His name was Carl Harris Turner and he was my grandmother’s youngest brother. Uncle Carl was born in 1912 in Fort Valley, Georgia, and was fascinated with planes his entire life. When World War II broke out he joined the Army Air Corp and after training was shipped out to the European Theatre.
On August 22, 1944, Uncle Carl was a sergeant and flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator and was nearing his 50th combat mission when his plane took off for a bombing run over Blechhammer, Germany. According to reports from other plane crews that day, after completing their bombing run, Uncle Carl’s plane and crew came under intense anti-aircraft fire and one burst struck the plane’s left wing disabling an engine. Several crew members managed to parachute out of the plane but Uncle Carl was not one of them. Uncle Carl was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters.
Others have simply but eloquently stated that we did not go into battle in World War II to conquer but to liberate, and the only pieces of land we asked for in the end was enough to bury our dead heroes. Uncle Carl is buried in Belgium, a long way from his middle Georgia home. He died without a wife or children and has no legacy – except for the freedom that you and I enjoy because of his ultimate sacrifice.
I remember my grandmother’s eyes welling up with tears when she spoke of her beloved baby brother. Today, my mother is probably the last living person on this Earth who has a personal remembrance of Uncle Carl when he was alive, and the deep loss her family felt by his death. By reading this, however, you now join the human chain that extends this memory and the knowledge of his life.
I hope you and your family have a thoughtful Memorial Day weekend and while we remember all of the “Uncle Carls” who have gone before, let us also keep in our hearts all of our family members and fellow Americans around the world who still today stand ready to defend our freedom.