A Johnson & Johnson employee from the New York office who served in World War I
On Veteran’s Day, we remember the men and women who serve their countries, and express our appreciation and gratitude toward them. On this Veteran’s Day, Kilmer House would like to salute the many employees in the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies throughout our history who have served in the armed forces, starting over 100 years ago with the Spanish American War in 1898.
Two soldiers in the Spanish American War, 1898, from our archives. The man on the left was an employee in the Plaster Mill.
Some employee veterans of World War I, from our archives
Many of our employees served in World War I, and a number of them wrote letters to Fred Kilmer and their colleagues and sent pictures back from the front. This post has excerpts from some of the letters our employees sent from France back to New Brunswick.
Seward Johnson, one of the sons of Company founder Robert Wood Johnson the first, served on a submarine chaser in the U.S. Navy during World War I. Submarine chasers were small, heavily armed boats that were designed to pursue and neutralize the German U-boats, or submarines that caused such heavy losses to shipping during the war.
The most famous veteran with a connection to Johnson & Johnson was Scientific Director Fred Kilmer’s son, poet Joyce Kilmer — the author of “Trees” and “Rouge Bouquet,” among other works. Although Joyce wasn’t an employee of Johnson & Johnson, he wrote or contributed to some of the Company’s early publications. Joyce Kilmer was killed on July 30, 1918, during a scouting mission in the final days of World War I. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government. If anyone is interested in learning more about Joyce Kilmer, this excellent site by his granddaughter has more information.
Employees standing in front of absorbent cotton products, circa World War I, showing some of the enormous output the Company produced.
In 1918 Robert Wood Johnson (later known as General Johnson) became the General Superintendent of Manufacturing for Johnson & Johnson, and oversaw the production of the huge quantities of sterile dressings, gauze, and other medical products to treat soldiers fighting in Europe in World War I. To keep up with demand, Johnson & Johnson was running shifts around the clock to supply the Allied forces, as well as hospitals in the U.S. and in Europe. When demand exceeded even the Company’s around the clock efforts, a search began for a new source of textiles, which led in 1916 to the acquisition of the Chicopee Manufacturing Company of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. Very quickly, the entire spinning and weaving output of Chicopee was soon on its way to New Brunswick to be made into surgical dressings and other medical supplies.
The War Department awarded Johnson & Johnson a special commendation for its outstanding performance during World War I, and the head of the American Food Administration, Herbert Hoover praised the Company for its support of the food conservation campaign that was part of the war effort.
War Bonds Rally at Johnson & Johnson, 1940s
The Company broke its own production records during World War II, when it again was called on to produce surgical dressings and other medical supplies to help soldiers, and other products for the war effort. (The Company’s Industrial Tape Corporation even started producing a new special waterproof tape for the war effort. It was initially called “duck tape”…before its name evolved into the more familiar duct tape!)
General Robert Wood Johnson in uniform when he was head of the Smaller War Plants Corporation during WWII
Company president Robert Wood Johnson entered the army as a colonel with the Ordnance Department to use his business skills in the procurement of war materials. He was then appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to head the Smaller War Plants Corporation, and elevated to the rank of brigadier general. (Johnson served only for several months, but the title of “General” stuck with him for the rest of his life.)
Aside from the few employees pictured here from our archives, many employees of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies have been veterans…and many are today. As everyone celebrates Veterans Day today, Kilmer House salutes the men and women of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies who have served their countries throughout the Company’s history.