PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Before he set foot in Nagasaki, Japan, where the last atomic bomb was dropped on a human population, David Turner thought he had seen the worst.
The young Navy corpsman had served on Guadalcanal, the longest campaign of World War II in the Pacific. He had crawled through jungles and tried to keep wounded soldiers from dying. On ship, only fate spared him from kamikaze attacks.
Nothing prepared him, however, for the day he spent in the remains of Nagasaki.
He suffered radiation exposure from his 12 hours in the seaport, but went on to a distinguished 34-year career in the Navy, retiring as a commander.
Mr. Turner, one of a dwindling number of Americans who witnessed the effects of nuclear destruction first-hand, died Dec. 1 in hospice care after a lingering illness. He was 90.
Mr. Turner told his sons about entering a ghost town.
‘‘The [Japanese] surrender had not occurred,’’ said Daniel Turner, 59. ‘‘But he said there was no resistance. Nobody was even around.’’
Mr. Turner recalled checking a survivor’s forehead for fever, only to have the skin come off.
He also served during the Korean and Vietnam wars, retiring as a commander in 1974.
In 2004, he accompanied a group of veterans to the World War II Memorial. In front of a Guadalcanal memorial he broke down and wept, said his wife, Kay. ‘‘I think at that point everything came back to him.’’