Tuesday, February 07, 2012

TFH 2/7: 1LT James A. Gardner, USA

James Gardner was born on this day in 1943. On his 23rd birthday in 1966, this young, two-year Army officer truly showed what it means to lead from the front. For his leadership and supreme courage in the face of the forces of tyranny, he was recognized with our Nation's highest honor.


Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. Place and date: My Canh, Vietnam, 7 February 1966. Entered service at: Memphis, Tenn. Born: 7 February 1943, Dyersburg, Tenn. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Gardner's platoon was advancing to relieve a company of the 1st Battalion that had been pinned down for several hours by a numerically superior enemy force in the village of My Canh, Vietnam. The enemy occupied a series of strongly fortified bunker positions which were mutually supporting and expertly concealed. Approaches to the position were well covered by an integrated pattern of fire including automatic weapons, machine guns and mortars. Air strikes and artillery placed on the fortifications had little effect. 1st Lt. Gardner's platoon was to relieve the friendly company by encircling and destroying the enemy force. Even as it moved to begin the attack, the platoon was under heavy enemy fire. During the attack, the enemy fire intensified. Leading the assault and disregarding his own safety, 1st Lt. Gardner charged through a withering hail of fire across an open rice paddy. On reaching the first bunker he destroyed it with a grenade and without hesitation dashed to the second bunker and eliminated it by tossing a grenade inside. Then, crawling swiftly along the dike of a rice paddy, he reached the third bunker. Before he could arm a grenade, the enemy gunner leaped forth, firing at him. 1st Lt. Gardner instantly returned the fire and killed the enemy gunner at a distance of 6 feet. Following the seizure of the main enemy position, he reorganized the platoon to continue the attack. Advancing to the new assault position, the platoon was pinned down by an enemy machine gun emplaced in a fortified bunker. 1st Lt. Gardner immediately collected several grenades and charged the enemy position, firing his rifle as he advanced to neutralize the defenders. He dropped a grenade into the bunker and vaulted beyond. As the bunker blew up, he came under fire again. Rolling into a ditch to gain cover, he moved toward the new source of fire. Nearing the position, he leaped from the ditch and advanced with a grenade in one hand and firing his rifle with the other. He was gravely wounded just before he reached the bunker, but with a last valiant effort he staggered forward and destroyed the bunker, and its defenders with a grenade. Although he fell dead on the rim of the bunker, his extraordinary actions so inspired the men of his platoon that they resumed the attack and completly routed the enemy. 1st Lt. Gardner's conspicuous gallantry were in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army. 

Had he lived, today would have been James Gardner's 69th birthday. We thank him, and all those who prematurely lost their lives, in the defense of our Nation and its ideals. Lieutenant Gardner is listed on Panel 5E, Line 11 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He rests in Fairview Cemetery, Dyersburg, TN.

On August 14th, 2009, his surviving family donated his Medal of Honor to his Vietnam unit, the 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, KY. The 327th Infantry, "Bastogne Bulldogs",  forms the core of the 101st's 1st Brigade Combat Team today.

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