On Thursday morning, August 31, 2009, the portals of heaven opened when yet another soldier of the Lord entered God’s army. Julius and Virginia Gulden had been planning for this event - even so, it always comes unexpectedly. His life is a love story: love of his Lord, his lifelong sweetheart and his nation. Julius was a courageous, quiet yet strong, unsung hero. It is always amazing to hear an account like his; he played such a grandiose role in the history of our nation. From the beginning of his life in Pittsburgh, PA on January 8, 1921, he seemed destined for a remarkable venture. He had never been outside Pittsburgh except to attend a Boy Scout camp before joining the Army. The decision to serve his country would affect his life forever.
Julius was assigned as an Infantryman in the 80th Blue Ridge Mountain Division. The first assignment aroused a love of the south. Despite the rugged training in the Tennessee mountains, there were those occasional benefits which made being a GI not altogether unbearable. Once his company was treated to a Saturday night visit to the Grand Olde Opry on a fifteen-cent ticket. A fondness for country music was born in him then. Another time when they were on a training exercise, the company of soldiers awoke to discover they were encamped near a residence. The lady of the house appeared with hot chocolate and cookies for everyone; turns out this was the elegant residence of Roy Acuff!
PVT Gulden trained in many camps across the U.S. for the great mission that lay ahead. His entire division, 15,000 troops, ultimately sailed on the Queen Mary for their overseas assignment. He spent the first night of the voyage on top deck. After a five-day trip across the Atlantic they landed in Scotland where they were dispatched by train to South Hampton, England. The 80th Division was assigned the great distinction of serving under the illustrious General George S. Patton of the celebrated Third Army.
Their division was sent into the south of France whereupon their capability and endurance was immediately tested. The Normandy beachhead had been secured by the other divisions earlier.
General Patton ordered the 80th Division to Bastogne, Belgium, to rescue the 101st Airborne Division who were trapped there. They marched 150 miles through several feet of snow before encountering the Germans for the renowned ‘longest day’ at the infamous Battle of the Bulge. This became the longest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army until that time. Additionally, Europe was experiencing the coldest winter on record in 1944; soldiers were regularly experiencing frostbitten feet.
Despite the hardships of battle, weather, losses of comrades and complete devastation everywhere, the fighting continued across Europe. They went into Germany where Sgt. Gulden was wounded in battle and for which he received the Purple Heart. His Injuries kept him out of the war just long enough for a brief healing only to be returned to his unit. The war in Germany caused even more pain when his beloved commanding officer was killed in action. The First Lieutenant was a West Point graduate with whom he had proudly served from the beginning.
A surprising discovery was made when they came upon the shocking Buchenwald prison. Hundreds of grateful inmates were liberated by the Yanks. A short time later the Ebensee concentration camp was liberated by the Americans. The Germans were getting overrun on all fronts at this time, however, the war was far from being over for the 80th Division.
SSG Gulden was sent on to Austria with his comrades. The German Army surrendered in Austria to General Patton. Many jobs were yet to be accomplished after this celebrated event. They were ordered to march to Pilzen, Czechslovokia, because of border division differences with our Russian allies. On their first encounter with the Russians at Pilzen they were near to becoming a formidable foe. A bridge where troops from each nation met which became somewhat an impasse. The Russians were there first and they weren’t budging. The Third Army was given orders by General Patton to cross the bridge - or fire on any opposition. They followed the order! Unfortunately our government “made a deal” with the Russians and the American Army was ordered to pull back leaving the Czechoslovakians to the Russians. SSG Gulden observed the contemptible treatment of the civilians, who favored the U.S. troops, at the hands of the Russians. They were brawlers, ruthless and drank too much. It appeared governments compromised on issues that seemed so worthwhile in the beginning and involved individuals and nations. Incidentally, SSG Gulden was very proud to have served under General Patton.
Once again they were moved back into Germany where SSG Gulden was assigned to the U.S. Occupational Army. He experienced more horrors of war as our troops were assigned to every conceivable post-war duty. The 80th Division was rumored to be sent on to the war in the Pacific, however the bombs dropped in Japan kept this from becoming a reality.
In 1946 he once again became a civilian in Indian Gap, PA. He and his life-long girl-friend, Virginia, were married; they had grown up together. The little shadow-boxes on their walls containing so many medals and ribbons are sobering reminders of four years that impacted the rest of their lives in many ways. The Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Blue Ridge Holocaust Liberator Division citation along with many other acknowledgements of a dedicated serviceman are an abbreviated account of the soldier-warrior who earned and wore them.
Julius Gulden was the 318th United States veteran who was laid to rest in the “Dolly” Cooper South Carolina Veterans Cemetery outside Anderson, S.C. What an appropriate patriotic setting for a veteran and their mate. The beauty of the day could not be equalled. The simple, memorable service ending with the playing of taps was a beautiful tribute to a gallant hero and signaled a pause in the love story until the lifelong sweethearts meet again where the Son always shines.