3

WWII vet served as 'Dorothy the Welder' in Marines

CONYERS -- The late Cpl. Dorothy Turner, United States Marine Corps, retired, was one of the few, the proud, the lady Marines of World War II.

Raised in Illinois, Turner mastered many male-dominated skills as a young woman, such as plumbing, welding and riveting.

"My dad was a trucker, and I danced many a time with teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa," said Turner in an interview conducted at Morningside Assisted Living Facility in Conyers two months before her death. Turner died on Oct. 22 at the age of 88.

Turner wanted to join the Marine Corps before the outbreak of WWII and asked her father's permission.

"My father said ... well, I can't really tell you what he said, but it meant 'No'!" said Turner.

Later, when she heard on the car radio about the attack on Pearl Harbor, she joined the Marines anyway, without telling her father.

Sent to Camp Lejeune, she spent the war doing what she already knew how to do -- plumbing, welding and riveting.

"Rosie the Riveter was a softy; the tough one was Dorothy the Welder," she said.

Although patriotic and proud, Turner did have to dodge a court-martial.

"I was sound asleep when the barracks sergeant came in and hit me on the foot to wake me up. I came up swinging and knocked her out cold," she explained.

The court-martial never materialized because in her enlistment records it clearly stated, "hates to be rudely awakened."

Turner met her husband, Bud, on a blind date.

"Bud was a Navy Seabee during WWII. He served on Guadalcanal and even put a sign on the beach that said, 'Welcome, Marines,' but the Marines failed to see the humor," she said.

Her husband also served with the Seabees in the Aleutians where he met a young soldier from Georgia named Charles West. Charles was the son of George West, owner of the West Lumber Company and the First Federal Savings and Loans.

"Now you know how we ended up in Georgia. We came South after the war to help George West build homes in Atlanta until my husband branched out on his own," said Turner.

The mother of four boys and one girl, Turner became a Gold Star mother during the Vietnam War when her son, Marine Pfc. 1st Class Michael Barry Turner, was killed in action at age 19 during the Communist Tet Offensive of 1968. He'd been in Vietnam one week.

For over 60 years, Turner bought and distributed gifts to needy children during the Marine's Christmas event, Toys for Tots. If Turner required assistance with distribution or loading, she would visit local Marine recruiters, march in, and say, "You, you, and you, get out here now. I need your help." The younger Marines never argued with Turner.

When asked to relate a secret or two about the Marine Corps, Turner said, "Well, I can't do that... If I told you, it wouldn't be secret anymore, now would it?"

On Sept. 16, the Marine Corps League Devil Dogs Detachment #952 from Duluth and the Gen. Ray Davis Marine Corps League Detachment #1188 from Monroe, plus about 100 friends, family, community leaders and Morningside residents joined a celebration of life for Turner. Included in the ceremony was a replica presentation and reenactment of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. Dozens of "hooah's" were bellowed around the fireplace.

When a young guest at the event asked Turner, "So, ma'am, you were a Marine?" Turner cut her eyes at the woman and said, "No, I am a Marine!"