Private First Class John B. Gardner (1920 – 1994)
US Army 101st Airborne – The Screaming Eagles – WWII – Europe
Remembering – Private First Class John B. Gardner – MZHS “Hero of Air Power”
John B. Gardner, a son of Ward and Elodie Burke Gardner of Gardner Hill, is honored differently than the other veterans here. He was not in the AAF, nor was he a pilot or traditional AAF crewman, he was neither killed-in-action nor a POW, nor was he a career aviator. Prior to America entering the war, John had applied to enter the Royal Canadian Air Force. Before that occurred America entered WW2, and he joined the US Army. As a Squad leader in the famous 101st Airborne Division, John represents the Army’s airborne “Sky Soldiers” as a paratrooper and an airborne glider infantryman. He received air wings, flight status, and flight pay. They too represent “Heroes of Air Power”.
John, a graduate of the 1939 class of Weedville High School that included: Belva Beck, Beulah Beck, June Bricen, Christine Bilodeau, Angeline Carpin, Rose DeCarli, Angelena DeLullo, Mary Dill, Genevieve Garvey, Gula Lovenduski, Aileen Merley, Dorothy Osminski, Lottie Skrzypek, Marguerite Russell, Pearl Thomas, Grace Thomas, George Berasi, Victor Carobine, Carl Carson, Albert Caruso, Rico Gusmerotti, Clark Ingram, Steve Krasinski, Vincent Lease, Frederick Liptak, Bernard Moore, Victor Meloni, Joseph Paretti, Geno Panighetti, John Olewnick, Joseph Paretti, Victor Reed, and John Youngmark.
John gained his first feel of aviation by working for the Curtis Wright Company in Buffalo, NY. In July 8, 1942 he enlisted in the US Army, trained at Ft Benning, and soon was a member of the elite 101st Airborne Division. Pfc. Gardner served in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, and England.
On June 6, 1944, the 101st Airborne Division first saw combat during the Normandy invasion. In the pre- dawn hours of D-Day, Pfc. John B. Gardner jumped into enemy territory past Utah Beach, and continued with his group fighting the enemy. His next major event was the Battle of the Bulge where John entered this battle zone in an Army glider. The 101st were at one time surrounded by the Germans at Bastogne. Ironically his brother, Theodore, in Patton’s Third Army, was rushing to rescue the surrounded 101st which included John Gardner.
The Battle of the Bulge was considered complete on January 25, 1945. By then the 101st Airborne was famous for its refusal to surrender to the Germans on December 22, with the famous response of “Nuts” and was now known as the “Battered Bastards of Bastogne”. In this encounter Pfc. John B. Gardner had been wounded on January 10, 1945.
In addition to proudly wearing the silver airborne wings, John was entitled to wear the European Theater of Operations ribbon, Purple Heart, Good Conduct and Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge (3 stars). John had two brothers (Calvin and Theodore) who paid the supreme sacrifice for their country, and a third brother (Sunny) who was wounded in action- all in WW2. What a period of time this must have been for the Gardner parents. John Gardner arrived at the Valley Forge General Hospital, Phoenixville, Pa., on April 1, 1945 for treatment of shrapnel wounds received in Belgium. John was soon discharged from the Army and returned home to live a long and successful life as a construction foreman at Burke Brothers and he belonged to the VFW and the Valley American Legion. He passed away April 1994 in St Marys, leaving his wife Pearl Uberti whom he married in 1946. He received full military rites, and was buried in the Morningside Cemetery in Dubois.
The Mt Zion Historical Society is proud to include John Gardner in its “Heroes of Air Power”.
“Lest We Forget…..”