Quentin Golden Recalls D-Day Invasion
Editor’s Note: The following story is the first of a series about Fulton County veterans who fought in World War II that will be published each week in the “News” through Veterans Day. The series begins with Warfordsburg resident Quentin Golden, who was a gunner in the United States Army.
“Let me tell you a story,” 92- year-old Quentin Golden says nestled in the corner living room chair of his Warfordsburg home. Having lived a full life with his wife of 65 years, Ada, Quentin’s story is not just a love story but also a historic tale of camaraderie and bravery told by one of the area’s few remaining World War II veterans.
The son of Charlie and Mary (Akers) Golden, Quentin alongside his two sisters and three brothers grew up on the family farmstead located along Pigeon Cove Road. As the Fulton County native recalls it, he “wouldn’t have wanted to grow up in any place better.” Spending much of his time farming, and eventually driving bus, it was a shock to the 22-yearold when he received official notice in 1941 of his draft into the U.S. Army.
“I wasn’t happy about it. Neither were my parents,” said Quentin, who noted his family was distressed over the recent purchase of a school bus as well as the Great Cove Road house he and his Ada now call home. In addition to Quentin receiving the startling news, his brother, Earl, also known as Pete, received a draft notice from the Marines.
Worried and fearful of what the future would hold, Quentin said on May 15, 1941, he reluctantly boarded a bus in McConnellsburg bound for the Altoona Armory. On the ride to Blair County, Quentin and fellow draftee George Stenger struck up a conversation. Offering words of wisdom, George offered one solitary piece of advice to Quentin regarding Army life – don’t volunteer for anything. Of the five individuals boarding the bus here, only Quentin and George were selected for military service after having undergone a series of examinations.
By nightfall, Quentin was sworn in and had been transferred to New Cumberland. He would not be reunited with his family for many years to come due to his immediate recruitment. He also missed the passing of his mother, who would die from a stroke at the age of 56. Meanwhile, Quentin maintains it was the stress and worrying about he and Pete that eventually caused his mother’s death.
Quentin’s peacetime travels eventually took him to Fort Meade, Maryland, for basic training and onto Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia as a member of the 29th Infantry Division. The 100-mile walk between the two locations was grueling, especially during hot weather, as servicemen were only afforded one canteen of water daily.
Quentin recalls returning to Fort Meade after extensive training in the Carolinas and learning about the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. The attack caused the military to jump into action, and Quentin soon found himself walking the train tracks of Philadelphia for two months ensuring that the German enemy didn’t infiltrate the area or steal supplies.
“I was only drafted for one year, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Well, there goes my year,’” Quentin told the “News.” “ ... They got us ready to go overseas, but they didn’t tell us anything about where we were going.”
Boarding the Queen Elizabeth with paratrooper and friend George Stenger, Quentin crossed the seas to arrive in London, England, in October 1942. Using the moors as a training ground, Quentin would frequently move around the area in preparation for any unforeseen or scheduled invasion.
“We were prepared for an attack on England, but I don’t think we would have prevailed,” said Quentin. “ ... We trained hard up until D-Day, the first day in the Invasion of Normandy, France. We knew there would be an invasion, but we didn’t know June 6, 1944, would be the day.”
His training on various beaches in England, however, didn’t prepare Quentin mentally for the tragedies he would witness from the moment his boat got stuck on a sandbar not far from the shoreline. As part of the first wave of attack, Quentin stated someone had to run a rope to their boat in order for him and his squad of eight to even make it to the beach amid the rapid gunfire. The sea left behind was red with the blood of fallen military.
As a gunner, he was responsible for carrying his mortar, and therefore only had a .45 pistol as a means of protection. Retrieving a rifle from a dead soldier lying on the beach, Quentin and several other soldiers made their way to the bottom of a cliff to avoid gunfire. “When I got there I wondered where my squad leader was. I never saw him again,” said the first-class private, who led his squad through Normandy, into the hedge rows and onward to St. Lo.
“It changed the war when we took St. Lo,” said Quentin. “We moved back about two miles and just watched the Air Force make a strike with its bombs. Then we followed the path of Gen. George Patton’s tanks. He went so fast, it left a lot of Germans behind we had to fight.”
Quentin continued in combat through northern France until he was struck by flying shrapnel. He was taken to a nearby field hospital and later to England with the majority of metal having been removed from his neck. Making a full recovery, Quentin never saw combat action in Germany and was permitted to stay in England, where he worked at a warehouse and guarded prisoners. At the time of his discharge on August 15, 1945, the sergeant had earned a Purple Heart, two bronze stars and other commendations such as a combat rifleman award.
Waiting patiently at home for his safe return was his then fiance, Ada, who had never officially dated or even shared a secret smile with Quentin but had penned daily letters over a period of three years. Ada frequently tucked photographs of herself in with her correspondence that he carried with him inside his helmet.
“I didn’t want him to forget me,” said Ada, 85, who has every letter written by her husband secretly stowed away. Among those is a touching letter requesting her hand in marriage.
“I saw her at a carnival right before I left,” recalled Quentin. “I knew she was the one as soon as a I saw her.”
“She waited all of those years for me, and she could have had any man she wanted,” Quentin fondly added.
Quentin said it was thoughts of Ada and his family that kept him going throughout his time away from Fulton County. Why he survived and not others is something that only God can answer.
“The whole thing was pretty rough, but being overseas for three Christmases was the worst,” he said. “What got me through it all is that there were a lot of people praying for me. You could actually feel the people praying.”
As far as his friendship with George Stenger, the duo, coincidentally, resumed their camaraderie on the return trip to the United States. Aboard the Queen Elizabeth, Quentin and George sought out the initials they carved in the ship’s railing on their initial voyage overseas.
“It was five days going over to England and three days going back. The reason it took longer going over was because the boat went in a zig-zag pattern so we wouldn’t be hit by German torpedoes. Going home it was smooth sailing and calm waters,” he said.
Quentin and George remained in contact until George’s passing several years ago.