96-year-old Navy veteran of Pearl Harbor attack to receive honorary degree from UMass

A 96-year-old Navy veteran and Amherst native who survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will receive an honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in recognition of his service.

Leonard Gardner will receive the degree from UMass Amherst chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy in a ceremony at the university’s Old Chapel in the spring.

Gardner was a 20-year-old signalman aboard the destroyer USS Reid on Dec. 7 1941, when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place. He was not wounded and continued to serve on the Reid until 1944, UMass said.


Gardner was discharged from the Navy in 1946 and enrolled at Massachusetts State College — which would become the University of Massachusetts in 1947 — through the GI Bill. There he met his future wife, Doris, who was already a student pursuing a sociology degree. They married in 1947.

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Gardner went on to graduate cum laude with a history degree and continued his education at Stanford University, where he earned his master’s degree. He accepted a post at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., in 1950 and later participated in the development of the Polaris missile. He also served with the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, joined the National Science Foundation in 1963, and retired from federal service in 1977.

The Gardners later moved to Lake Monticello in Fluvanna County, Va., where Leonard became the editor of a local paper and chairman of the local Republican Party. He was elected a county supervisor at age 70 and served in that role for 12 years, including three as chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

Gardner has also edited and published a newsletter for USS Reid veterans and has attended several reunions with former members of its crew.

According to USS Reid 369, a website about the ship maintained by Gardner, the Reid was built in Kearney, N.J., by the Federated Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. and commissioned in November 1936. The Reid was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and first ported in San Diego, until it was moved to Pearl Harbor in 1939.


When the attack on Pearl Harbor began, the Reid was in a dismantled state for servicing. The destroyer was quickly repaired and left the harbor by mid-morning and would go on to circle Oahu with several other ships to search for Japanese forces.

The Reid remained in service until it was sunk by Japanese airplanes on Dec. 11, 1944, near Leyte. Seven planes crashed on or near the Reid in less than two minutes that afternoon, destroying the ship on impact and with damage from explosives they carried, and killing 103 of its crew.

Ben Thompson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Globe_Thompson.