Private First Class Thomas "Tommy" Harry Gardner (1925 - 1944)

375th Infantry, WWII - Normandy, Purple Heart

Veteran Thomas Harry Gardner

Remembering - Private First Class Thomas Harry Gardner by Evo G. Facchine

Thomas Harry Gardner was one of only two children of Bruce and Margaret Turley Gardner of Spring Run, Jay Township, Elk County, PA. Both Tommy and his brother Jack were in military service in World War II. Jack survived the war, married Rita Means, of Saint Marys, they had two children Vance and Jacqueline, who resided in Saint Marys at the time of Jack’s untimely death at the age of forty two in June of 1963.

The above details concerning Jack are given in the hopes that a reader may aid the writer in obtaining more information about the tragic story of Tommy. Also it should be noted that the writer was unable to establish any relationship between the Bruce Gardner and Ward Gardner families. A relationship, though distant, does seem quite likely.

Although the information on Tommy’s date of induction into the service is not available, there can be no question that he was little more than eighteen years old. It is believed that he was drafted prior to finishing high school. According to those that knew him prior to his induction, he was a quiet, timid youngster who found it hard to understand why he had to go to war, saying “I’m not angry with anyone”. He was born on August 24, 1925, and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, two and one half months prior to his nineteenth birthday.

On D-Day plus 3 or June 9, 1944, Private First Class Thomas Harry Gardner, a member of the 357th Infantry, was seriously wounded in the fight to establish and maintain the Beachhead at Normandy. Returned to a Military Hospital in England, Tom died of his wounds on October 5, 1944.

As was the policy of the Government, at the request of the family, the body of Private First Class Thomas Harry Gardner was returned to the states and now rests in the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA. Row upon row of grave markers are there for veterans from World War II to the present time, along with those that gave their life in the Civil War. In the more than seven sections reserved for said veterans, Pfc. Thomas Harry Gardner rests in Section 2R, Row C, Position 13.

Bruce E. Gardner and his wife Margaret Turley Gardner, out lived their only two children, Mr. Gardner died on December 22, 1973, while Mrs. Gardner, who spent her last seven years living with her niece, June Reasinger Anderson in DuBois, died June 26, 1997 at the age of ninety five.

Regretfully we may never know the full story of the suffering and pain endured by this young hero, but he was a hero no less. Three days on the beaches of Normandy and more than seventy days of recuperation in an English Hospital, and a life that was cut so short, certainly qualifies him for that honor. His family like all others sadly missed and mourned his loss for many long years and in the case of his “Gold Star Mother” it was fifty three long years, put in proper perspective it was more than nineteen thousand days.

Had this story been written just five short years ago we could have been told directly of the picture, so indelible etched in the minds of Tommy’s mom and dad, of the hugs and the wave’s good-bye on that day that Tommy left, following the one short furlough the Army allowed him. Leaving, surely to go to War. And as destiny would have it, never to return. 

Like all soldiers wounded or killed in action, Tommy was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Again, a poem seems as appropriate as an ending to this story. It was written by Genevieve Perrine Cheney, entitled, “Let’s Remember”

Some return with wounds and medals,

Heroes brave and true,

Yes, we welcome them among us-

Honor is their due.

But while heroes live among us,

May we not forget

Those who fell on foreign soil

Where they’re sleeping yet.

Those who loved them will remember

How their lives they gave;

But the world will soon forget them

In their foreign grave.

Freedom in our daily living

We enjoy today.

Let’s remember those who won it

In the bloody fray.

“Lest We Forget…”