By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The promise of excitement and travel prompted Turner Alford to join the Navy when he was 18 years-old.
"I saw these signs that said 'Join the Navy, See the World.' So that's what I did," said Al ford.
It was 1938.
"I began to see some of the world until I met the Japanese in World War II and life changed after that," Alford recalls.
When the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor, Alford was aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise. They had been patrolling the Pacific Islands.
"We felt really lucky. We thought the guardian angel was taking care of us," said Alford.
"We had been to Wake Island. We delivered fighter planes to Marine pilots and on our way back, we encountered a lot of bad weather. We intended to arrive back in Pearl Harbor on December the 6th, but bad weather slowed us down a bit so we were about 100 miles off Hawaii when the Japanese attacked Sunday morning, December the 7th. I realized we were in great danger after our first plane came back from the island with bullet holes all in 'em. Told they got shot down. Some of 'em made forced landings all around the island. Others made it back to the ship," Alford added.
"I was real concerned about what was gonna happen from then on. I knew at the time of war, there was a great danger," said Alford.
Alford was rear seat gunner.
"My job was to shoot and communicate on the radio with my pilot," Alford explained.
"We flew in on Pearl Harbor on December 9th, circled around all those burning ships. Some of them were sunk. And we landed on a little air strip and spent the night down from them. Every day was a day that we would fly, searching for the enemy," Alford added.
"After that I was involved on some attacks on two different islands," Alford recalled.
His major campaigns were in the Marshall and Wake Islands. He remembers one close call during the attacks.
"The pilot picked up his earphone and said I've just spotted a four-motored Japanese flying boat. We were going to shoot at one another. You could see the tracers coming from the plane, but they didn't hit us at the time. We gonna meet him head on. He said, 'I'm gonna fire my 50 caliber at him and as we go under, you strike the belly underneath.' I just laid all the way back on my back and held my gun straight up. And when we went under him I mashed the trigger and hit his belly," Alford added.
Alford had to call in a fighter squadron to help finish the job.
"When we got back to the ship, I counted one big flak hole in the wing and 70 bullet holes around the cockpit," said Alford.
Alford suffered some hearing loss from his time on the gun. He was discharged after the war in February of 1946.
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