Admiral Matthias B. Gardner

I have not written a lot about Admiral Matthias B. Gardner. Not that I did not want to, but I had to transcribe Richard Harmer’s diary first.

This is what I found on the Internet on Admiral Matthias B. Gardner as an introduction to who he was.

Matthias Bennett Gardner
Admiral, U.S. Navy

Matthias B. Gardner was born on 28 November 1897. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 1919. Later, Gardner was designated as a Naval Aviator and at one time, was a stunt team leader.

World War II

During 1941-42, Commander Gardner was Chief of Staff in Aircraft, Scouting Force, Pacific Fleet under the command of Rear Admiral John S. McCain. On 11 July 1943, Captain Gardner took Command of the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CV-6) and remained on her until July 1944. He then briefly served as Commander, Carrier Division 11.

Later, Rear Admiral Gardner assumed command of Carrier Division Seven, “The Navy’s First Night Carrier Division.” Enterprise operated as part of “CarDiv” Seven from 16 December 1944 to 16 May 1945 and the former Big E skipper naturally chose Enterprise as his flagship.

First of its kind in naval history, the completely new carrier task group operated exclusively at night and joined the Fleet in the Western Pacific to put Admiral McCain’s fast carrier task force on a permanent twenty-four hour basis. As a former Navy fighter pilot, the wiry, dark-haired, Gardner was a veteran of Pacific air wars and was regarded as being especially qualified to head the new group. He had also served as Chief of Staff for McCain in 1942, and later on the Enterprise, which had an excellent night flying outfit.

Gardner also served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans to the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet.

On 1 June 1948, the Air Force and Navy transport services were combined to form the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). Under the single-manager concept, the cost-saving operation was to economically and efficiently implement a globe-circling function to air transport people, materiel, mail, strategic materials, and other cargo. MATS became a separate command of the Air Force commanded by Major General Laurence S. Kuter; its Vice Commander was Rear Admiral John P. Whitney. Rear Admiral Mathias B. Gardner was in command of the Pacific Division.

Vice Admiral Gardner commanded the Second Fleet from September 1950 to March 1951. He then became Commander of Sixth Fleet from Mar 1951 to May 1952.

From May 1952 to March 1953, he served as a Member of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Main Committee.

Upon his retirement in August 1956, he was advanced in rank to four-star Admiral. *

* The Act of Congress of 4 March 1925, allowed Navy officers to be promoted one grade upon retirement if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. These promotions were colloquially known as “tombstone promotions” because they conferred the prestige of the higher rank but not the additional retirement pay, so their only practical benefit was to allow recipients to engrave a loftier title on their business cards and tombstones. An Act of Congress on 23 February 1942, enabled tombstone promotions to three- and four-star grades.


Admiral Matthias B. Gardner died on 24 August 1975.


3 thoughts on “Admiral Matthias B. Gardner

  1. Wow!  Born in 1897!  He was on the Enterprise in 1944 when Dad was!

    Tom Harmer,Broker

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  2. Thank you, Pierre, for this interesting post. Articles are generally written about those individuals who were engaged in combats events and about those at the top, but rarely are they found about those “in between” who make it all happen. Also, thank you for your commentary regarding tombstone promotions. Few understand that process. Even fewer understand its signicant social effect. Through a tombstone promotion, a tombstone promotion could advance a log-serving Major’s rank to Lieutenant Colonel which would allow him to answer his telephone as “Colonel Whatever” and allow him to be addressed, in social situations, as “Colonel Whatever”. Long ago, I had a friend, now long dead, whose rank had advanced through that process. A down-to-earth man, he referred to himself as a “telephone” Colonel. Again, thanks for today’s post.


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