Private Calvin P. Gardner (1923 - 1944)

US Army, KIA, A.S.N 33 434 139

Remembering - Private Calvin P. Gardner by Evo G. Facchine

Cal as he was affectionately known was born on November 17, 1923 in Gardner Hill, Jay Township, and Elk County, Pennsylvania.

He was the youngest of five children born to Ward Gardner, Sr. and Elodie Burke Gardner.

Their children were Nina, Ward, Jr., John, Theodore and Calvin. At this writing Nina Humble is the only survivor and lives in Hamilton, Pa. Ward, Sr. was employed in Proctor Mines while Elodie, valedictorian of the first class to graduate from Weedville Schools in 1911, was a school teacher.

Prior to entering the service, Calvin found enjoyment in farming the land and as a truck driver making deliveries for local businesses .The family lived on a farm that was given to their ancestors in 1835 by the government of the United States, ironically for services performed in the defense of their country. This story more than any other returns us to the innocent pre war days, the days before television, the days when teenagers were just teenagers, and life was void of the many distractions of today. The days when life revolved around the family and neighbors. Calvin and his brothers were typical of that day doing farm chores, and for pastime, hunting and fishing in nearby woods and streams. Their passion for hunting and perhaps for entertainment found them in the woods even at night hunting coons and shooting skunks. A story told by one of their younger cousins relates the results of one such nighttime excursion, having spotted a skunk and a deer in near proximity, Calvin took aim, after he shot, his cousin exclaimed “you missed the skunk”. As they approached the fallen deer, Calvin just gave him a big grin.

Cal became Private Calvin R. Gardner, US Army, on March 4. 1943 at the tender age of just nineteen years and three and one half months. At the time his older brothers Ward Gardner, Jr., and John were already in the service. Calvin received his basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama and became a member of Company H, 7th Regiment of the Third Infantry Division. Prior to being sent overseas , he received further training in Greenville, PA.

In only a few short months, July 8th, 1943 he was at the front in Africa. By November 4th, 1943, he was in Italy, preparing to participate in the Beachhead Assault at Anzio on January 22nd, 1944, which for four long months became the scene of one of the most courageous and bloody dramas of World War II. During that period the following article appeared in the newspaper: “WEEDVILLE SOLDIER DIRECTS FIRE AS COMRADES ROUT GERMAN SNIPERS”.

“With the Fifth Army, Italy—Sergeant Elbert Hudspeth of Elgin, Oregon, while serving with the 3rd Marne Division on the Fifth Army Front in Italy recently, decided that German snipers operating from a nearby farmhouse were getting out of hand. 

“A forward observer for a mortar squad, Hudspeth and a radio operator, Pfc. Calvin R. Gardner of Weedville, Elk County, sneaked into another farmhouse close to the snipers and began to radio fire directions back to the squad. The house occupied by the Germans soon was under concentrated fire, forcing the snipers out into the open.

“They were all taken care of one way or another” said Hudspeth. “It was a ticklish feeling having our own shells dropping so close in the house next door, but they did the work.”

According to another article Pfc. Gardner was later decorated for bravery.

August 15th, 1944 found him in Southern France, weeks later during heavy fighting in the Moselle Forest, near San Juan, France, he was killed in action. On date, September 25th 1944, Private First Class Calvin Gardner, not yet 21 years old, the baby boy of the Ward Gardner family became its first casualty. 

The Western Union Telegram confirming his death was received October 16, 1944. That telegram today is in the possession of Mrs. John (Pearl Uberti) Gardner of Saint Marys. The telegram, newspaper articles, letters from the war department, letters from the chaplain were all carefully kept in a notebook by Calvin’s mother, Elodi Burke Gardner.

Among those treasured newspaper articles is the one printed above, which gives some insight into the bravery of young Calvin Gardner. 

After his death, Private First Class Calvin R. Gardner was buried in the United States Military Cemetery, St. Juan, France, located seventeen miles northeast of Besancon, France. The Army was precise in giving the exact burial location and in the case of Private Gardner it was as follows Plot C, Row 12, Grave No. 428. In response to the desires of the parents it was the policy of the Army to return the body of a deceased soldier to the United States for final internment. In the case of Private Gardner his body was returned to the United States and was interred in the Morningside Cemetery in DuBois, PA with full Military Honors by the then new Valley Post of the American Legion Veterans of Foreign Wars from the Bennett's Valley Community of Force.

Oh, that this tragic event would end the suffering and sacrifice for the Gardner family, but that was not to be their fate. In a future article you will learn of the second son to be killed in action and of two others wounded in action. All of these casualties happened in the European Theater of Operations and all in the unbelievably short period of one hundred eight days.

It is only fitting that this article be closed with a poem also neatly kept in the notebook of Calvin’s grieving mother. The poem, entitled “The Telegram” by Eunice Mildred LonCoske reads as follows:

The same bird is calling over and over;

Our children laugh by the garden wall;

The same bees hum in the purple clover-

Oh, nothing has changed in my world at all!

The same wind lifts and the same wind creases

The starched white curtains like drifting foam;

Only my life has shattered to pieces,

Only the hearth has gone from our home.

“Lest We Forget…”