Thursday, June 6, marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare.
With commemorative events being held across the globe it is fitting that we too take time to honor and remember the bravery and sacrifice of so many. Among the thousands that didn’t return home that day was a young man with a local connection. A young man who had hopes, dreams and ambitions, and like many who are reading this, called Columbia County, Oregon his home.
Donald Floyd Turner, adopted son of Robert and Catherine Turner, was born in Kansas on December 18, 1921. The family moved to Puxico, Missouri where they operated a newspaper, and little Don was raised in the shop among the printing equipment. In the 1930’s they traveled west, and Don’s father became publisher of the Woodland News in Washington.
His parents divorced, and his father remained in Washington while his mother moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon. Don played football at Woodland High School and enjoyed boxing. Following graduation in 1939, he moved across the river to Rainier in the summer 1940 and obtained work as a Linotype operator for the Rainier Review. He also performed similar duties for a Milwaukie newspaper for a few weeks. Even though his stay in Columbia County was brief, he developed a close circle of friends and associates.
Following the outbreak of World War II, Don enlisted in the United States Army on January 21, 1942. He was trained at Camp Young, California and Camp Laguna, Arizona before receiving his officer’s commission at Fort Knox. He spent some time at Fort Lewis in Washington and visited Rainier for the last time to visit the McCall home in November 1943. He was assigned to the 743rd Tank Battalion and was sent overseas, arriving in Scotland later that month on November 25th. Letters received from him while in England mentioned that he hoped to return home and have a career in the newspaper field.
Following extensive training, Don’s was one of three companies selected for the amphibious dual drive tanks. They participated in the D-Day invasion, landing at Omaha beach on that fateful June day 75 years ago. It was then and there that Don’s life came to an end after twenty-two short years. His parents wouldn’t receive the news for over a month. He was buried in the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery in France and in the spring 1948, his body was returned to the United States aboard the USAT John L. McCarley and he was laid to rest in the Golden Gate National Cemetery in California.
Soon, very soon, all of those who participated with Don and survived that gruesome day will be gone as well. The very least that we can do is to tell their story and remember what it is they were fighting for.
Brandon Sundeen is a volunteer with the Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the Association’s Facebook page.