And so, in 1964, the Navy named a new ship after its chief amphibious commander during the island-hopping campaigns of the Pacific War.
USS Richmond K. Turner
Only it really didn't, because few of the hundreds of thousands of sailor-men, soldiers, airmen, and Marines who sailed stalwartly forth with Kelly Turner to far away and little known islands would recognize their leader by the name Richmond K. Turner. They knew him as Kelly Turner, which was the way he signed his pay checks, except that he put an 'R' at the start.
The Marines, God bless them, were there at the commissioning ceremony on 13 June 1964, to rivet a plaque on the quarterdeck of the guided missile frigate for all to see and to read:
THE MEMORY OF
ADMIRAL RICHMOND KELLY TURNER
COMMANDER, JOINT EXPEDITIONARY AND AMPHIBIOUS
FORCES, PACIFIC AREA, WORLD WAR II
INSPIRATIONAL LEADERSHIP FROM
GUADALCANAL TO OKINAWA
THE U.S. MARINE CORPS.
Kelly Turner was not too tough for the Marines. They thrived on S.O.B.'s, but S.O.B.'s who were brainy and purposeful in the cause of this country. They recognized that Kelly Turner had many of the Marines' more prized leadership qualities.
The presenter of the plaque, Brigadier General Joseph O. Butcher, USMC, made a typical Marine talk--short and meaningful. He said:
Through Admiral Turner's exceptional tactical handling of amphibious forces and his understanding and consideration for their capabilities, Marine Corps amphibious units were successfully put ashore on Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Tarawa, Guam, Saipan and Iwo Jima, to name only a few. These have all become glowing names in the pages of Naval and Marine Corps history.
General Holland M. Smith who was closely associated with Admiral Turner and who served with him in amphibious operations for over two
years as Commander Fifth Amphibious Corps and later Commanding General Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, recently wrote me that, in his opinion, the Admiral 'was one of the finest naval officers he has ever known.'
During World War II, Admiral Turner was cited several times for his daring initiative in handling the ever-changing complexities of his assignments. Therefore I think it especially appropriate that one of the newest complex surface ships of the United States Fleet, a guided missile frigate, is being commissioned the Richmond K. Turner.
The Navy's senior representative at the Philadelphia Navy Yard at the commissioning ceremony was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Logistics, The Honorable Kenneth E. Belieu. He said that "Kelly Turner was a man of dedication," and that "he will be long remembered for his command of the amphibious forces which engaged in the successful occupation of Iwo Jima."
His speech indicated that Kelly Turner's command of the Pacific Fleet amphibious forces at Okinawa, the longest and toughest operation of the Pacific War, had escaped his notice or that of his speech writer. This indicates how fleeting fame can be, for few who were with Kelly Turner at Okinawa will forget him on the voice radio during the moments of kamikaze attacks. One commander recalled:
I worked under him several times during the war when I commanded a ship, or ships, in his attack force, and it was (nearly) always a pleasure. As you probably know, he liked to handle the command voice circuit himself, and his voice was easily recognizable. In tight situations, it was very steadying to hear that voice take over.1
The Okinawa operation was Kelly Turner's command which made him a four star admiral, and he was proud of it. He told me:
Fighting out from under the heaviest Japanese air attacks on our sea-borne amphibious forces at Okinawa, was my proudest achievement during the war.2
The first Commanding Officer of the Richmond K. Turner was Captain Douglas C. Plate, U.S. Navy--out of the Class of 1942. His remarks at the commissioning ceremony were to the point.
Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner disliked the inefficient and scorned the lazy. He had great faith in his Country--and in his Navy. He did not spare himself in his devotion to either. We could ask for no better example and no higher standards.
And with that summation, Kelly Turner would be happy, and the first to say, "Amen."
How much confusion naming the DLG-20 the Richmond K. Turner would cause, could have been predicted by any of Kelly Turner's boys. The Commanding Officer of the DLG-20 kindly furnished copies of the following despatches:
From USS Turner
To Chief of Naval Operations
Improper Message Addressing
1. During past two weeks USS Turner (DDR-834) has been recipient of 19 messages obviously intended for USS R.K. Turner (DLG-20). This situation has necessitated numerous services and has resulted in inordinate delay in effecting final delivery.
2. This situation has also been noted in the addressing of mail by various bureaus and commands.
3. Respectfully request that the existence of two Turners in the ATLANTIC FLEET AREA BE BROUGHT TO ATTENTION OF ALL CONCERNED.
From USS Richmond K. Turner
To Chief of Naval Operations
Mail, Message Addressing
1. Richmond K. Turner beginning to experience problems similar to those outlined by reference. Incorrect addressing of mail by supply activities forwarding critical spares particularly harmful.
