Joseph W. Turner joined the 125th Observation Squadron of the Oklahoma National Guard in January 1941, and was appointed a second lieutenant shortly afterwards. As an aerial photographic officer and aircraft observer, he was inducted into federal service with the 125th Observation Squadron later that year. While on active duty, he completed pilot training and was assigned to the 96th Bomb Group. He served as a B-17 pilot, operations officer, squadron commander and wing operations officer, and flew 30 combat missions with 221 combat hours in the European Air Offensive, the Normandy invasion and the Northern France Offensive. He was released as a lieutenant colonel in 1945.
Turner rejoined the Oklahoma Air National Guard in 1947 as commander of the 125th Fighter Squadron, flying the F-51. In the early days of the Korean War, he was called to active duty with the Air Guard and was assigned to command the 137th Fighter Bomber Group, flying the F-84. He was transferred to the Air Materiel Command in 1951 to become procurement officer for the B-47 Aircraft Production Program and served until he left active duty in May 1955. Following active duty, he was on reserve duty as commander of the 9176th Reserve Group, and in January 1959, he was appointed Assistant Adjutant General for Oklahoma Air National Guard and promoted to colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general the following year. Gen. Turner has more than 6,500 hours of flying time and has flown 17 types of aircraft.