Gutierrez, Eugene

Eugene Gutierrez was born September 14, 1921 in Harlingen, Texas.  He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, and remembers well the tough times that the family went through.  His parents had a grocery store that went out of business since customers rarely had the money to pay for groceries.  Eugene graduated high school and made the decision to enlist a few months before Pearl Harbor, hoiping to use the army as a stepping stone to his education.  Basic training ensued, and Eugene was training to be a parachute packer for the USAAF.  But then Pearl Harbor happened in December 1941, and things began to change, including Eugene’s outlook on the war.  He saw a notice looking for volunteers for a special new unit, which would turn out to be the FSSF, or “Devil’s Brigade”.  Eugene volunteered and went into intense training in Montana in this special force of Americans and Canadians.  Their first mission saw them go north, looking to repel the Japanese from the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska.  Mission accomplished, they headed back to the lower 48 and were quickly Europe-bound, ready to fight in the Italian campaign.  The FSSF landed in Naples and soon was in combat near Anzio and later in Italy’s rugged interior, making their reputation in the struggle for La Difensa, the mountain at the heart of German defenses on the road to Rome. On one occasion Eugene volunteered to go behind enemy lines to rescue a wounded fellow soldier from the FSSF, something for which he earned a Bronze Star.  After their service in Italy, the FSSF led Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France, where Eugene was part of the attack on the island of Levant. With the disbanding of the FSSF, he was reassigned to the 82nd Airborne, where he ended the war.   Eugene was also interviewed by Rishi Sharma in 2016, and Rishi kindly agreed to let us use some of his interview to complete Eugene’s story.