Pentagon Researching USS Turner Sailors Missing in Action Since WWII

USS Turner (DD-648) on the East River in New York City near the Williamsburg Bridge
USS Turner (DD-648) on the East River in New York City near the Williamsburg Bridge

The Pentagon has launched an investigation into the whereabouts of the remains of dozens of US sailors.

In 1944, the USS Turner exploded and sank near New York Harbor. According to official records, 130 sailors are missing in action. Ted Darcy, a WWII researcher, believes that he has found evidence that at least four of the sailors killed that day were buried as unknown in a military cemetery in Long Island. He thinks that the rest are probably there as well.

After newspapers reported on Darcy’s findings three months ago, the Pentagon office that is responsible for the recovery and identification of US war fatalities said that they are missing the records which would confirm how many of the sailors from the Turner are buried in the cemetery.

Recently, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has said that it is researching the files associated with the USS Turner unknown sailors buried in Farmingdale on Long Island.

Darcy and relatives of the missing sailors hope to see the records located, the identifications made and the remains of these sailors reburied in marked graves with full military honors.

On January 3, 1944, the USS Turned suffered a series of internal explosions and sank near Sandy Hook, New Jersey. While the Navy never officially discovered the source of the first explosion, an inquiry found that munitions were be handled below deck at the time. About half of the 300 sailors on board survived the blast but many remain missing in action. The Navy spent a year salvaging the wreck and managed to recover some remains but there is no record of the exact number recovered.

Margaret Duffy Sickles was five when her brother, Fireman 1st Class Richard Duffy, was listed among the missing. When she saw the newspaper articles about Darcy’s research, she reached out to the New York congressional delegation in hopes of convincing the Pentagon to try and identify the remains in the Long Island cemetery.

US Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has vowed to cut through the bureaucracy and make sure the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency does everything it can to indentify the sailors.

Sickles is aware that identifying bodies that have been dead for over 70 years is difficult but she is hopeful that DNA identification can help. She’s also aware that her brother’s remains may not be in the cemetery. “Nevertheless,” she said, “it was something we didn’t know about until this story came out.”

The Pentagon has strict protocols it uses for identifying war dead. That process begins with records that the Department of Defense has been unable to locate. In addition to not having records on the sailors from the Turner, there seems to be no records on who is buried in the Long Island cemetery.

According to Todd S. Livick, Sr., a spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the agency has been searching for the files related to this case for years without finding them, Fox News reported.

“Without these sources of information, DPAA cannot determine whether multiple individuals were buried in the casket or construct a case for disinterment,” he said.

Darcy feels like they haven’t done enough for these fallen sailors. “These guys died for their country,” he said. “They deserve to be buried properly and the families deserve the closure.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE