George Benton Turner was born in Longview, Texas, on June 27, 1899. He attended Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri, but left before earning a degree. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1918, but World War I ended before he shipped overseas. Upon his discharge, Turner took a position as a legal secretary in Los Angeles County, California. When World War II broke out, Turner, now in his early 40s, once again volunteered to fight for his country, this time enlisting in the US Army in October 1942.
Turner deployed to the European theater with Battery C of the 499th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 14th Armored Division. The oldest Private in his unit, he was respected by peers and officers alike for his leadership ability. Officers encouraged Turner to seek a commission, but he refused, preferring to stay with his fellow soldiers at the front. True to his word, he remained a Private First Class through the war’s end.
On January 3, 1945, Turner found himself separated from his unit during an enemy attack in a French village. After joining up with a friendly infantry company, he turned his attention to the two German tanks and 75 soldiers advancing through the village. Under heavy fire, Turner used a rocket launcher to destroy one tank and disable the other, then killed or wounded many of the German troops with a machine gun. When two American tanks were disabled in the counterattack, Turner held off the enemy to allow the crews to escape; he was wounded while trying to rescue a man from one of the flaming tanks. Refusing to be evacuated, Turner continued to fight with the infantry unit, capturing an enemy position, driving a truckload of wounded men to safety, and successfully defending the French town.
His actions that day earned him the Medal of Honor, awarded by President Harry S. Truman on August 23, 1945. Turner’s full citation reads:
At Philippsbourg, France, he was cut off from his artillery unit by an enemy armored infantry attack. Coming upon a friendly infantry company withdrawing under the vicious onslaught, he noticed two German tanks and approximately 75 supporting foot soldiers advancing down the main street of the village. Seizing a rocket launcher, he advanced under intense small-arms and cannon fire to meet the tanks and, standing in the middle of the road, fired at them, destroying one and disabling the second. From a nearby half-track he then dismounted a machine gun, placed it in the open street and fired into the enemy infantrymen, killing or wounding a great number and breaking up the attack. In the American counterattack which followed, two supporting tanks were disabled by an enemy antitank gun. Firing a light machine gun from the hip, Pfc. Turner held off the enemy so that the crews of the disabled vehicles could extricate themselves. He ran through a hail of fire to one of the tanks which had burst into flames and attempted to rescue a man who had been unable to escape; but an explosion of the tank's ammunition frustrated his effort and wounded him painfully. Refusing to be evacuated, he remained with the infantry until the following day, driving off an enemy patrol with serious casualties, assisting in capturing a hostile strongpoint, and voluntarily and fearlessly driving a truck through heavy enemy fire to deliver wounded men to the rear aid station. The great courage displayed by Pfc. Turner and his magnificently heroic initiative contributed materially to the defense of the French town and inspired the troops about him.
After the war, Turner lived with his wife in Encino, California, until his death on June 29, 1963. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.