Floyd R. Turley
Signalman 3rd Class
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: Oct 1942 - Dec 1945
Signalman, USS Tennessee
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A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Floyd lived through the Great Depression and served in World War II. His mother was Nellie May Standish. His father, William Paul Turley, was "quite old by the time I was born and not in too good of health," he recalls. He was the youngest of 18 children, "not all of them alive, and not all in one place, either," he remarks of siblings from his parents' previous marriages. Of the 18, five were children of his mother and father. Floyd grew up in dire circumstances. His father was "past working" and his mother "took in laundry". His father died when Floyd was in the third grade. "We were so poor we had to go to the Salvation Army to get me a shirt to wear to his funeral," Floyd recalls. He had little schooling after that. The family lived in four-room houses, all lit by kerosene lamps. He had so little to eat he developed rickets as a child. Meanwhile, to supplement family income, he worked for a grocer, delivering groceries in "a little red wagon" for fifty cents a day. All he gave to his mother. He held several other jobs, mostly in delivery. Meanwhile, he survived a rough neighborhood. "That east end of Little Rock was tough. Streets weren't paved; the mosquitoes would carry you off....And the Navy saved my life," he remarks. In October of 1942 Floyd joined the U.S. Navy at age 16, "to get three meals a day," he says. He forged his mother's name in order to enlist. In California he was trained as a signalman, and learned Morse Code and signal flags. In November of 1943 he was assigned to the USS Tennessee, and placed in the "signal gang". It was not only his first time aboard a ship, but "first time I'd ever seen one!" he exclaims. Fortunately, he was never seasick. During Japanese aerial attacks, suicide planes often cut yardarms, which soared 126 feet above the water. Floyd's job was to climb up and fix the halyards upon which the signal flags were attached. The Tennessee sailed to Pearl Harbor, then to the Aleutians, avoiding enemy submarines and exploding surface mines. Floyd served in the invasion of Tarawa where one of his tasks was to collect the dog tags of the dead Marines. Aboard the Tennessee, he participated in landings on Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Tinian, Leyte Gulf and Surigao Strait, Guam, Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Okinawa. "If it happened in the Pacific, we were there," he recalls. At Surigao Strait, the Tennessee, he says, fired 9,000 14-inch shells, and sank two Japanese battleships. Once, Floyd recalls, he was aboard ship for 14 months without setting foot on land. The Tennessee returned to America once during the war. He got a 30-day leave, but had to return after only 15 days. At Okinawa, he watched through a telescope as Japanese civilians, with their children, leap from a high cliff, committing suicide in the long fall on rocks below. When the announcement came that Japan had surrendered, the ship was at Buckner Bay, Okinawa. "I got down on my knees and I prayed and thanked God for the atomic bomb," he recalls. The Tennessee, and other vessels at Pearl Harbor during the December 7, 1941 attack, assembled in Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri. Afterward, the Tennessee sailed to Philadelphia, where "we went ashore and got drunk," he recalls. Discharged in Nashville, he returned to Little Rock and worked for an upholstery shop making furniture. "If I worked real hard, I could make eight dollars a day," he recalls. Meanwhile, in 1948, he married Reba Goodsell, with whom he had three children, Russell, Randy and Ronald. Soon after their marriage they moved to Tulsa and with the help of a Navy buddy, Floyd went to work for American Airlines, as a junior mechanic, beginning a career that spanned 35 years. Floyd became shop steward, and often traveled to New York for arbitrations. He also supervised some of the first female mechanics the airlines hired. Reba died in 1958 in a train accident. In 1968 he married Mondis Elaine (he can't remember her maiden name), who had two children by a previous marriage, Sherry and Alan. After her death after their lengthy marriage, Floyd married Betty Walden in 2005. He has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 2