Harlan Gardner of Marshfield enlisted in the U .S. Marine Corps on August 28, 1942. He went to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. and to Aerial Ordnance and Gunnery schools in Jacksonville, FL. He was attached to Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 131 and trained as rear gunner and radioman in Grumman Avengers. He sailed from San Diego, Calif., March 29, 1944 and arrived at Esperito, New Hebrides Islands April 15, 1944 (his 22nd birthday) for more training. He flew to Guam August 13, 1944 and from there flew offshore on antisubmarine patrols for eight months.
May 19, 1945 he arrived at Ie Shima, just off Okinawa, and commenced flying support missions for ground troops and flew more submarine patrols where they lost some planes and crews. They endured the almost daily, heavy kamikaze attacks. During late May and early June 1945, heavy rains made the supply routes of the First Marine Division on Okinawa completely impassable and they were in critical need of supplies. VMTB made over 150 very dangerous, low-and-slow parachute drops to them during this period, with over 90 percent on target.
In “The History of Marine Aviation,” Robert Sherrod states: “But for the air drops the whole momentum of the drive southward, where General Ushijima holed up for the last time, might have been lost.” For these drops VMTB-131 received a Presidential Unit Citation. Flight crews received air medals.
Harlan Gardner lives in Marshfield with Dorothy, his wife of 59 years.