Following the U.S. entry into World War II, Turner assumed additional duties as assistant chief of staff to Admiral Ernest J. King. In this dual capacity, he played a significant role in strategic planning for the Pacific Theater. In July 1942, he became commander of the Amphibious Force, South Pacific, and he directed most U.S. amphibious landings in the Pacific during the war. "Terrible Turner" had a reputation for being both brilliant and hot-tempered. His first operation involved the amphibious landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi in August 1942. Turner also had charge of amphibious assaults in the central Solomons: Russell Island (February 1943) and Rendova Island (June 1943). As U.S. forces readied for their drive through the Central Pacific, he received command of the Fifth Amphibious Force, U.S. Fifth Fleet.
Turner planned and commanded the landings against the Gilbert Islands of Makin and Tarawa (November 1943). In early 1944, he also had charge of the landings against the Marshall Islands of Kwajalein (January–February 1944) and Eniwetok (February 1944). He was promoted to vice admiral in February 1944.
In March, Turner became commander, Amphibious Forces Pacific, while simultaneously retaining command of the Fifth Amphibious Force. He directed the June–August invasions of the Mariana Islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. He also commanded the amphibious forces in the onslaughts against Iwo Jima (February 1945) and Okinawa (March–June 1945). In May 1945, in the midst of the Okinawa Campaign, Turner received promotion to admiral, and he next worked on plans for the invasion of Japan (Operation olympic), scheduled for the fall of 1945. He attended the Japanese surrender ceremonies on 2 September 1945 in Tokyo Bay.
Following the war, Turner served as U.S. naval representative on the UN Military Committee until his retirement in July 1947. Richmond Kelly Turner died in Monterey, California, on 12 February 1961.
R. Kyle Schlafer
Alexander, Joseph. Storm Landings: Epic Amphibious Battles in the Central Pacific. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997.; Coletta, Paolo E. "Admiral Richmond K. Turner." In Stephen Howarth, ed., Men of War: Great Naval Leaders of World War II, 363–379. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.; Dyer, George, C. The Amphibians Came to Conquer: The Story of Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner. 2 vols. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971.