Purple Heart Won by Seaman Phillip Turner

From the MSR Legacy Archives

As part of our celebration over the next several months of our 80 years of continuous publication, the
MSR will be republishing notable stories from our extensive 

archives of more than 4,000 weekly issues of African American news in Minnesota. Many of our readers will be sure to recognize friends, family and neighbors

 from the distant and not-so-distant past — such as the wounded young sailor below, as published in the October 6, 1944 edition of the Minneapolis Spokesman.


archiveturnerPhillip Turner, Seaman Second Class, son of Mr. and Mrs. Wenzel Miller, 522 Emerson Ave. No., Minneapolis, is the first Negro service man from Minnesota known to have received the Purple Heart medal during World War II. Seaman Turner also received a Presidential citation, read by Secretary of Navy, James S. Forrestal, at a naval hospital in Hampton, Virginia.

These honors came to him and others for bravery aboard ship after an explosion off the coast of Virginia early in September. According to Seaman Turner’s account of the disaster, in a letter to his grandmother, Mrs. Vealous Abernathy, 5043 Irving Ave. N., Minneapolis, he was working as a steamfitter in the engine room when a floating mine which had been torn from its mooring at the bottom of the sea struck the vessel and exploded — the boilers bursting, causing oil and burning gasoline to spray men in that section of the ship.

Seaman Turner helped pull his commander out of the main hatch and onto the upper deck to safety. In doing this a piece of steel penetrated and tore a hole in his heel. He says 25 men were blown to bits and eight were reported missing in action.

The decorated lad told his grandmother he is glad that he chose the Navy because aside from being able to serve his country he will have a trade when this is all over. He told of undergoing an operation on Sept. 16 which “saved my life” marking the date to be remembered as long as he lives.

Seaman Turner is still confined at the hospital.