Military Historian Works To Locate 136 Sailors Missing From The USS Turner Since 1944

USS Turner (DD-648) underway in September 1943
USS Turner (DD-648) underway in September 1943

Where did the bodies of 136 missing sailors from the USS Turner go after the destroyer blew up in 1944?  It’s another mystery from the Second World War.

Military historian Ted Darcy thinks they were buried in a Long Island veterans’ cemetery.  Darcy, a retired Marine from Locust Grove, Virginia, unearthed burial records from 1944 listing the remains of four sailors buried in individual graves within one year of the calamity. He believes most if not all of the sailors’ bodies were found and mixed with the four seamen.  Darcy turned his evidence over to the Pentagon that still lists 136 sailors as lost.

The simple gravesites are marked only by the words ‘Unknown U.S. Sailor’ and ‘January 3, 1944.’

The vessel, only ten months old, returned from convoy duty in the Atlantic, was moored off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, when an explosion below decks set most of the ship on fire.  A series of explosions broke the destroyer’s back.

No definitive cause was determined although a Navy report said at the time anti-submarine munitions were being defused.

Over 150 men were rescued, but 136 others died, Darcy’s research indicated.  He said mixing of unidentified remains was a common practice, especially given the Navy was excessively burdened at the apex of the Second World War.  The cemetery at Long Island contains multiple graves with the remains of many service men.  The remains of 388 crew members from the USS Oklahoma, disinterred in 2015 to determine identification, were buried in Hawaii in 45 mass graves.

Mark Noah, another Second World War MIA expert and founder of Florida-based History Flight, said he has no doubt if the graves of Turner sailors contain the remains of multiple individuals.  Skeletal remains of a dozen people can fill a whole coffin.

Relatives of the deceased were told only that their seaman was missing.

She wishes she had known what happened, said Marjorie Avery, 82, of Corsicana, Texas.  Her father, Turner Captain Henry S. Wygant Jr., was listed as missing, Fox News reported.

“Don’t put them in the ground and forget about them,” Darcy said. “They have been ignored by our government.  That isn’t fair, particularly to their loved ones.”

Ian Harvey

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