Published by The West Point Alumni Foundation, Inc.
Volume X July 1951
United States Military Academy
Class of 1941
Killed in Action, June 6, 1944 in France
Aged 28 Years
Lieutenant William Gardner was killed in action fighting with the 29th Infantry Division in Normandy on “D” Day 1944. He undoubtedly died bravely; oblivious to his surroundings with but one stubborn thought in mind – to carry out his assigned mission at any cost. Bill Gardner was an individual who cared little how the ordinary course of events in his life ran, but who would launch himself whole-heartedly into anything like leading an attack in an invasion against enemies of his country. It was probably this fearless willingness to challenge anything or anybody that brought him to his untimely death.
Born in Bervely, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, Bill was raised in the atmosphere of Bar Harbor and the shadow of Beacon Hill. He dearly loved his hometown and State and was frequently to be heard expounding on the many virtues of the area to his friends and especially to the southern element of his classmates, who could always inspire him to greater heights in his arguments. Living near the seashore, his early life was absorbed with an intense interest in sea-going activities – which almost made him a candidate for the Navy. However, after graduating from Beverly High School in 1933 he decided upon a military career and then attended Stanton Military Academy, Cornwall, New York, for a year preparing for West Point. He received his appointment from his home State and entered the first time with the Class of 1940.
Bill faced his first real set of troubles in life at West Point in the Academic Department, as did many of us, an was “found” at the end of his plebe year. He managed, however, to return at Christmas in 1937, and thereafter avoided any serious trouble. He could have really excelled in his academic work, but, in characteristic fashion, he would devote hours to some favorite subject in an effort to perfect it, neglecting all the others. Then too, there was always the endless rebattling of the Civil War with his staunch southern roommate from Virginia during study hours. This rebattling, of course, was more important than any of the Math or Phil struggles.
During his first plebe year Bill was outstanding in boxing and lacrosse, and probably let his interests in them dominate his studies. After returning to West Point he never again went out for a Corps sport which hurt him quite badly, as he dearly loved all athletics.
Of course Bill had to have a nickname. To him befell the title “Porky”. In many ways it really suited him, as he was rather plump and short, and usually went about things in an unusually easy going and lackadaisical manner. However, in other respects it was
ridiculous, as he was strong as an ox, and quick with his mind or his fists. His manner was always pleasant though, and he was in every respect a gentleman. Usually a paragon of patience and calmness, he could be aroused, and was then to be seriously
Bill was a real idealist and a dreamer. The traditions and ideals of West Point meant a lot to him in his living, probably more so than the average cadet. He spent much of his time delving into the history of West Point, taking great pride in his unusual store
of knowledge. Many were the unwary plebes who quickly became well educated listening to his thundering voice reeling off little know facts about the Academy. He sincerely felt in this way that he was giving them something of value, rather than have
them merely remember the routine things that they all had to know.
In many respects Bill was more mature than his classmates, although he enjoyed a hop or a pillow fight as well as anyone. He wanted to be precise as far as manners and customs were concerned, a characteristic of his which produced a leveling and
sobering effect upon some of his unruly contemporaries. He succeeded in establishing a fine example of manhood for his associates.
After graduation Bill married Mrs. Eleanor Dixon of Greenwich, Connecticut, whom he met in his First Class year. Unfortunately, his married life was all too short, as he was ordered to Iceland with the 5th Infantry Division in 1942. He was transferred to the 29th Division in 1943, and served with that organization until his death.
Besides his widow, Bill is survived by his mother and father, of Beverly, Massachusetts; two brothers, Philip and Robert, who both served overseas in the Army in World War II; and three sisters, Mrs. Constance Herrick, Mrs. Phyllis Tendler, and Mrs. Laurel Brady.
Many times Bill Gardner as a cadet sang the “Alma Mater” and “The Corps”. He sang them with the full feeling of determination to live the words expressed in their lines. “May it be said,” that his service as an officer and his gallant death and sacrifice were, indeed, “Well Done”. That would be all he would have hoped for on earth.
First Lieutenant, United States Army
Killed In Action: 6 June 1944 At Normandy, France
Buried On 23 April 1948 in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 12, Grave 3578
I have been informed by a relative that my cousin is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Could you please verify this data and tell where the location of his grave is?
His name is William Gardner, USA, l/Lt, KIA at Omaha Beach, France on 6 Jun 1941. He was member of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division.
The 29th Infantry Division was the vanguard of the Allied attack on the hostile shores of Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The attack to begin the liberation of France will long be remembered as the beginning of the Allies' “Great Crusade” to rekindle the lamp of freedom and liberty on the continent of Europe.
1ST LT AGF USA
VETERAN SERVICE DATES: Unknown
DATE OF BIRTH: 05/04/1916
DATE OF DEATH: 06/06/1944
DATE OF INTERMENT: 04/23/1948
BURIED AT: SECTION 12 SITE 3578
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard