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Richmond Kelly Turner

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Richmond Kelly "Terrible" Turner (1885-1961) was a U.S. Navy admiral, who was in key staff positions shortly before the outbreak of World War Two, and then a commander of amphibious warfare forces in World War Two in the Pacific.[1] While he was agreed to be highly intelligent, he was abrasive, and, in the prewar period, was accused of bureaucratic power plays that may have interfered with U.S. readiness. The Pacific Fleet intelligence officer, Edwin Layton, said he had been a brilliant leader of amphibious operations from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, but "few who worked with him could forget — or forgive — his stormy temper, overbearing ego, and celebrated bouts with the bottle.[2] It must be understood that Turner and Layton strongly disliked one another.

Early career

Richmond Kelly Turner was born in Portland, Oregon, on 27 May 1885. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served on a destroyer, a gunboat, and three battleships. From 1919 to 1922, Lieutenant Commander Turner was an Ordnance Officer at the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C.. He then was Gunnery Officer of the battleship California, Fleet Gunnery Officer on the Staff of Commander Scouting Fleet and Commanding Officer of the destroyer Mervine. Following promotion to the rank of Commander in 1925, Turner served with the Bureau of Ordnance at the Navy Department.

In 1927, he received flight training, and a year later became Commanding Officer of the seaplane tender Jason and Commander Aircraft Squadrons, Asiatic Fleet. He had further aviation-related assignments into the 1930s, including executive officer of the carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3). Next, he Turner attended the Naval War College and served on that institution's staff in 1935-38. He next commanded the heavy cruiser USS Astoria and took her on a diplomatic mission to Japan in 1939.

War Plans

Captain Turner was Director of the War Plans Division in Washington, D.C., in 1940-41 and achieved the rank of Rear Admiral late in the latter year. He was Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet from December 1941 until June 1942.

Not only Layton, but the National Security Agency history of communications intelligence in this period points out conflict among Turner's War Plans Division, the OP-20G communications intelligence group, Chief of Naval Operations Ernest King, Pacific commander Chester W. Nimitz, and Nimitz's intelligence staff including Layton and COMINT officer Joseph Rochefort.[3]

Turner approved of few people, but called his assistant, Forrest Sherman the "box of brains...he was a greased-lightning operator...always had a plan — left nothing to chance."[4]

Amphibious warfare

He was then made commander of the Amphibious Force, South Pacific Force. Southwest Pacific naval commander William Halsey had received complaints that Turner, in charge of the ships supporting Marine Major General A.A. Vandegrift ashore on Guadalcanal, was interfering with Marine decisions. Halsey concurred with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Thomas Holcomb that the commander of a landing force should be co-equal with the amphibious commander, which became the standard for future operations.<[5]

In the rank of Admiral, he would have commanded the amphibious component of the invasion of Japan, had that nation not capitulated in mid-1945.


Following the end of World War II, Admiral Turner served on the Navy Department's General Board and was U.S. Naval Representative on the United Nations Military Staff Committee. He retired from active duty in July 1947. Admiral Richmond K. Turner died in Monterey, California, on 12 February 1961.


The guided missile frigate (later cruiser) Richmond K. Turner (DLG-20, later CG-20) was named in honor of Admiral. Turner.


  1. Admiral Richmond K. Turner, USN (1885-1961), Naval Historical Center
  2. Edwin T. Layton, Roger Pineau and John Costello (1985), "And I was There": Pearl Harbor and Midway: Breaking the Secrets, William Morrow & Company, pp. 19-20
  3. Frederick D. Parker (1993), Part Two: The Battles for Midway and the Aleutians, A Priceless Advantage: U.S. Navy Communications Intelligence and the Battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and the Aleutians, vol. UNITED STATES CRYPTOLOGIC HISTORY; Series IV; World War II; Volume 5, National Security Agency
  4. Michael T. Eisenberg (1993), Shield of the Republic: the United States Navy in an Era of Cold War and Violent Peace, vol. Volume I: 1945-1962, St. Martin's Press, p. 242
  5. E. B. Potter (1985), Bull Halsey, U.S. Naval Institute, ISBN 0870211463, pp. 161-162