Private First Class George B. Turner, USA (January 3, 1945)

George Benton Turner was born on June 27, 1899 in Longview, Texas. He first answered America’s call to service in 1918, when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps while a student at the Wentworth Military Academy in Missouri. Turner joined too late to see service overseas during World War I. After being released from the Marines, he settled in California.

Less than one year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, then 43-year old Turner volunteered for the United States Army on October 23, 1942. His enlistment record marks him as a “selectee”, but given his age, that almost certainly wasn’t the case.

Turner was placed in Battery C, 499th Armored Field Artillery Battalion of the 14th Armored Division. They entered combat in southern France on October 29, 1944. The division became known as the “Liberators”, for having freed thousands of captured Allied soldiers and slave laborers from the horrors of Nazi prison camps.

Though he was a gunner, it was as a common foot soldier while separated from his unit equipped with M7 Priest howitzers that Turner earned the Medal of Honor for his heroism near Philippsbourg, France on January 3, 1945.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (T-Z):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

TURNER, GEORGE B.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Battery C, 499th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 14th Armored Division. Place and date. Philippsbourg, France, 3 January 1945. Entered service at: Los Angeles, Calif. G.O. No.: 79, 14 September 1945.

Citation: At Phillippsbourg, France, he was cut off from his artillery unit by an enemy armored infantry attack. Coming upon a friendly infantry company withdrawing under the vicious onslaught, he noticed 2 German tanks and approximately 75 supporting foot soldiers advancing down the main street of the village. Seizing a rocket launcher, he advanced under intense small-arms and cannon fire to meet the tanks and, standing in the middle of the road, fired at them, destroying 1 and disabling the second. From a nearby half-track he then dismounted a machinegun, placed it in the open street and fired into the enemy infantrymen, killing or wounding a great number and breaking up the attack. In the American counterattack which followed, 2 supporting tanks were disabled by an enemy antitank gun. Firing a light machinegun from the hip, Pfc. Turner held off the enemy so that the crews of the disabled vehicles could extricate themselves. He ran through a hail of fire to one of the tanks which had burst into flames and attempted to rescue a man who had been unable to escape; but an explosion of the tank’s ammunition frustrated his effort and wounded him painfully. Refusing to be evacuated, he remained with the infantry until the following day, driving off an enemy patrol with serious casualties, assisting in capturing a hostile strong point, and voluntarily and fearlessly driving a truck through heavy enemy fire to deliver wounded men to the rear aid station. The great courage displayed by Pfc. Turner and his magnificently heroic initiative contributed materially to the defense of the French town and inspired the troops about him.

Turner survived the war and passed away two days after his sixty-fifth birthday on June 29, 1964 in Encino, California. He rests in peace in Arlington National Cemetery. The 14th Armored Division has not been a unit of the Army since its colors were cased on September 16, 1945.

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