Coronado’s “Avenue Of The Heroes” ... Commander Arcia Ola “A.O.” Turner - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

Coronado’s “Avenue Of The Heroes” ... Commander Arcia Ola “A.O.” Turner

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2019 2:35 pm | Updated: 3:12 pm, Thu Jun 6, 2019.

Commander Turner was born Aug. 24, 1914, in Durants Neck, North Carolina. In 1932, as soon as he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the battleship USS Idaho where he trained as an ordanceman. His next assignment was on the heavy cruiser USS Northampton, and in 1939 he applied for and was accepted into the Navy’s enlisted flight training program at NAS Pensacola, Florida. After receiving his wings as a Naval Aviation Pilot (AP), he was continuously promoted until he became a Chief Petty Officer. 

It is interesting that virtually every major nation engaged in combat during World War II had non-commissioned pilots at the beginning. The Japanese had some who participated in the Pearl Harbor raid; the Italians had them flying in the Mediterranean in combat with British naval forces; Germany had them flying Stukas in Poland and the British employed them in its air arm including the dangerous and effecting raid on the Italian fleet when it was based in Taranto in 1940. In our Navy, there was often a lot of friendly competition between the squadrons with enlisted pilots and those with officer-only flyers. Very often the enlisted pilots outperformed the officer groups, probably because it meant more to them and they tried harder.

As mentioned, Turner was one of them, and while an enlisted CPO stationed in Seattle in early 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, he met and married Rose O’Brien.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything for Turner and in 1942 the Navy quickly commissioned him as an officer. His squadron was flying Catalina flying boats, the Consolidated PBY*, and as part of Admiral Nimitz’s Midway build-up prior to the Japanese intended invasion of those islands, Turner’s squadron was sent there and valiantly participated in its defense.

After Midway, Turner’s group, as well as other PBY squadrons, continued their operations in the Pacific, often engaging the enemy as part of the famous black painted, night flying “Black Cats”. It was during one of these perilous missions that he was wounded when his PBY took flak from a 20mm shell that exploded under the cockpit. He was honored for assisting two seriously wounded crew members on that flight, making an emergency water landing, and successfully delivering the crew and badly damaged plane back at base.

After the War, and for the next 20 years, he and Rose were stationed in many places, including Coronado, while raising their two boys, Michael and Jerry. They are both Coronado High School graduates. His final tour, back in Coronado, began in 1957 as the NAB Operations Officer and ended with his retirement in 1962 with the rank of Commander.

Turner received numerous prestigious awards while serving in the Navy for participating in dangerous and difficult patrol and combat missions over Japanese territory. They include the Distinguished Flying Cross (with two stars), Air Medal (with two stars), Purple Heart, Presidential Commendation with Combat “V”, Navy Unit Commendation, and Asiatic-Pacific operations (with five stars). He also received the Philippine Liberation Medal, the Korean Service Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Turner passed away in 1993 in Tacoma, Washington. He is honored as a very deserving recipient of an Avenue of Heroes award and banner in Coronado, CA.

*The PBY was first introduced in 1936 and quickly became the most widely used multi-engine flying boat worldwide during the war. Altogether over 3,000 were built, many in the Consolidated Aircraft factory here in San Diego. Surprisingly, despite its slow speed (cruising speed between 105 and 125 knots) and poor maneuverability, the PBY played a distinguished role at Midway. Perhaps most significantly, one of them, on a long range search flown by Lt. Howard Ady, discovered the main Japanese carrier task force as it neared Midway and radioed the location to American headquarters. That has been regarded as one of the most significant search flights of the war, allowing our carrier aircraft to locate, attack, and sink the four Japanese carriers in their strike force. All of these Japanese carriers had participated in the devastating raid on Pearl Harbor six months earlier. (As an aside, Lt. Ady’s widow, Beverly, lived in Coronado after the war until her passing in 2003). Another PBY found and torpedoed a Japanese invading ship and badly damaged it, while others combed the area and frustrated the search efforts of the numerous Japanese submarines. Almost certainly these PBYs belonged to Turner’’s squadron and just as certainly Turner was one of the participants.

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