2. Inherent part of problem is length of DLG name which many innocents have penchant for shortening to Turner.
3. As indicated by reference, situation will ameliorate when Richmond K. Turner shifts to Pacific, but this will also lengthen turn around time for misaddressed correspondence.
4. Recommend acceptance in message traffic and informal correspondence for this ship of initials quote RK unquote Turner. Feel this no disrespect to late Admiral who seldom used name Richmond and who achieved fame as Admiral Kelly Turner.
Merely for the record, it is noted here that DLG-20 is a guided missile frigate 533 feet long and of 7,650 full load displacement tons. She carries an anti-aircraft armament of two dual-purpose missile launchers and two 3-inch 50-caliber twin-gun mounts. Additionally, she can fight with an antisubmarine rocket launcher and two triple mount torpedo tubes. In July 1964, twenty officers were attached to her and 331 enlisted men were listed in her crew. These figures are a bit different than the 155-ton Davis (TB-12), or the 480-ton TBD Preble in which Kelly Turner learned to go to sea and like it.
[B L A N K]
(1) The Staff Log of Commander Amphibious Force of the South Pacific Force of the Pacific Fleet had an auspicious beginning on July 18, 1942. It was written by the Watch Officers of the Staff and reviewed and corrected by the Chief of Staff for the first three months of the Command's existence.
A Note on Primary Sources
Frequently, at this stage, the Staff Log contains important operational information obtained from radio direction finders, or cryptographically, by the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet and relayed to COMPHIBFORSOPAC. It also contains at-the-moment reasoning behind certain important operational decisions. It was a proper Staff Log.
Commencing in mid-September 1942, the character of the Staff Log started its deterioration into a glorified quartermaster's notebook, with a quartermaster noting a few of the more important visible events occurring, and the Staff Officer signing what had been written.
The last signature of Captain Thomas G. Peyton, the first Chief of Staff, occurs on 15 November 1942. Summaries of important despatches received during the day continued sketchily on until 8 April 1943, and then disappeared completely from the Staff Log.
Staff Logs of the Fifth Amphibious Force carried on in this innocuous and deliquescing manner.
(2) Copies of the early Operation Plans issued for the Guadalcanal Operation by Rear Admiral Turner as Commander Task Force 62 are hard to find. Presumably, without malice aforethought to future historians, CTF 62 directed all hands to "destroy by burning, without report, all copies of Operation Plan AR-42 (Rehearsal) and all copies of Tentative Operation Plan A2-42." The order was well obeyed, as was the subsequent one for "all holders," except a few seniors, to destroy the actual Operation Plan A3-42.1
[B L A N K]
The following two letters were received from Admiral John L. McCrea, U.S. Navy (Retired), after the manuscript had gone to the Government Printing Office. They are included in their entirety.
The Last Word
107 Crafts Road
Chestnut Hill, Mass. 02167
January 21, 1970
Yesterday I had the pleasure of lunching with Walter Whitehill [Librarian, Athenæum Library, Boston]. During our conversation he told me that you are working on a biography of Kelly Turner. As for that bit of news I say Hooray and Hooray! Richmond Kelly Turner was quite a guy and I'm glad that someone who has the talent to do so has undertaken to make a record of his many accomplishments.
When I went to Washington (ex-Pennsylvania) in Sept. 1940, I found myself working on a special project for Stark [Chief of Naval Operations], 'Are We Ready,' which had originated in the General Board. For want of a better place for me I was given quarters in the War Plans Division. Crenshaw had headed up that Division but he had departed and sometime in October, I think Kelly showed up as Crenshaw's relief. My office was next door to Kelly's and so situated that anyone who wanted to see him had to cross my line of vision. Kelly was astounded at the condition the War Plans were in and said so in a loud tone of voice. Oddly enough, I had never seen him until we met in Operations. He made--as always--an instant impression. The second day he was there, he stopped by my desk. 'McCrea, I'm going in my office and shut the door and write a plan for the war that is coming. Don't let anyone by to disturb me.' Well that was that, He and I got off to a great start. He kept using me on odds and ends despite the fact that I was working for Stark and no one else. He was the guy who sent me to the Pacific and Asiatic Fleets in December of 1940 to carry out the new plans WPL 45, if memory serves me correctly, and to be 'The Questions and Answer Man for those commands until they release you.' It was all a great experience and it was a pleasure to come in contact with such a quick and fine mind supported by a guy who could make a decision and ride with it.
Shortly after--well, some three or four months after--I got back from my Pacific jaunt, Stark moved into his office and I was present at practically all of Kelly's conferences with Stark. They were pretty well attended. Admiral Sexton, the head of the General Board, was invariably in attendance. Kelly, first, last and always, was sure war was coming. To him it was urgent
that we get war minded. My observation was that the Navy was far more war minded than the Army--witness the Navy getting its dependents out of the Orient in November 1940, whereas the Army didn't bring its dependents out until August 1941, and then by President Roosevelt telling Gen. Marshall to bring them home.
