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First Name: Joseph

Last Name: Dawson

Birthplace: Temple, TX, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Waco, TX
Middle Name: Turner

Date of Birth: 20 March 1914

Date of Death: 28 November 1998

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Years Served:
Joseph Turner Dawson

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Joseph Turner Dawson
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army

Joseph Turner Dawson was a graduate of Baylor University in the Class of 1933 with a degree in Geology. He then worked as a geologist with Humble Oil and Refining in Houston, TX, and, in 1938 he went to work with the Ren-War Oil Corporation in Corpus Christi, TX.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 1941 and, after reaching the rank of Corporal, applied for Officer Candidate School (OCS). Dawson entered OCS at Fort Benning, GA, in December 1941 and graduated in March 1942 with a commission as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. He applied for assignment to the First Division because the 'Big Red One' offered the best prospects for combat duty. 2LT Dawson was initially assigned to the 1st platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 16th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. After Major General Terry Allen assumed command of the 1st Division, 2LT Dawson was assigned to serve on his staff.

On D-Day, 6 June 1944, then-Captain Joseph Turner Dawson was serving with as Commanding Officer, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, First U.S. Army in the European Theater of Operations.

On that day, CPT Dawson's unit was in action against German forces at Normandy, France. At 0700, CPT Dawson, leading Company G, was in the initial landing on Omaha Beach. Disembarking under a hail of enemy machine gun and rifle fire, CPT Dawson organized a large group of men that were floundering near their bullet-riddled craft and led them ashore. Upon reaching the beach, he found that Company G was pinned down by direct fire from 3 German machine guns placed in a strongpoint in a cliff just beyond the heavily-mined sand. CPT Dawson moved onto the mine field from his position of cover, deliberately drawing the fire of the enemy machine guns so his men would be free to move. His heroic diversion worked and his combat group began crossing the beach to assault the enemy strongpoint. As his men did that, CPT Dawson and one man went on ahead up a narrow ravine, now known as 'Dawson's draw' from the beach toward the top of the bluff. When they were halfway up the hill, a German machine gun at the head of the small draw forced Dawson into cover. He sent his companion back to bring up the company. During this action, CPT Dawson was wounded in the knee and right leg but, ignoring his wound, he crawled from one patch of brush to another. By the time he was 75 yards from the gun, the enemy lost sight of him. Circling to his left, he came to the military crest a little beyond the machine gun, and got within 30 feet before the Germans spotted him and swung their weapon around. CPT Dawson threw a fragmentation grenade that killed the crew. This action opened the way up the little draw, although it took some time to get all of Company G up as a result of the disorganization that occurred in crossing the beach flat. However, the area opened up by Company G became a funnel for the movement of troops off the beach during the rest of the morning. CPT Dawson's outstanding leadership, courageous actions and extraordinary heroism that day earned him the U.S. Army's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross. CPT Dawson's DSC was pinned on his uniform by General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

After recovering from his wounds, CPT Dawson rejoined his unit in France, and after the break out at St. Lo, he led Company G in the Division's advance across France and into Belgium. From Belgium, the 1st Division was engaged in the Battle of Aachen, Germany, in September and October 1944. For 39 days Dawson's Company G (along with Company I) successfully held a ridge that overlooked the German city of Aachen and sat astride the main route required for the Germans to relieve Aachen, a city that Hitler had ordered to be defended at all costs. His unit repeatedly repelled enemy attacks that allowed Allied forces to eventually capture the city. The battleground was later named 'Dawson's Ridge' in his honor. CPT Dawson's G Company lost 117 out of 139 men during the battle and for that action, Dawson's command was honored with the Presidential Unit Citation.

Following the Battle of Aachen, Dawson was hospitalized. After recovering at hospitals in France and in the U.S., Dawson was promoted to Major and was reassigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) under the command of General Donovan. MAJ Dawson served for the remainder of the U.S. action in Europe during 1945 until the German surrender. Dawson was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and, after leaving active duty in the Army in 1945, he served for a number of years in the Army Reserve.

Post-Military Life

In civilian life, Dawson returned to Corpus Christi, where he continued his career as a geologist, working to develop oil and gas reserves in that region until just before his death.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Distinguished Service Cross
Purple Heart with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 4 Bronze Stars
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Combat Infantryman Badge

Distinguished Service Cross Citation

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Captain (Infantry) Joseph T. Dawson (ASN: 0-452348), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding Officer, Company G, 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 6 June 1944, in France. Captain Dawson, in the initial landing on the coast of France, disembarked under a hail of enemy machine gun and rifle fire and, with utmost calmness, proceeded to organized a large group of men who were floundering near their bullet-riddled craft and led them ashore. However, upon reaching the beach, he found that his company was pinned down by direct fire from three enemy machine guns which were placed in an enemy strongpoint in a cliff immediately beyond the heavily mined sands. With absolute disregard for his own personal safety, Captain Dawson moved from his position of cover on to the mine field deliberately drawing the fire of the enemy machine guns in order that his men might be free to move. This heroic diversion succeeded and his combat group crossed the beach to move into the assault on the enemy strongpoint. During this action, Captain Dawson was wounded in the leg. In a superb display of courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, Captain Dawson although wounded, led a successful attack into the enemy stronghold. Captain Dawson's outstanding leadership, gallantry and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army.

General Orders: Headquarters, First U.S. Army, General Orders No. 31 (July 1, 1944)


● In June 1994, on the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Dawson was selected by the Army to introduce President Bill Clinton and to speak at the ceremonies in France as the representative of the troops who landed that day.
● An elementary school in Corpus Christi, TX, is named in his honor.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Turner Dawson died on 28 November 1998 at Nueces, TX. He is buried at Seaside Memorial Park in Corpus Christi, Nueces County, TX, in Section S, 518.


Honoree ID: 312641   Created by: MHOH




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