Jimmy Gentry, a World War II veteran,
shakes hands with soldiers of the 101st Sustainment Brigade
following his story at the “Holocaust Day of Remembrance” at Wilson
Theater, April 16, 2012. Gentry spoke to the soldiers about the
impact that April 29, 1945, had on his life; that day his unit in
World War II liberated the Dachau concentration camps and its 32,000
surviving detainees. Photo by Army Spc. Michael Vanpool
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (4/19/2012) – During World War II, American
soldiers on April 29, 1945, rescued approximately 32,000 people
detained at the Dachau Concentration Camp. To Jimmy Gentry, and many
of his fellow soldiers, the importance of the day did not become
evident until many years later.
He did not tell his story for
more than 40 years after the war ended. The details from the day of
liberation are flawless, and his words are as important today as
when he started.
Gentry shared his experience for the war,
which culminated with a battle that liberated Dachau Concentration
Camp at a “Holocaust Days of Remembrance” event at the Wilson
Theater. The 101st Sustainment Brigade hosted the event.
as soldiers, do hard stuff throughout the life of our country,” said
Peterman, the brigade commander, when he introduced Gentry.
“Regardless of genocide all across the world, we, as soldiers, are
asked by our country to do step up in very hard times.”
Gentry stood up to fight in World War II at the age of
19. He was an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry
Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, and Gentry took part in
several battles in Western Europe, including the Battle of
On April 29, his unit approached the
Dachau concentration camp. The walls were taller than the
Wilson Theater, Gentry said. He had no idea what was behind
the walls, just a sense of duty to continue the mission.
“Staff Sgt. Gentry, when our
country needed him, was one of the first American soldiers
to arrive at a post called Dachau,” Peterman said.
Inside the camp, thousands of prisoners from across Europe
were standing, and they greeted the American soldiers as
they came in. Dachau, once home to more than 200,000
prisoners, was now conquered. The prisoners inside were free
Gentry left the next day with his unit, off to
another battle in another town. It would be decades before
he would mentally walk thru that day again.
he was reluctant at first to tell his story, he eventually
signed on to speak at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Shortly after that first talk, he got a phone call.
The man's accent told he was from Eastern Europe, and he
wanted to shake Gentry's hand. “You never turn down a
handshake,” he told the theater.
When they met up
after the call, they both knew, without speaking, their ties
from the day of the liberation. The man was a survivor of
Since then, Gentry has told his story to
several different audiences, he also wrote a book and filmed
“Everyone has a story to tell,
everyone has a point of view to tell,” Gentry said. “And as
you grow older, you add new chapters to your story.”
By Army Spc. Michael Vanpool
101st Sustainment Brigade
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