World War II veteran turns 100
He may be 100 years old, but that didn’t stop him from celebrating Friday night.
LaGrange native and World War II veteran Albert Jenkins celebrated his 100th birthday Friday with his family and friends.
Jenkins was born on Jan. 7, 1920, in Mountville, which is now called LaGrange.
“I joined the Army in 1942 on my 22nd birthday,” Jenkins said. “I went to Europe to fight in the war.”
Jenkins was promoted to Staff Sergeant and led a convoy of 50 men in the Red Ball Express. His convoy was a famed truck convoy system that supplied Allied forces moving quickly through Europe after breaking out from the D-Day beaches in Normandy in 1944.
He was in charge of 30 vehicles crossing Europe through France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Holland and eventually Germany.
“I was in there fighting, and saw front-line battle,” Jenkins said. “I learned a lot of things I would have never learned in the streets. The most memorable experience I had was when I was coming out of the army.”
The Red Ball Express preserved through rough terrain, unmarked road and took on enemy fire regularly. Jenkins said he was able to survive it all, even when he saw death constantly.
“I was directly on the frontline facing lots of gunfire,” Jenkins said.
Before leaving for the war, Jenkins married his late wife, Hazel Davis.
“My wife had our firstborn after I left for Germany,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins was awarded the American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, European Campaign Medal, Army of Occupation Medal — Germany and the Good Conduct Medal. He was discharged from the Army on June 17, 1946.
After he came back from the war, Jenkins packed up his family and moved them to New York City.
“I stayed in New York for 65 years,” Jenkins said. “I worked at the Goodyear car dealership and came back to LaGrange about 15 or so years ago. It is quieter here.”
Jenkins and his wife had seven children during their marriage, Albert Jr., Elliot, Sandy, Jeffrey, Jerome, Glen and Gail.
He said he lost his wife in December 2006, sons Glen in August 1985, Jerome in July 1986, Albert Jr., in December 2004 and Jeffrey in January 2006.
“I’ve lived a very successful life,” Jenkins said. “I would tell young kids to do the right thing, raise a family up and go live 100 years.”
To this day, Jenkins said he is still traveling hundreds of miles every year to visit his wife’s grave in New York City.
“I still live on my own and keep to myself, but I like it that way,” Jenkins said.
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