Again Turner blacked out

Saturday, November 7th, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War) Lieutenant Tom Turner’s incredible afternoon:

Earlier, while directing fire against attacking Chinese, a rocket blast from friendly air knocked him unconscious in the ditch, where he lay for more than an hour as the motorcade ground past.

Coming to, bruised and shaken, he had walked more than a mile south, moving along stopped vehicles whose drivers and riders were down in the ditches, fighting. At the head of this mile-long column he found a small truck standing idle, clear road opening before it, while its crew engaged in rifle duels with the Chinese in the hills.

Turner got this truck on its way — then, under heavy fire, he moved back along the road, getting men into their trucks and moving again. It took tremendous effort, and great courage. Finally, with the trucks moving, he leaped on the running board of a two-and-a-half ton, only to fall into the ditch again as the bit of metal to which he clung was carried away by a machine-gun slug.

Again Turner blacked out.

When he crawled from the ditch once more, he saw the column had braked again approximately a thousand yards to the south. But as he stood erect, he felt a Chinese rifle in his back.

He was in the midst of a Chinese squad, some of whom were rendering first aid to American wounded lying along the road. Limping from a badly sprained ankle, Turner was told by the Chinese leader, in good English, to sit down.

Then, after a few minutes, the Chinese asked him if his ankle was good enough for him to walk back to his own lines. Surprised,Tom Turner answered, “I think so.”

The Chinese then searched him — but politely, asking if he objected. They took two letters from him, leaving his money intact. More important, they missed the bottle of I. W. Harper that Turner stowed in his jacket.

Then the Chinese leader ordered him to move down the road, collecting American walking wounded as he went. Limping, his ankle afire with pain, Turner walked away, fully expecting to be shot in the back. Instead, the Chinese faded into the hills.

Turner began to collect American wounded men who could walk, and he passed his bottle around. With three other men, all hurt, he approached the north end of the pass. Here a machine gun opened fire on the little group, and they hit the ditches. Resting, Turner passed the bottle once more.

There were wounded men all around, crawling, groaning, trying to move south into the pass. Tom Turner took another swig from his bottle, then got up. Hardly feeling his ankle, he trotted forward, under the embankment. And here American soldiers shouted to him to get down; a Chinese gun was dug in only twenty-five yards above him, spraying the road.

Turner asked for a grenade, but none of the men near him had any. Shaking his head to clear it, he then asked, “Who’ll join me in rushing that gun?”

The suggestion went over like a lead balloon. One soldier told him, “You want it, you go take it, Lieutenant.”

Somebody else said, “Take it, and shove it up your ass.”

Giving up on the Americans, Turner went back the way he had come, shouting for any ROK or Turk who could talk English to come forward. He found one ROK who could. The man brought more than thirty other ROK’s with him. Turner explained what he wanted — and the ROK’s agreed.

He set some of them up as a base of fire to pin down the enemy gun, while he explained to the others that they would attack it behind him. Then he moved out. Looking back, he was shocked to see the whole group coming with him — they had not understood his orders.

Operating on his own genuine courage and the stimulus of the liquor, Turner figured what the hell. He yelled, “Banzai—Banzai!” and ran up over the covering embankment toward the enemy gun.

Turner’s group swamped the gun crew before they could swivel it to meet the charge. Eager to go on, Turner’s ROK’s wanted to rush another gun, but he held them back, trying to get them into some kind of fighting order first.

At this moment an aircraft whistled low over the ridges, firing into them. A rocket exploded, and once again Tom Turner, bruised and concussed, lost consciousness.

But while he lay on the cold dust, other men were beginning to take charge.


  1. Bruce Purcell says:

    God Bless Tom Turner

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