Kelly was sure that when war came, in the end, we would prevail. He would hold forth at length that we must not destroy the Japanese Empire--'We mustn't reduce them to a fourth rate power because we will need them after the war to help maintain a balance of power in that area.' He would talk in this vein often.
The conference that sticks with me was the one having to do with the despatch that went to the Pacific and Asiatic Commands on 27 November, or thereabouts, to alert them as to nearness of hostilities. Kelly brought his draft of the despatch 'up front.' As I recall it, the opening sentence was 'This is a war warning.' Both Sexton and Stark demurred--thought it too strong, etc. Kelly countered vigorously, 'you can't discount the possibility of early hostilities.' 'But its' too strong.' 'Under the circumstances we can't say less,' said Kelly. And so it went back and forth and in the end Kelly had his way. And how happy the front office was that he had his way when a few days later came the attack on Pearl.
For weeks prior to P.H. [Pearl Harbor] Kelly had been after me to see if we could slow down Stark's procession of visitors. But Admiral Stark was patient and gentle and there was a steady stream of Bureau Chiefs and others to see him. Kelly couldn't tolerate that. Admiral Bowen was his particular béte noire. Even Stark got a bit irked with the frequency and the length of Bowen's visits. He finally told me to get the word to Bowen to leave his cigar outside. Mike Robinson wasn't far behind Bowen for frequency and length of visits. The one guy who really got in and out was Ben Moreell--and what a man he was!
Well, when P.H. came to us, Kelly took things in his own hands. I left the Navy Dept. about 3:00 a.m., 8 Dec. I was in civilian clothes all that Sunday afternoon and night. I had to dash home, freshen up and shift into uniform. When I got back in the office about 8:30 in the morning there was lying on my desk a memorandum which Kelly had drafted (some 900 copies, he said) and broad-cast throughout the Department saying, in effect, that now since hostilities had begun, much as he (Stark) regretted it, he would not be as available as in the past and that those who wished to see him should call McCrea for an appointment. This arrangement was a complete surprise to me and I think to Stark as well. Anyway, it worked out pretty good since it was noticeable how unimportant many things were when Stark couldn't be seen until 5:00 p.m. or thereabouts.
George, forgive me for subjecting you to my awful handwriting, but my delight in finding out that you were at work on Kelly quite carried me away.
Regards and good luck to you.
1. When I got orders to the White House as Naval Aide, Kelly came by to see me. 'All they want you for over there is your string back,' said he. But, really Geo. I did more than that!
2. Kelly attended the first meeting in London having to do with the U.N. [United Nations] Mrs. Roosevelt was there. K_____ came charging into my office when he got back. 'Do you know Mrs. R_____,' he said. 'Of course,' was my reply, 'By God,' said he, 'she's the greatest. I was so damn proud of the way she handled herself over there. She's a great American.' And with that he was gone in a breeze. He was ever thus!
February 12, 1970
Thank you for your letter. It has just reached me here.
I wish I had known about your Turner project earlier. Just be chance Walter Whitehill told me about it. This prompted me to write you. The last time I saw Kelly was in late May 1949 in Monterey. He was lying on his belly picking bugs off a rose bush. I was in M[onterey] en route East and stopped off to see my daughter who was married to Dick Niles, on the staff of the P.G. School. Tom Casey (C.O.) gave a party for me and Kelly came. The next day I dropped by for a drink--at his invitation! And that was when I caught him under the rose bush. I enjoyed working with him so much. I was really not part of his War Plans but he picked my brain and I his, much, of course, to my profit.
When I was sent to the White House, Kelly came by to see me. It went something like this: 'Don't think they want you over there for your brains. They want you because you are six feet tall and are known to have a strong back.' We understood each other well and it was a pleasure to be at the biting end of some of his wit--inspired by drink or otherwise.
Do you recall Fuzzy Theobald's 'Truth About Pearl Harbor' in which he flatly accused F.D.R. of deliberately getting us into the war? It appeared first, in its entirety, in U.S. News and World Report. I sent a copy post haste to K.T. He thanked me and remarked: 'It is just the sort of thing I would have though Theobald would write had I known he was writing a book.'
Good old K.T. what a delight it was to serve with him--firm, decisive, a decision maker and above all a doer.
Much luck to you, George, and I do hope our paths may cross one day and soon.
Table of Contents * Previous Chapter (26) * Next Chapter (Bibliography)
1. Rear Admiral J.R. Lannom, USN (Ret.) to GCD, letter, 21 Feb. 1964.
1. CTF 62 letter, FE 25/A16-3/A4-3 Ser 0013 of 30 Jul. 1942.