"Lt. Norman Turpin"
_________________
Bill Calhoun

 

 

He was the last man of "F" Co. killed during WWII.

 

Lt. Turpin at the entrance gate to the school in Victoria,
Negros. We were preparing to move to Fabrica.

Norman Turpin had been sent to Europe as the war ended there and was then sent to the Pacific. He was proficient in French, and had been attached to the OSS and was in school learning the peculiarities of the French spoken in the Marseilles area. He was interesting to talk to. He replaced Dan Lee as platoon leader of the 2nd platoon. Lee had been the only one wounded on the raid on the Jap headquarters at Hacienda Paz about 20 June (the third time he was hit in the thigh).

There is a mendacious tale of Turpin's death related by one writer who tells of observing it from high ground. "B" Company was far away, northeast of Fabrica.

I had two reinforced platoons of "F" Company miles below Fabrica.  Bugang Lumber Camp was at the junction of the main line running north-south and a spur running to the east. The camp was adjacent the rail lines. Insular Lumber Company constructed these camps for their employees, consisting of small houses with roofs, sides and floors which could be taken apart and hauled on flat cars to other sites.  I do not remember any buildings there. At the site where the camp once stood, I sent the the 1st Platoon under Lt. Mathis to patrol south along the main line toward Malapasoc, and the 2nd Platoon, under Turpin,  east to follow a feeder rail line. The platoons are reversed in the "history".

The train with the 81mm mortar and the light machine guns waited at the rail junction. Before the 2nd platoon had moved more than a few hundred yards a Filipino civilian approached them and told Lt. Turpin that four Japs were in a nipa hut off to the left of the tracks a few hundred yards further ahead.

Following him they turned off the tracks on to a path which lead through the thick underbrush. After going a short distance, the path emerged into a clearing, facing a nipa hut standing in the middle of the clearing. The hut was of the type usual to the area, standing on stilts about four or five feet off the ground. The windows were covered with hinged thatch covers.

The lead element halted and stayed low behind a large log. Tony Lopez, the platoon sergeant, wanted to blast the hut with fire, but Turpin disagreed. He told Lopez he'd check the hut himself, "while you have your men cover me." He broke cover and walked out of the clearing towards the hut.

Half way towards it, "Blam!" and Turpin is dead.

Now the hut is riddled, but it is too late for Turpin. A Jap jumped out of the hut's far side and dashed into the nearby brush. They fired at him but did not know if they hit him.  After riddling the hut, they rush in and find the hut's only occupant - a woman who escaped injury by taking refuge in a big, heavily built oven.

Lt. Turpin's body was carried back to Fabrica on the train.*

At this stage the war still seemed destined to last a long time - there was still the Japanese homeland to be invaded. None of us felt our chances of survival were good. Little did we know that Turpin's death would be the last in "F" Company from enemy action. It just causes those of us who knew him to reflect, sadly, "what if?"

 

 

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FOOTNOTE

3 August 2004

*  Sir:

Could you please put me in touch with Mr. John D. Reynolds?  I would like to thank him for his "A Partial History of The 503rd Negros Mission Phase IV July 9, 1945 to Aug. 15, 1945. 

 My Dad, Byron Peebles, brought Lt. Turpin back.  The patrol was 6 men from "F" Company.

 

Thank you,

Diane (Peebles) Koobas, Mississauga, On.,