I, Leonard E. Gardner, was born at Lund, Nevada, June 21, 1920, the youngest of ninechildren born to George Cannon and Isabella Forsyth Gardner.
I went through a rather normal period during my school years but not too ambitious toward it. I didn't go to college, as the year after graduating from the Lund High School, my brother Cannon(Pete) was in Salt Lake City most of the winter with sinus trouble, so that left me to do what had to be done at home. If I ever in my life had to work, it was that winter. The next winter I was planning on going to school, but late in the summer, almost after I had my bags packed, President Fred C. Horlacher stopped me, on a Sunday afternoon as a bunch of us were riding around, and he asked me if I would go on a mission. I said, "I don't think my parents can send me." He said,"We have asked them and they have said you can go." So I said right then and there that I would go. I hadn't planned for it and probably wasn't worthy of it, but the Lord helped me to say "yes" I guess. So I received my call and in January 1940 I went on my mission to the Western States Mission and served until January 1942.
When I returned home my cousin, Milton Gardner, was Bishop. Two days after my return I went in as First Counselor in the Lund Ward Bishopric. I didn't have to go into the service but they were starting to draft married men. I was single so I decided to get in the Army Air Corp. Evidently Sister Ivins had pulled too many of my teeth, and the Air Force wouldn't accept me. I was in Salt Lake City so I went down to the Navy headquarters and took a special exam to go into the Navy and into radar. Somehow I passed so I was in the Navy.
I started Navy School at Treasure Island, then back to the Oklahoma A and M; and then toCorpus Christi, there to be trained in radar, to be in the Navy Air Force as a radar technician. My assignment from that point on was with either bomber or torpedo squadrons aboard aircraft carriers.
In early May of 1945, while in the waters just off Okinawa, aboard the carrier, Bunker Hill under the command of Admiral Michener, we were attacked by two Kama Kazi planes. This was about 8:00 a.m. We had had a flight off at about 3:30 that morning and the planes were all gassed and armed for another flight. The officers were being briefed and I was in the enlisted men's ready-room waiting for the pilots. I was attached to the torpedo squadron at this time, with 18 planes aboard. I didn't fly much but when I did, it was usually with the pilot as his radar man. On this day, at about the time noted, we were attacked. The first plane dropped an armor piercing bomb, that was to have exploded in our engine rooms; but came in at an angle and it went down through the ship and out through the side, below water line, before exploding. The plane then came on in and crashed in the middle of all our planes that were parked ready for takeoff.
The second plane dropped a phosphorous bomb with an instantaneous fuse, and hit right in the middle of the ship, to the side of the bridge, and blew a hole from the bridge to the ship's side. Our pilots' ready-rooms and group commanders' area, and the ship's radio and radar repair shops were blown out completely, with them all being killed. The plane came on in and rammed the base of the bridge, ending up in a stair well, making it impossible to go thru that area. The wall between us and the officers was blown out, and of course, being a phosphorous bomb, everything was on fire. I, except for a slight shrapnel wound in the forehead and a little burn, was not hurt. I attempted to go out a door onto a cat-walk in the center of the ship, above the hangar deck, but when I opened that door everything was ablaze; so I headed back to the door opening up to a cat-walk on the outside of the ship. As I got out, another crewman by the name of McCain, from St.Louis, got out, but no one else came out. The skippers' launch was right by our door, and looked to us like the only way out, as it looked like we were trapped.
We decided to go back in and try to find others and help them out. Even tho' fire was everyplace, and it was smoky and awfully dark, we each got two wounded men back out. But by then the skippers' launch was on fire. We were right close to an elevator on the side of the ship that was used to take the planes from the hangar deck to the carrier deck. We finally managed to get around the fire by way of this elevator, with the two wounded men we each had. The four men were later transferred to a hospital ship.