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.
“We, as soldiers, do hard stuff throughout the life of our country,” said Col. Michael
|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 the Bulge.
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 again.
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.
Although 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 Dachau.
Since then, Gentry has told his story to several different audiences, he also wrote a book and filmed a documentary.
“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
Provided through DVIDS
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