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Note: Please see his biography in the Documents section for further details of his life and legacy.
William Bradford Turner (1892 – September 27, 1918) was a United States Army officer who received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in World War I.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Turner lived in Garden City, New York, and attended St. Paul's School there for one year. He was a graduate of Williams College, class of 1914.
By September 27, 1918, he was serving in France as a first lieutenant with the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division. During an attack on that night, near Ronssoy, he and a small group of others became separated from the rest of their company. Turner led the group forward despite intense artillery and machine gun fire, several times personally attacking machine gun positions which were firing on his men. Although wounded three times, he continued to lead the group forward, capturing and clearing three lines of trenches. After reaching their objective, a fourth line of trenches, Turner was killed while defending the position from a German counter-attack. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor the next year, in 1919.
Aged 25 or 26 at his death, Turner was buried in France at the Somme American Cemetery.
Medal of Honor
Awarded for actions during World War I.
For extraordinary heroism on 27 September 1918, while serving with Company M, 105th Infantry, 27th Division, in action at Ronssoy, France. Lieutenant Turner led a small group of men to the attack, under terrific artillery and machinegun fire, after they had become separated from the rest of the company in the darkness.
Single-handed he rushed an enemy machinegun which had suddenly opened fire on his group and killed the crew with his pistol. He then pressed forward to another machinegun post 25 yards away and had killed one gunner himself by the time the remainder of his detachment arrived and put the gun out of action. With the utmost bravery he continued to lead his men over three lines of hostile trenches, cleaning up each one as they advanced, regardless of the fact that he had been wounded three times, and killed several of the enemy in hand-to-hand encounters.
After his pistol ammunition was exhausted, this gallant officer seized the rifle of a dead soldier, bayoneted several members of a machinegun crew, and shot the other. Upon reaching the fourth-line trench, which was his objective, First Lieutenant Turner captured it with the nine men remaining in his group and resisted a hostile counterattack until he was finally surrounded and killed.
Rank: First Lieutenant
War Department, General Orders No. 81 (June 26, 1919)
"The ceremony of presentation of the medal took place at Mrs. Turner's [his mother] home, 25 Hinkley Street, Dorchester, on May 24, 1919, being in private because of the state of her health and her desire to ovoid ostentation. Colonel Albert S. Williams, Chief of Staff of the Department of the Northeast, delivered the medal." From the book by his brother (reference below).