Captain Karl E. Gardner

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M-1 Helmet: Captain Karl E. Gardner (ASN: O-517410)

Karl Edrick Gardner was born on February 11, 1913 in Cook County, Illinois. He received his Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) with highest honors from Purdue University in 1936. Followed by his Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees from Cornell University. He joined the Army in April 1943 and was a doctor who specialized in nutrition. He was assigned as a sanitary officer to the 7th Medical Laboratory. Within that unit he had an experience which would change his life. His group helped liberate several concentration camps, and Karl found himself (as a doctor and nutritionist) in great demand. Before he knew it, he was in charge of coordinating the relief for the concentration camp survivors, prisoners of war, U.S. troops, hospital patients, and displaced European citizens. It was a 24/7 job, and one he was immensely proud of for the rest of his life. Captain Gardner served for 2 years and 11 months in active duty.

The 7th Medical Laboratory was assigned to the Third U.S. Army for operations in the European theater. As an army-type mobile laboratory, it left for the Normandy Beachhead (Utah) in July 1944 and then moved to Muneville-le-Biengard, Tirepied, and Vitré (where it picked up its lost equipment), reaching Orléans on August 22, 1944. The laboratory was divided into two sections, one on each flank of the Army, that leapfrogged along as the army advanced. The first section was stationed successively at Metz, France; and at Bad Kreuznach, Bebra, Lauf, and finally, at Gräfelfing in Germany, where it was joined by the second section which had proceeded through Luxembourg, Frankfurt, and Lauf.[1]

Of the five units which served with the combat armies, only the 7th Medical Laboratory, as noted previously, was retained in operation as part of the U.S. Occupation Forces in Germany.

After his army career, Dr. Gardner was a faculty member, teacher, and adviser of students in the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Illinois. And later was associate dean and director of resident instruction for the college from 1959 until his retirement in 1977.[2]

Karl passed away the morning of September 3, 2004.

V-Mail sent by Captain Gardner
In May 1945, Captain Gardner sent a letter home. He wrote to his wife;

“My dearest June: I started an Air Mail and left it up at Erlanger at Third Army HQ Rear. I am there a good deal of the time. Our 7th Medical Lab is at Lauf -10 miles east of Nürnberg. You should see Nürnberg –or what is left of it after Air Force demolished the inner walled city. The large stadium on edge of city is not damaged.
Just sewed on Third Army patches on my shirt, and field jacket. Had put them on my wool combat jacket 2 days ago. Have to make my bed. I sleep in my bedding roll on top of a hard bed and it is hard to make up. Blankets of course, and sleep in pyjamas Mary made. Hope it will get warm enough to sleep in shorts or cotton pyjamas. The days are warm enough. I ride a great deal in the open recon car. The work is heavy and I like it.
I picked up a large nazi flag yesterday –about 4 feet by 3 feet. Have a good Kraut helmet and officers cap for Jim. Will send when I can get a box and some time.
I got my first films developed (in Brussels and sent to me) and they show that the camera is ok. It is convenient to carry. Forgot to carry it to Regensburg last week. Saw the beautiful Blue Danube there –it was a milky green, but handsome (as water goes). How’s Jims … and Nancy’s 4 teeth!! I love them and you so much, your husband, Karl.”

[1] Laboratory Service and Research, http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/vetservicewwii/chapter11.htm
[2] Karl E. Gardner Outstanding Undergraduate Adviser Award, http://awards.aces.illinois.edu/gardner.cfm