By Ashley Rader
Gardner, who served as a motor machinist mate 1st class, was drafted in Feb. 23, 1943, when he was 20. He said he selected volunteer service and asked to be placed in the Air Force, but was sent to the Navy instead.
“They needed men for the Amphibious Force, so that is where I went,” he said.
Gardner completed basic training in Bainbridge, Md., then finished diesel engine training in Richmond, Va. He said the recruits had to show some knowledge of diesel engines to be selected for that area of duty.
He said he had some experience with engines growing up on a farm in Bruno, Va.
His father operated a grist mill and used engine-powered tools in his work. His grandfather also used a number of engine-powered tools when working on his 150-acre farm, where Gardner helped out.
During his 38 months in the Navy, Gardner was stationed on two landing ship-tanks in the Pacific Ocean. The LST could carry 17 tanks and up to 400,000 pounds of 40mm and 20mm ammunition. The Amphibious Force would drive the LST onto the beach and to drop off the Marines and the tanks so they could secure the island.
“The Marines had the hard job,” Gardner said. “We carried Marines into the beach so they could land. Then we would wait until they secured the island.”
During his time in the Pacific, Gardner was stationed first in the Marianas Islands at Saipan and Tinian, then at Peleliu.
On the LST, Gardner helped maintain the engines and pumped fuel to the kitchen. He said the kitchen staff cooked using diesel fuel. He said they had to pump enough fuel to the kitchen to fill a 50-gallon tank without overflowing the fuel.