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Turner Brashears Turnbull

505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division

First Lieutenant, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

Colorado

Died:

6/7/1944

Grave Location:

Plot E, Row 21, Grave 21

1stLt. Turner Brashears Turnbull III was a half-Choctaw member of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82ndAirborne Division. Turnbull was born in Durant, Okla. on October 30, 1921, to a full-blood Choctaw father and a Scottish mother. His great-grandparents, Turner B. Turnbull, Sr. and Angelico “Jerico” Perkins, walked the infamous Choctaw Trail of Tears. 

Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division, en route to Sicily on July 8, 1943.

Turnbull joined the 180thInfantry of the Oklahoma 45th Division National Guard.  Following training, Turnbull became a paratrooper with the 82ndAirborne Division, serving in the North African, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns. In Sicily he sustained a life-threatening abdominal gunshot wound and was hospitalized in England for four months. Though severely wounded in action, Turnbull still chose to rejoin his unit for the D-Day invasion.

Paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment take positions around Sainte-Mère- glise during the morning of June 6, 1944.

Under the cover of darkness, Turnbull’s 2ndBattalion, 505thParachute Infantry Regiment, 82ndAirborne Division parachuted into France near Sainte-Mère-Église on the morning of June 6, 1944. Because a major German assault was expected from the north, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to proceed to the hamlet of Neuville-au-Plain, capture it, and set up a defensive line to protect the stronghold of Sainte-Mère-Église. Turnbull set out with a small platoon of 42 men. They made their way through Sainte-Mère-Église and up to the high ground north of the town. 

On D-Day +1, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment patrol through Sainte-Mère- glise.

Turnbull had barely made it into position when the German 1058thGrenadier Regiment unleashed an attack, outnumbering the Americans about five to one.  Turnbull’s unit was at a great disadvantage, armed with only a single machine gun, a bazooka team, a few Browning automatic rifles and rifles. It was hardly a match for the strength of the German 1058thGrenadier Regiment. Turnbull deployed what little equipment and few men he had on both sides of the road to block the German attack. 

According to some accounts, no sooner had Turnbull positioned his men than the Germans hit. Turnbull was now confronted with the large enemy column approaching 400 yards away. For eight hours, Turnbull’s small unit fought courageously and held its ground. Only 16 of the 42 men who had gone to Neuville-au-Plain survived, but the fight kept the enemy in the north from breaking through while the defenders of Sainte-Mère-Église fought off a simultaneous attack from the south. Turnbull received the Silver Star for this action. 

On the first day of the invasion of fortress Europe, the 505thParachute Infantry Regiment held the line at Sainte-Mère-Église thanks to the 22-year-old officer. On the morning of June 7, Turnbull was on his way to speak to his first sergeant when a mortar round exploded nearby. He was killed instantly. 

Awards: Silver Star, Purple Heart

Turner Brashears Turnbull is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot E, Row 21, Grave 21.