-Ronald Lane, Rudder’s Rangers
Henry S. Golas was the son of Mary and Albert F. Golas, Polish immigrants who arrived in the United States in 1905. The Polish community began their migration to the Blackstone River Valley during the late 1800s and early 1900s when Poland was divided among Prussia, Russia and Austria. The Golas family was from Russia. The extreme poverty and lack of hope for a decent future in the homeland led many Poles to cross the ocean looking to America for a more promising future.
Image 1910 Census
The Immigrant Experience
People have a hard time when they come here - a new country, new job, new language. It makes it easier when they can live and work with people who have the same background
Mary and Albert married in 1907 and by 1910 had made their way to Worcester Massachusetts where Albert worked as a weaver in the cotton mills. Before Henry was born in 1918, Mary gave birth to two children. Henry's older brother Steve was born in 1908, however, Henry never met his second sibling who died at birth. The family later moved to Central Falls where many Polish immigrants went to work at the Pawtucket Thread Company.
Image of Pawtucket Thread Mill Company
The Factory Bell
Hark! don't you hear the factory bell? Of wit and learning 'tis the knell. It rings them out, it tolls them in,
Where girls they weave, and men they spin.
This is the strangest thing I've seen, They work their children 'fore they wean.
Like so many other mill villages, Central Falls had its own churches and schools. Golas's immediate family resided on Cleveland Street with relatives living close by one street over. They were part of a very vibrant community. The Polish immigrants joined St. Joseph's Church and participated in Polish festivals, dances, and holiday activities. The children not working in the mills attended Central Falls High School. Henry only completed one year of school.
Image of Central Falls High School RI
Image of a Navy boxing match in the 1930's (Golas not pictured)
It appears that while other students dropped out of high school during the Great Depression years to look for work, Henry dropped out and joined the Navy where he became the Pacific Fleet boxing champion. Henry later served in the Army. As a member of the 5th Infantry Regiment he was the Canal Zone heavyweight boxing champion.
Image United States Army Recruiting News Feb 1940.
Henry S. Golas is mentioned in this article.
Upon his return to Rhode Island he married Genevieve and moved to Pawtucket where he worked as a night watchman. When the United States joined the war, he was drafted in 1942 and once again entered the Army.
Image of SSgt. Golas and Lt. Saloman, with the rest of 2nd Platoon, Company C, 2nd Ranger Battalion.
The 2nd Ranger Battalion was created the year after Golas enlisted. This commando unit only accepted volunteers. Only the most physically and mentally fit soldiers were selected to become part of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. The men of this battalion were trained to scale the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and at Ponte et Raz de la Percee. This was a dangerous but necessary mission to be carried out on D-Day, the invasion of the European continent.
Golas volunteered for this unit. He advanced through the ranks quickly, becoming the 1st Sgt. of Company C. He trained with his men for a year before heading to Normandy, France across the English Channel aboard an old channel steamer, the Prince Charles. After transferring to an LCA which carried the Rangers to their ultimate fate, Golas and his men prepared themselves to complete their mission. Despite heavy losses the Rangers managed to complete their assignment.
Golas served alongside brave men including Captain Ralph Goranson and Lt. Sidney Salomon both of whom survived the ordeal on "Bloody Omaha" and lived to recount the heroic efforts of men like Henry Golas. Witnesses confirm that Golas never made it to the cliffs. Rather, he died at the water's edge where he paused to help and encourage his men to get up and get to safety.
Image of temporary grave plot
Henry was buried with his commrades in a temporary grave along Omaha Beach. Although he died on June 6, 1944, the Central Falls Community did not learn of his death until it was announced in the Providence Journal the first week in July. It seems appropriate that the residents of both Central Falls and Pawtucket reflected on the life of Henry S. Golas and his sacrifice as the nation prepared to celebrate its Independence Day.
Image of memorial service held during the opening of the first temporary American cemetery in Normandy, June 12, 1944.
1st Sgt. Henry S. Golas was awarded The Purple Heart, a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving with the United Sates military.