Special notice:

COL Thurman passed away in Elizabethtown, Kentucky on the 24th of February. Visitation is on 26 Feb from 1730-2000 and the Funeral will be 27 February at 1000 AM at the Nelsen Edelen Bennett Funeral Home, 2072 S Dixie Blvd, Radcliff, KY 40160. Burial will follow in the Kentucky State Veterans Cemetery at 1100.

At the Blackhorse Association Reunion in Louisville in 2013, COL Thurman was inducted into the Honorary Rolls of the Regiment by COL Lanier Ward, the 65th Colonel of the Regiment. The nomination document reads as follows:

JW Thurman enlisted in the United States Army in March 1966, attended the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a 2LT, Field Artillery. JW was subsequently assigned to the Republic of Vietnam where he served in the 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment from September 1968-August 1969 as an Aviation Section Commander. On December 30, 1968, then 1LT Thurman was awarded the nation’s second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). He was one of only twenty-eight Blackhorse DSC recipients from the Vietnam War. His DSC citation reads partly as follows:

While serving as a helicopter commander on a visual reconnaissance mission between Lai Khe and Tan Binh, a Viet Cong soldier was seen hiding in a stream and was killed. LT Thurman banked his ship and engaged several more Viet Cong spotted at the same site. Although he was advised that there was an estimated forty Viet Cong in the area, he landed to capture prisoners who might provide valuable intelligence information. He and the crew chief armed with pistols and the door gunner with a rifle advanced upon the dead Viet Cong. Moments after LT Thurman shot and killed the Viet Cong hidden in a stream, he and his two companions came under intense fire from other concealed enemy soldiers. LT Thurman signaled to his co-pilot to take off in the helicopter so it would not be hit by enemy rounds. The three men then advanced, securing two wounded Viet Cong and killing two more who jumped out of the water. Receiving fire from a sniper in a tree, LT Thurman crawled under the tree and killed him. After four infantrymen arrived to give assistance, he maneuvered forward with one of the men, but a Viet Cong sprang from his hiding place and mortally wounded the infantryman. LT Thurman quickly engaged and killed the aggressor, only to come under attack from another enemy soldier located on higher ground. Realizing it was useless to proceed alone, he returned to his comrades and established a secure position. When more reinforcements arrived, he and his crew returned to their ship from which they continued to provide covering fire and aerial observation for the ground troops. During the ensuing battle, they landed twice to evacuate casualties.

Following Vietnam, then CPT Thurman was awarded a branch transfer to Armor and served in a wide range of Armor and Cavalry command and staff assignments to include commanding the 3rd Squadron, 12th Cavalry, 3rd Armored Division. Following graduation from the US Army War College, Colonel Thurman was assigned as Chief, Armor and Cavalry Tactics and subsequently as Director, Armor and Cavalry Tactics, The Armor School, Fort Knox, KY. Colonel Thurman influenced a broad range of Armor and Cavalry officers with extraordinary leadership and expert knowledge of maneuver warfare. His contribution to the Blackhorse and the family of Armor and Cavalry was singularly distinguished, not only by extraordinary heroism in combat but by molding a generation of young Armor and Cavalry officers. At the new Armor School at Fort Benning, GA, there is a classroom dedicated to COL Thurman in recognition to his legacy of quality instruction and mentorship of young leaders. In addition to the DSC, Colonel Thurman’s awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross (1 OLC), Bronze Star, Purple Heart (1OLC) and the Air Medal with V and 23 OLC.

He was a member of the Blackhorse Association for 44 years.

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