A well-known retired football coach played a key part in the liberation of Dachau, the first of many concentration camps established by Germany's Nazi regime.
April 29 is the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Dachau where tens of thousands of prisoners died over a 12-year period.
As the decades wear on, concern grows that the Holocaust will be all but forgotten.
For a Franklin man who was one of the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the camp as a liberator, that is something he never wants to see happen.
Jimmy Gentry was 19 years old when he liberated Dachau. Now at 92, he vividly recalls what he saw, so the rest of the world doesn't forget.
As Gentry thumbs through albums filled with pictures of his days in the 42nd Infantry, some pictures bring back fond memories.
As he gets deeper into the album, his tone grows more serious as he looks at one of his last missions in the final days leading up to Germany's surrender - the part of the album is filled with pictures of the prisoners at Dachau.
Decades have not dimmed his memory of what he witnessed on April 29. What he smelled that day also evokes particular memories as well.
"The smell was horrible, we thought, golly, what is this. someone suggested the Germans were using poisonous gas," said Gentry.
The pungent order was Zyklon-B gas to kill the prisoner. It was an overwhelming site for this then 19-year-old soldier from Franklin to take in.
"Someone said this is a concentration camp, that's the first time I heard that word. We had been in combat for quite some time, we knew what death was, the horrors of war, we didn't understand why all these pitiful people were there, they were nothing but skin and bones," said Gentry.
As all of this was unfolding before him, Gentry encountered a prisoner who approached him and gave him a box.
"So I opened the box, inside, was five cigarette butts that he had saved, this was his treasure, that's all he had, he gave em' to me," said Gentry. "He had no other way of saying thank you, except, I'll give you my cigarettes."
When Gentry returned to Franklin after the war, he became a football coach at Battle Ground Academy, Franklin High School and later at Brentwood Academy.
It was on the Brentwood Academy practice field 35 after the war that an astonishing incident happened, an elderly man slowly made his way closer and closer to Gentry.
"Oh, gosh, I broke down, I know who it is, he came over, we embraced, both of us were crying, he's the man who wanted to furnish me with the cigarettes, the same man, that's a miracle," said Gentry.
Gentry was filled with emotions as he recalled the story.
For decades Gentry was silent about what he saw until that same man urged him to tell his story.
"He said, if you don't tell it, people will say it didn't happen, and if they say it enough. then people will believe it never happened," said Gentry.
Gentry has traveled from California to Pennsylvania talking to groups about what he witnessed at Dachau.
He particularly focuses on young people, he fears as the decades wear on, young people will forget about the Holocaust.
He is reminded of the saying those who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it,
Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.