USS Turner explosion in WWII kills Hubbardston man

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HUBBARDSTON – It was 3:30 a.m. on January 3, 1944 when the Navy destroyer USS Turner maneuvered quietly through wind, rain and sleet in darkness before dropping anchor 4 miles north southeast of Rockaway Point, Long Island, in 60 feet of water.

The ship had served nine months of active service at sea in the North Atlantic. She was there, waiting for further official orders.

Suddenly and without warning, a mysterious explosion ripped open the main deck, sending it flying through the air, toppling the mast on the deckhouse and shattering the ship’s only link to the world, destroying the ship’s nerve center and transmitting radio system. emergency.

Many officers on board were killed instantly, while sailors were also thrown onto the deck. Their bloody bodies were strewn everywhere. The fire broke out instantly as the engine room quickly filled with smoke and hot toxic fumes.

Among the dead was Firefighter First Class Lyman W. Woodward of Hubbardston, who had survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor before being transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in July 1942 for convoy duty and was killed aboard the Turner.

This is the sequel to the Remembering Local World War II Heroes series.

Firefighter 1st Class Lyman W. Woodward, Jr. (1922-1944)

Lyman W. Woodward Jr. was born on December 18, 1922 to Lyman W. and Ruby D. (Crockett) Woodward in Hubbardston.

He was a graduate of Athol High School, Class of 1940, and enlisted in December of that year while attending Henry Ford Trade School, graduating with honors on June 30, 1941.

Less than six months later, he found himself on a repair ship in Pearl Harbor during the attack of December 7, 1941. He survived there and underwent several engagements in the Pacific zone before being transferred to the fleet of the Atlantic in July. 1942 for convoy service.

He found himself aboard the USS Turner, which departed Norfolk, Virginia with its third and final convoy on November 23, 1943, seeing the convoy safely cross the Atlantic.

The explosion of the USS Turner on January 3, 1944 which claimed the life of Private Hubbardston Fireman First Class Lyman Woodward.

On January 1, 1944, near the end of the return trip, the convoy split into two parts, the Turner joining the contingent bound for New York and plotting a course to that port. She arrived off Ambrose Light the next evening of January 2 and dropped anchor.

Early the next morning at 0330, the destroyer suffered a series of shattering and unexplained internal explosions, primarily in the ammunition stowage areas which stunned the stricken destroyer.

About four hours later, a violent explosion capsized and sank the ship. The tip of her bow remained above the water until about 08:30 when she disappeared completely taking with her 15 officers and 123 men.

A number of nearby ships picked up survivors from the sunken destroyer, with the injured taken to nearby hospital in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

Additionally, a U.S. Coast Guard Sikorsky HNS-1 piloted by Lieutenant Commander Frank A. Erickson—the first use of a helicopter in a rescue role—carried two crates of blood plasma, strapped to the floats of the ship. helicopter, from New York to Hook of Sand.

The plasma is said to have saved the lives of many of Turner’s injured crew members. However, the body of Firefighter First Class Woodward was not found and he was reported lost at sea on January 5, 1944.

The WWII Hubbardston Monument located on Hubbardston Common.

The name of Woodward, 21, is inscribed on the East Coast Memorial in Manhattan, New York, as well as on the footstone of the Glen Rural Cemetery in Hubbardston on the family plot, indicating that he was lost at sea on the USS Turner.

Besides his parents, he is survived by one sister, the future Dorothy M. (Woodward) Suojanen, and his grandparents Ernest A. Woodward and Leroy C. Crockett.

Comments and suggestions for Remembering Local World War II Heroes can be sent to Mike Richard at mikerichard0725@gmail.com or in writing Mike Richard, 92 Boardley Rd. Sandwich, MA 02563.

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