Service Number: 340487
Birth and Early Life:
Jack Gardner was born to Walter and Florence Gardner of Onondaga, New York, around the year 1920. After Walter’s departure in the late 1920s, Florence moved Jack and his sister Ruth to Syracuse; at the age of 20, Jack was working in a local hardware store. (1)
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Gardner enlisted on January 9, 1942. He was sent to Parris Island where he trained with the Eleventh Recruit Battalion; after leaving training he was posted to Company A, First Marines.
Lieutenant Charles Brush, the company commander, decided to promote nearly two dozen of his men to Private First Class in April, 1942 – among those awarded a stripe was Jack Gardner. He trained with the company through the spring of 1942, sailed for New Zealand, and by August 7 was landing on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Five days later, he took part in a patrol escorting a group of engineers who were scouting sites for a secondary airstrip; marching through the brutal humidity took more of a toll on the Marines than enemy action, though they did learn of a Japanese presence only a few miles from the engineers’ preferred site. When the order came down to return to the area ready to fight, Gardner’s First Platoon was the unit chosen to make the combat patrol.
Date Of Loss:
The patrol left American lines on the morning of August 19, 1942. They paused for lunch near the village of Papanggu; someone’s memory of a nearby orange grove led them to continue in hopes of supplementing their diet. While on their way, they ran headlong into a group of Japanese soldiers.
In the ensuing melee, thirty-one Imperial soldiers lost their lives; three escaped into the jungle. It was a small victory for these Americans in their first combat experience – but it came at a cost. Three Marines were wounded, and three more – including Gardner – were dead. The dead were buried near where they fell, and in the following weeks of battle their graves were obliterated. (2)
Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Florence Gardner
Status Of Remains:
Buried on Guadalcanal
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
Gardner’s nephew, Jack Gross Sr., is seeking information about his uncle’s service.
(1) 1940 census. Walter Gardner does not appear with the family on census records after 1925; Florence is listed as “head of house,” but also as “married” rather than widowed or divorced.
(2) “The three dead men were left in shallow graves with their boondockers sticking out to aid recovery efforts…” Eric Hammel, Guadalcanal: Starvation Island pg 164. Hammel notes that one Marine was shot immediately upon running into the enemy, another died “in the general melee.” One of these two men was Jack Gardner; the other was Private John C. Buckhalt.