506th Parachute Infantry Regt, 101st Airborne Division
Plot D, Row 19, Grave 21
Lt. Col. William L. Turner was 1st Battalion commander of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. The paratroopers of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment underwent a tough training at Camp Toccoa, Ga. The training not only consisted of calisthenics, weapons drill and speed march, but also running up and down nearby Mount Currahee several times a day.
During their stay in Toccoa the 506th Regiment adopted the name ‘Currahee’ and it also became their battle cry. The word ‘Currahee’ comes from the Cherokee language and means “stand alone together.” The regimental badge was based on Mount Currahee. Under command of Col. Robert Sink, the 506th left for England in August of 1943, where it trained hard for its mission. The 506th would be responsible for landing behind Utah Beach and protecting four exit causeways for the D-Day seaborne assault of the 4th Infantry Division.
On June 7, Turner’s 1st Battalion was on a mission to attack Vierville. Directing the attack at the front, Turner and his men forced a unit of German paratroopers to retreat. Soon after, Turner received orders from Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor to continue to attack south, towards the town of St. Come du Mont. The unit encountered heavy fighting at the crossroads at Beaumont, a strong German defensive position, after which Turner reorganized his men. Turner was now in a Sherman tank, directing the artillery and machine gun fire. After rounding a bend, the tank was hit by several rockets. For almost half an hour, the tank seemed disabled, showing no signs of movement. Then Turner reversed around the turn in the road and jumped out to call an artillery observer, Col. Sink.
Turner reported that his men were being hit hard by machine gun fire but that he was confident they could hold off the enemy with tank artillery. Col. Sink told him to move forward with the tanks if possible, but added: "Be careful!" Turner started the tank forward again, but when he raised himself up out of the turret, a sniper shot him, witnessed by many of the men on the forward line. Turner was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Due to his astute observations and direction of artillery fire, the heavily defended enemy position was reduced.
Turner had one other brother, Lt. Dennis T. Turner, Jr., of the 28th Infantry Regiment, who was also killed in France on July 12, 1944. They are buried side-by-side in the Normandy American Cemetery.
Awards: Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart
William L. Turner is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot D, Row 19, Grave 21.