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Garner John William

John William Garner
Staff Sergeant
Serial Number:
357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division
Date of Death:
District of Columbia
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia
Section 12
Bronze Star Medal

John William Garner was born on March 30, 1919, in the District of Columbia. He was the son of Charles Jefferson Garner and Jennie E Waugh Garner. John was a native of Washington and attended St. Grabriel's School and Roosevelt High School. He was employed by Standard Press Inc., before entering the service.

John William enlisted in the Army in September 1940 and served in two theaters of war. He was in Company I, 357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division when he was killed on May 5, 1945, in an ambush at the town of Zhuri, Czechoslovakia, by German officer candidates. That day, Staff Sergeant Garner was leading his men over the verdant terrain north of the Czech border towards Zhuri. Their mission was to assist in clearing a path through hilly forested terrain for the 4th Armored Division to continue Patton’s attack north towards Prague, a mission which was subsequently aborted by Eisenhower. The regiment’s Third Battalion was given the task of clearing the town and allowing the projected advance to continue.

Zhuri was a small town with a German-speaking population. The people lived in a part of the Czech Sudetenland which was occupied by Germany before WWII fighting began in 1939. Hitler, through agitations led by Karl Henlein, had brought the region under German control in 1938, thereby splitting the region off from the rest of Czechoslovakia. People of Zhuri retained their ethnic German identity and in 1945 served as a potential hostile obstacle to the American advance. For that reason, the village became a target that had to be neutralized.

At first glance, it did not seem there was any enemy in the town. Indeed, as Garner and his men moved forward, it appeared to them that the place had already been captured by Americans. The U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry Group, a light armored reconnaissance unit, had been operating in the vicinity for several days and had encountered some desperate die-hard German resistance on May 4. In the process, at least one M-8 armored car and a quarter-ton truck had been lost to the enemy. Garner and his men observed two such vehicles partially hidden on the outskirts of Zhuri, assumed they were in American hands, and prepared to greet some friendly cavalry troopers.

Unfortunately, when the Americans got closer to the vehicles, they saw too late that a crude identifying German cross had been painted on the front of the armored car. Suddenly it moved out of its position and advanced on Garner’s squad down the main road out of the town. When the Germans opened fire, Garner and his men frantically sought cover by jumping into a shallow ditch on the side of the road. There was to be no respite for the squad as the enemy gunned down the soldiers, firing on them until all were killed.

Thus began the fateful and fierce battle for Zhuri. The rest of the Third Battalion attacked the town after artillery and mortars brought destruction down upon the heads of the German defenders. No quarter was given as Companies “I” and “K” made quick work of the resistance with Company “K” losing two soldiers in addition to Company “I”s Garner and his men.

SSgt Garner is now buried in the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA.

Source of information:,