes it on himself to protect the other black men in his platoon:
"He didn't seem that sharp, but he knew things. He knew when somebody was doing something that he didn't like. He knew when one of the black guys was being messed with. And when he knew something he put his butt on the line." (9.44)
Perry sees Johnson as someone who is strong enough to look out for Number One, but doesn't. He chooses to get involved in conflicts to protect people, and he doesn't ask anything from those people in return. In wartime, it's kind of your definition of too good to be true.
So by not asking for anything, what does he get out of it? Well, total loyalty. When the platoon goes on missions led by leaders they don't trust, in key moments, they turn to Johnson to lead them instead. During battle, Johnson tells them to retreat when Stewart orders them to stay and look for a sniper. (19.37-44) On patrol, when Brunner and Johnson argue about whether to head back to base, it's Johnson the men look to for their answer. (21.81-82)
That's a lot of power. And Johnson gets it exactly because he wasn't looking for it.
The soldiers follow Johnson because they know he's looking out for them, not following a personal agenda. He's a natural leader, and one of the best of the good folks who fought in the war. He's the kind of guy you definitely want to have on your team.