Private Walter S. Turner (1916–1944)

Walter Turner and his wife (Courtesy of the Turner family, enhanced with MyHeritage)
ResidencesCivilian Occupation
Maryland, DelawareMechanic
BranchService Number
U.S. Army33903343
TheaterUnit
EuropeanCompany “F,” 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division
Military Occupational SpecialtyCampaigns/Battles
745 (rifleman)Battle of Normandy

Early Life & Family

Walter Short Turner was born on August 20, 1916, in Federalsburg, Caroline County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He was the son of Clarence Homer Turner (a masonry contractor, 1874 or 1875–1958) and Sallie M. Turner (née Short, 1885–1981). He was nicknamed “Shorty.” He had an older sister, two older brothers, and a younger brother. The Turner family was recorded on the 1920 census living in unincorporated Caroline County. The family was recorded on the next census, on April 18, 1930, living on Federalsburg-Hurlock State Road. Census records state that Turner was living in Federalsburg as of April 1, 1935. 

Census records indicate that Turner dropped out of school after completing 7th grade, but his enlistment data card described him as a high school graduate. 

Turner married Arintha Willey (1919–2010) in early October 1938 in Elkton, Maryland. A newspaper article stated that the couple planned to make their home in Easton. The couple had one son. Turner and his wife (though curiously, not their son) were recorded on the census in April 1940 living at 210 South Washington Street in Easton, Maryland. His occupation was listed as automobile painter. 

When he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, Turner was working for J. W. Hallowell in Easton. The registrar described him as standing about six feet, three inches tall and weighing 165 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes. An article in the Denton Journal reported that Turner moved to his wife’s hometown of Seaford, Delaware, around 1940, suggesting that Turner relocated to Delaware soon after registering. He also joined the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department on December 9, 1942.  

His entry in Young American Patriots: The Youth of Maryland and Delaware in World War II stated that he was Methodist. 

According to a statement by his wife to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, Turner was living at 403 Market Street in Seaford when he entered the service. Turner worked as a mechanic, operating a body shop in Seaford before he was drafted. His younger brother, Joseph Frank Turner (1920–1992), also served in the U.S. Army during World War II. 


Military Career

Turner joined the U.S. Army in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 14, 1944. It appears that he went on active duty on February 4, 1944. After completing basic training at the Infantry Replacement Training Center at Camp Croft, South Carolina, Private Turner was able to visit his family on furlough before reporting to the Army Ground Forces Replacement Depot at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. He went overseas to the European Theater in July 1944.  

Private Turner’s Military Occupational Specialty was 745 (rifleman). In the grueling combat of the European Theater, riflemen were the specialty in the highest demand. In his book, Beyond the Beachhead, Joseph Balkoski wrote: 

Replacements were the army’s homeless. After a hasty separation from the units with which they had trained or fought, the lonely replacements found themselves in an unfamiliar repple depple [replacement depot], where they lost all sense of belonging to a cohesive military unit. Even new friendships made within the replacement depots were generally fleeting since it was unlikely that two buddies would be assigned to the same squad, or even the same platoon. Many replacements thought of themselves as nameless pieces of army equipment, like crates of ammunition, sent to the front and promptly consumed. […] “Being a replacement is just like being an orphan,” a rifleman recalled. 

28th Infantry Division soldiers in Percy, France, on August 2, 1944, two days before Private Turner joined the division as a replacement (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo 111-SC-332083, National Archives)

On August 4, 1944, Private Turner and seven other enlisted men joined Company “F,” 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, transferring from the 41st Replacement Battalion. Seven of the eight were riflemen. The 2nd Battalion report for the month stated that “On the morning of 4 August the Bn, as Regimental reserve, following the 1st Bn, moved to Le Mesnil[-]Caussois.  Here enemy artillery fell on us and mine fields were encountered.” 

Turner’s company’s morning report recorded on August 5, 1944: “MADE STEADY ADVANCE – ALL PERSONNEL HOLDING UP GOOD[.]” The company history for the month stated that day, “We followed 2nd Armored [Division] advancing through [Saint-Manvieu-Bocage] and dug in on a very high hill.” 

The following day, August 6, 1944, 2nd Battalion continued its advance to the southeast. The Company “F” history stated: 

“F” Company on right […] “G” [sic] Company on left of “E” Company in reserve,we moved out to attack Hill 193. Two(2) prisoners captured informed us that there was enemy gun position about 1,000 yards forward of our initial objective. In our attempt to destroy these guns which was successful[, w]e had heavy casaulties [sic] and we were cut off and had to moved [sic] our way back to our lines while under heavy fire. 

The 2nd Battalion report for the month added: 

On 6 August the Bn attacked with G Company on the left, F Company on the right and E Company in reserve with La Julli[è]re as the objective.  G Company, meeting heavy resistance, was held up on Hill 193.  F Company lost contact with the Bn, being cut off by enemy infiltration, and did not rejoin the Bn until that night.  E Company meanwhile built up on a line with G Company. 

Private Turner was reported missing in action on August 6, 1944. In fact, he was one of at least five men from his company killed in action that day. According to the report of burial, Turner suffered fatal wounds to his thoracic cavity. Similarly, the hospital admission card filled out under his service number stated he was killed by injuries to his thorax due to an artillery shell explosion. (These cards were filled out even when a soldier died prior to reaching medical care, like Turner.)  

