Known as “Hardword” because no one in the U.S. Army could pronounce his Armenian name, Krikor (Kirk) Gulezian, a sergeant in General George S. Patton’s 807th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Headquarters Company, died on Sept. 27 after a brief illness. He earned four Battle Stars in World War II.
Born in Bridgewater, Mass., on March 6, 1917, he was the son of the late Armenoohie and Nishan Gulezian of (Vehree Taghuh) Kharpert and Arapkir in historic Armenia. He was the brother of the late Hovaness (John), a World War II U.S. Navy casualty of war on the USS Meredith DD434.
Kirk was a resident of Arlington, Mass., prior to enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1941, and saw action in the European Theatre, in France, Germany, and Austria. Under the command of Col. Carlton K. Smith, the unit played a major role in the liberation of Metz, France, in 1944. Memorable moments, not pertaining to battles, included having his tooth drilled by the power of a pedal sewing machine, giving his watch with an illuminated dial to a coal miner in Holland, and meeting an Ethiopian in Germany who spoke Armenian. Over his lifetime he contributed one and a half gallons of blood to the American Red Cross.
In an oral history recorded by Gregory H. Arabian, Major, USAF (HD), Kirk noted that he was transferred from the 3rd Army to 15th Corps of the 7th Army during the battle. He said, “We were moving so fast, we paid no attention where we were assigned. We were on the go all the time, servicing all the units on the front lines anywhere and everywhere.”
On Nov. 15, 1944, with the Third Cavalry Group, he drove south along the East Bank of the Moselle River to defend and liberate Metz. “It was a tough fight into Metz,” he recounted. “I was in Headquarters Company but I had to get out into the field, through the mines, and we had to repair the vehicles on the grounds. We were both fighting and repairing the tanks. The place was loaded with mines.”
The 807th was assigned to the 95th Infantry Division, and against heavy resistance captured the forts surrounding Metz, and then the city on Nov. 22, 1944. Major General Walton H. Walker then reported to Lt. General Patton that Metz was completely secured. The 807th and 95th liberated the city; they share the title, “The Iron Men of Metz,” and were both honored 40 and 60 years later for their heroism and acts of bravery in Metz by the city.
Kirk didn’t talk about the war apart from his oral history session with Arabian; with Roger Hagopian, who produced a World War II documentary; and with close friends—except, that is, except during the movie “Band of Brothers” when he yelled out “It didn’t happen that way!” after seeing an episode his unit was involved in. He said the war was something he preferred to forget. Yet, one thing he did not forget was that on Dec. 18-23, 1944, he was in the Ardennes when the Battle of the Bulge broke out. His group was 7,000-8,000 yards south of the bulge and held that position throughout the battle. The division received a commendation from their commanding officer that describes what the 807th did: “In August 1944 you launched a drive through Northern France which must rate as one of the most spectacular coups of this war. Your bloody battle of the Saar basin breached the Maginot line, and was leading you well into the Siegfried defenses when the German Ardennes offensive began. Your magnificent force marched to Luxembourg and your spirited defense of the Duchy are now history. In February you crossed the Sauer and smashed the Siegfried line against the bitterest possible conditions of flood, winter cold, and stubborn enemy resistance. Your lightening drive to the Rhine, and vigorous exploitation of its west bank, prepared you for what was probably the first assault crossing of this ancient barrier in military history. Your dash into central Germany, well ahead of any other allied unit, proceeded to electrify our nation. You have advanced some 600 miles into the heart of Nazi Germany, conquering some 12,000 square miles. Since entering Germany alone, you have captured over 125,000 prisoners, taken such prizes as Frankfurt and Worms, seized enormous stores of Military equipment, rolling stock, and supplies, including what must have been the bulk of Germany’s gold reserve, released thousands of Nazi slaves and allied prisoners, and driven a beaten enemy into his last stronghold.”
“How did I feel about the war? I had to defend my country,” Kirk said. “I took it seriously. I was loyal. I was gung ho. … I was brought up that way. Every time I went by a Post Office I took the sign seriously that read, ‘I want YOU for U.S. Army.’ … These days, I do not think we should be involved in world conflicts. I have seen my share of action in the front lines of World War II and would hope we would not repeat it.”
He worked at General Electric in Everett, Mass., following the war, and later was the sales manager of Dodge automobiles at Crawford Motors in Watertown, Mass; and the operations manager of the European Health Spa in West Newton, Mass. He was a member of the First Armenian Church of Belmont, Mass., for over 60 years, where he served as a deacon and head usher for many years. Kirk started the Junior Usher Program at the church to involve young people in the life and service of the church. He was Santa Claus at Christmas for the church for over 10 years and at Masonic Christmas parties. He owned his own Santa Claus suit. He actively visited the sick, confined, and hospitalized throughout his lifetime, and was resident Grandpa at the Craigville Family Camp for 29 years, until his death. He was a Freemason for 65 years, Mystic Valley Lodge, Arlington. He graduated from Arlington High School, attended the Mass College of Pharmacy and later Rindge Tech to gain expertise with automobiles and motors, and also attended training at General Electric for the work he did on the aircraft under their contract.
A man is known not only by the company he keeps, but also by the contents of his wallet. Besides the photos of family, in his neat penmanship he kept the names and phone numbers of his friends, a prayer given to him by General Patton, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” statement, and the following sayings: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and will lose both” and “Today is a time to be grateful for all God has done in our lives, and a time to remember not to take anything for granted, not a single gift, or any person, or even one moment in time, for when God gives it, it is precious. “
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Elizabeth (nee Ananian) of Watertown, where they lived throughout their marriage; his children John and Colleen (McDade) Gulezian, West Newton, and Rev. Joanne (Gulezian) and Dr. Nelson Hartunian, Belmont; and is a grandfather and a great grandfather of the Gulezian, Hartunian, and Lundbohm children. A Service of Resurrection and Celebration of Life, along with recognition of his military contribution in World War II, will be held on Sun., Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. at the First Armenian Church, 380 Concord Ave. in Belmont, with Masonic Rites followed by a Memorial Luncheon with a display of his military memorabilia.
Visiting hours at home by appointment. Memorial gifts may be made in his memory to the First Armenian Church, 380 Concord Ave., Belmont, MA 02478; the 807th Tank Destroyer Battalion Newsletter, 140 Hillcrest Ave., Fayetteville, GA 30214; the Craigville Retreat Center, Scholarship Fund, 39 Prospect Ave., Centerville, MA 02632; the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA), 65 Main St., Watertown, MA 02472; or National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), 395 Concord Avenue, Belmont, MA 02478.