1st. Lieutenant Donald Floyd Turner

1st. Lieutenant Donald Floyd Turner

World War II · US Army · First Lieutenant

1st. Lt. Donald F. Turner

    Donald Floyd Turner was born on Dec. 21, 1921, in Kansas City, Missouri to Robert B Turner ( 19 Jun 1904 - 20 Feb 1995) and Catharine D Turner (15 Apr 1901 - 29 Apr 1976).

    Donald’s Father owned and operated a small weekly newspaper in Puxico, Missouri. In the early 1930s Donald’s family sold the newspaper and moved to Woodland, Washington where his parents decided to obtain a divorce. Shortly afterward Donald’s Father purchased and operated the Lewis River News. Donald went to live with his Father, attended schools in Woodland, and helped his Father publish the family’s small newspaper, Donald graduated from high school In 1939, his Father sold The Lewis River News, married Amy, and had son, Dayton Turner (1941 -). Dayton never had the change to know his older half-brother. Donald’s Father and Step-Mother moved to Battle Ground, Washington where they started a newspaper, The Battle Ground Times, with Amy as publisher since Robert had signed a non-compete clause in the sale of the Woodland paper.

    Donald lived with them in the living quarters behind the newspaper office and helped with the paper. Making money in a small-town weekly newspaper in those days was difficult In early 1941, Donald went to work at another newspaper in Rainier, Washington.

    7 December 1941 saw the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Congress’ Declaration of War, President Franklin’s, “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy.” speech, and the entry of the United States into World War II.

    Donald received an appointment to Officer Candidate School and enlisted in the Army on 21 Jan 1942, in Portland, Oregon with the rank of Private: Serial Number: 19076647. After graduation from OCS Private Turner would be commissioned 2nd. Lt, Turner, (Officer) Serial Number: O-1013287 and was assigned to the 743rd Tank Battalion at Fort Lewis, WA for basic training.

    Basic training lasted 13 weeks and then the troops were scattered and sent for schooling with most classes being held at Ft. Lewis, however, troops were also ordered to Ft. Knox, KY, the Armored Training Center, Ft. Benning, GA, and eleven (11) Officers and 151 enlisted men were sent to various Armored Force Schools. For the next little while the action slowed for the newly formed 743rd.

    In January of 1943 the 743rd was moved from rainy Ft. Lewis to Camp Young, CA part of the army’s desert training center. The troops were housed in tents which, in the beginning, most troops thought would be okay. They quickly found out that the old wooden barracks at Ft. Lewis were far more hospitable than tents in the desert. They were either extremely hot during the day, freezing cold at night, or completely blown away. By mid-March the desert had hardened the troops so it wasn’t much trouble when they received word that they were moving again - equipment and all. On 15 March 1943 the 743rd began their cross desert march to Camp Laguna, AZ. Dealing with hot temps, gas shortages, mechanical problems, soft sand, and anything else the barren desert could throw at them the 743rd arrived at their destination on 17 March 1943 where they found more barren desert. Camp Laguna became a “town” unto itself. The battalion purchased their own movie projector, created their own post exchange and stocked it with beer - plenty of beer.

    In early November of 1943 the 743rd learned it had not been forgotten and left to dry up in the desert sun and was ordered to Camp Shanks, NY to prepare for departure to the European Theater of Operation for special training before Operation Overlord. The troops reached the staging area on 8 Nov 1943, disembarked on 24 Nov 1943, arrived in Mourack, Scotland on 24 Nov 1943, and boarded a train for Camp Chiseldon, Wiltshire, in England.

    On 16 Jan 1944, Charlie and Baker Companies with sections from Headquarters and Service Companies, left Chisel don for Great Yarmouth to participate in special training with the floatable "DD" (dual drive) tanks. These Floatable tanks were modified to include flotation devices and a propeller system which would allow the LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) to drop their front loading gates thus preventing them from having to completely “beach” the LCT before the tanks could depart. The idea was that the “DD” tanks would “swim” from the LCT to the beach. Around that time 2nd. Lt. Turner received a promotion to the rank of 1st. Lieutenant and was assigned to command a tank crew of Baker Company of the 743rd Tank Battalion.

    5 June 1944 was selected as D-Day - the secret designation for the beginning of Operation Overlord. The early morning of 5 June 1944 was dark, blustery, raining, and with heavy seas. Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower made the decision to postpone Operation Overlord by a day. The staging troops withdrew to wait another day. The following day 6 June 1944 found the weather a bit calmer, the rain less harsh, and the seas a bit less heavy - General Eisenhower gave the “Go Ahead” for Operation Overlord. The battle was on.

    Aboard the LCTs 1st. Lt. Turner, commanding a Baker Company tank crew that would land on Omaha Beach, and the troops of the 743rd and the 741st Tank Battalions witnessed ships strung out for miles. Fast, knife-prowed destroyers sped at full steam up and down the lanes of ships. Cruisers pushed along as heavy-weight protection for the giant convoy. In the stream of ships bearing toward. France were Landing Crafts Infantry, Landing Crafts Vehicle, Landing Crafts Tank, Landing Ships Tank, transports and all the rest that go to make up a modern overwater assault wave, including battleships and fighter planes. As instructed, the Skippers of the LCT dropped their loading ramps well out from Omaha Beach, the “DD” tanks of the 741st roared down the ramps and into the water, and headed for the shore line. Along with heavy fire from German forces on the beaches, the 741st had to deal with heavy seas the “DD” tanks couldn’t maneuver in. Several of the “DD” tanks were swamped and sunk losing most of the assault tanks of the 741st Battalion. Seeing this Captain Ned Elder, Commanding Charlie Company of the 743rd along with other officers ordered the LCT Skippers to disregard the orders to “drop” the “DD” tanks at sea and, instead, take them all the way to the shore line. Most of the assault tanks of the 743rd made it to shore. Operation Overlord continued with heavy fire and heavy casualties on both sides for 16+ hours.

    At some point, during the early fighting, 2nd. Lt. Turner suffered mortal wounds and lost his life on the sands of Omaha Beach. 1st. Lt. Donald Floyd Turner was initially buried in St. Laurent Cemetery, Baveux, France. In early 1948 application was made by Lt. Turner’s next of kin to re-patriot his remains to the United States for burial at home. On 18 May 1948 Lt. Turner’s remains were buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California, Section D Site 21 with full military honors.

    2nd Lt. Turner was awarded the following citations:

    Purple Heart

    World War II Victory Medal

    American Campaign Medal

    Army Presidential Unit Citation

    Army Good Conduct Medal

    European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign

    I wish to acknowledge the efforts and assistance of Lt. Turner’s Step-Brother, Dayton Turner who is retired and lives in Portland, OR for his contributions which made this story possible.

    References:

    Ancertry.com

    Newspapers.com

    “Move Out Verity” The Combat Story of the 743rd Tank Battalion

    https://www.oregonlive.com/history/2019/06/the-brother-i-never-knew-lost-to-my-family-on-d-day.html

    U.S. Censes records

    HonorStates.org

    For further information on the 743rd Tank Battalion, Please see: https://digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1069&context=ww_reg_his

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