Company “F,” 112th Infantry history for the beginning of August 1944 (National Archives)
Morning report recording Private Turner as missing in action (National Personnel Records Center)
Soldiers of the 28th Infantry Division at Les Monts D’Eron on August 13, 1944, one week after Private Turner was killed in action (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo 111-SC-270945, National Archives)

Private Turner was initially buried at the military cemetery at Le Chêne Guérin on August 12, 1944. Despite that, it was only on September 6, 1944, that the War Department changed his status to killed in action.  

On October 7, 1944, Arintha wrote a letter to the War Department.  

I have waited a month now since I received your last letter concerning the death of my husband. I have tried to have patience and wait to hear more details but I have just got to know something or go insane: 

Where it happened? 

Was his body found? 

If so, where his body was put to rest? 

Since I have heard nothing from you I have begun to hope that maybe he is alive somewhere.  Oh God, I pray that he may be. 

I have a little boy aged five and he ask[s] so many questions that if I knew anything positive perhaps I could answer his questions better. 

I try not to be bitter by I can’t help it. My husband was only in the Army six months and two days when this tragedy happened. I guess I am only one person in a million with the feeling that if he had had more training perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. I know there is plenty of men over her [sic] with three years training. May God forgive me for having these thoughts but I feel better getting it off my chest. 

Please try to find out something for me. Maybe a few details will help. 

Do you think I can hope that he is safe some where? 

Sincerely, 

Mrs. Walter S. Turner 

There is no indication in Turner’s Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.) that his widow was provided with any of the answers she sought beyond the location of the temporary cemetery he was buried at. 

After the war, Turner’s family requested that his body be repatriated to the United States. In 1949, Turner returned to the United States aboard the Liberty ship Barney Kirschbaum

A military escort, Corporal Robert A. Arscott, accompanied the body from the New York Port of Embarkation on the overnight train journey to Federalsburg. Corporal Arscott met Turner’s father on April 6, 1949, and was invited to stay for the funeral at the Frampton Funeral Home there. After services on April 9, 1949, Private Turner was buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Seaford. 

Arintha Turner remarried on March 7, 1947, to Charles E. Morris. She was destined to be widowed three times. 

Private Turner is honored on the Seaford Veterans Memorial and at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware. 


Notes

Marriage Date 

Journal-Every Evening stated that Turner and his wife married on October 7, 1938, while his wife’s statement gave the date as October 4, 1938. 

La Jullière 

La Jullière appears on some maps as La Jeulière. 

Photo Enhancement 

The photo at the top of the page was digitally enhanced using tools on the genealogy website MyHeritage. This software is useful in instances where the only known photograph is of limited resolution (in this case, because the family was able to locate only a cell phone picture of the print and not the original photo). I believe this to be an accurate reconstruction, but the software could potentially introduce errors by misinterpreting fuzzy details in the original photograph. A comparison of the original and enhanced versions of the photo can be viewed below.  

Comparison of the original (left) and the product of MyHeritage’s enhancements (right); I further retouched the painting due to the reflections when the print was photographed.

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the Turner family for the use of their photo and to Chief John Wilson of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department for providing the date that Turner joined the S.V.F.D. 


Bibliography

“Arintha Willey Heller.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/60946945/arintha-heller  

Balkoski, Joseph. Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy. Revised ed. Stackpole Books, 2005. 

Barwick, Clarence J. “Company History for August 1944.” Company “F,” 112th Infantry, September 17, 1944. World War II Operations Reports, 1940–1948. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1905–1981. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. 

“C. H. Turner.” The Salisbury Times, September 15, 1958. Pg. 2. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109287879/c-homer-turner-obit/  

Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4606968_01060  

Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4301035_00812  

Morning Reports for Company “F,” 112th Infantry Regiment. August 1944. U.S. Army Morning Reports, c. 1912–1946. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri. 

Nesbitt, James T. “Unit History for August 1944.” Headquarters 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry, May 15, 1945. World War II Operations Reports, 1940–1948. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1905–1981. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. 

“Pvt. Turner Killed In Action In France.” Denton Journal, September 22, 1944. Pg. 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109064803/walter-turner-kia/  

“Pvt. Walter S. Turner Military Rites Saturday.” Journal-Every Evening, April 8, 1949. Pg. 18. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109073085/walter-turner-funeral/  

“Pvt Walter Short Turner.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54166338/walter-short-turner  

Turner, Arintha W. Walter Short Turner Individual Military Service Record, c. 1946. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/21189/rec/1   

Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/M-T0627-01560-00713, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/M-T0627-01560-00714  

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942–1954. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/705237053/turner-walter-s-us-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954   

“Willey-Turner.” Journal-Every Evening, October 14, 1938. Pg. 24. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109077797/marriage-of-willey-turner/  

Wilson, John. Email correspondence, November 9, 2022. 

World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6482/images/005152007_05150  

World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=33903343&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=4352727  

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Maryland, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44015_05_00060-00025  

Young American Patriots: The Youth of Maryland and Delaware in World War II.  National Publishers, Inc., 1950. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8941/images/md_de1-0337  


Last updated on November 12, 2022

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