Waterloo WWII Veteran shares remarkable stories - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo WWII Veteran shares remarkable stories

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- A Waterloo veteran of World War II visited the Five Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum Friday.  91-year-old Roland Gardner was honored with a special visit to the museum because his health will prevent him from being able to go on the Honor Flight out of Waterloo in May.

Gardner and his family shared his incredible stories from his service as they toured the museum.

"I was a sergeant," Roland Gardner said talking about his time as a cook after joining the armed forces in 1941. 

Gardner was one of six brothers from the Cedar Valley to join up after the United States entered the war.  Four brothers joined the Navy, Roland and another brother joined the Army.  As Gardner looked around in the museum Friday morning, he shared a story of when he was once a cook.  Roland said he and another cook went out one night and were stopped by military police.

"Halt!" Roland repeated what the officers said to him and the other cook that night in Maryland.  He continued before chuckling, "and we halted.  He said you're under arrest we're going to put you in jail. And I said, boy, if we're in jail, what are you going to eat for breakfast? And he said boy, I never thought about that." 

This next story sounds like something straight out of a movie many of us know.

"Legend has it that at some point my grandmother wrote a letter to the President," said Roland's son Donald.  Donald continued, "My grandmother wrote I sent six sons to the war, only one is uninjured, two are dead, could you please protect him?"

"They come up with the idea that she had already lost two, my mother had lost two boys in the service and they weren't going to put another in danger," Roland Gardner said.

"And at that time he became General Smith's cook," Donald Gardner continued the story.

"He says I'll tell you where to go and it's my fault if you don't make it," Roland Gardner said referring to the comments General Smith made to him.

Gardner served up dishes at a castle in Versailles, France, feeding the top brass of the allied forces.

"I don't know how he managed to do it, but he was on the flight home with President Eisenhower, to our knowledge the first flight home after the way," Donald Gardner said about his father Roland.

A picture from the Waterloo Daily Courier captured the story. Roland Gardner was pictured fourth from the bottom of men on the stairs up to the plane.

"So he hobnobbed with President Eisenhower and General Smith. In fact, he says my father's stubborn and could never take orders. He was a good cook but they wanted him to go to Washington when he came back, but he wanted to come back to Iowa," Donald Gardner said.

Roland Gardner returned to Iowa after the war and worked  at the John Deere Foundry for 30 years.  He now lives at Care Initiatives Hospice.

After seeing the Veterans Museum, the 91-year old says it's a great place to learn anything you'd want to know about what the war was like.

Online Producer: Mike Verlo

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