An Armor Officer in World War II

An Armor Officer in World War II

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Every soldier has a story, but not every soldier tells it. In World War II, Colonel Henry Gardner kept a written record of his experiences in uniform. His diary entries and personal letters are the basis of 1,271 Days a Soldier, the latest title in the AUSA Book Program

Gardner’s story tracks the course of the war from his preparations for action after Pearl Harbor to his deployment to North Africa and his part in the battle at Kasserine Pass, then through the long slog fighting up the Italian peninsula, where he saw action in Anzio, Cassino, and Rome before reaching Lake Como. Dominic Caraccilo edited Gardiner’s papers and supplemented the information with footnotes, photographs, and maps to tell the full tale in 1,271 Days a Soldier.

The AUSA Book Program sat down with Caraccilo to discuss the new book:


AUSA: How did you initially encounter Colonel Gardiner’s papers? 

Caraccilo: In the mid-1990s, I served as an Assistant Professor for Systems Engineering at West Point. It was there that I came across the boxed diaries, letters, and papers belonging to Colonel Gardiner in the Cadet Library Archives. 


AUSA: What led you to create this edited collection?

Caraccilo: What led me to peruse the top floor archives was a parallel effort to edit and publish Surviving Bataan and Beyond: Colonel Irvin Alexander’s Odyssey as a Japanese Prisoner of War. Much like the effort I put into editing Alexander’s story, capturing Colonel Gardiner’s notes, diaries, letters, and manuscripts was an intriguing prospect for a book especially since his experiences in Northern Africa, Kasserine, and Italy are often referenced in other works. Compiling it into one volume gives the reader access to this resource replete with dozens of footnotes in an organized single volume. 


AUSA: Why are mid-level officers’ accounts of the war so difficult to find?

Caraccilo: The diaries kept by World War II soldiers are very rare, given that keeping a chronological journal was generally forbidden due to the danger of its falling into enemy hands. Gardiner’s work is one of the few that made it through the war intact, especially at this magnitude.


AUSA: Which of Gardner’s experiences resonated most strongly with you?

Caraccilo: Commanding in battle is an honor few experience. Gardiner’s time as a commander in North Africa, most notably at Kasserine Pass, is well documented and this book highlights the valor he displayed as a tank commander during that fight. 


AUSA: What do you have in mind for your next project? 

Caraccilo: I tend to alternate between strategy and history. I am next interested in putting together a think piece, much like my Beyond Guns of Steel: A War Termination Strategy.


To order a copy of 1,271 Days a Soldier, please visit