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Interview conducted with Thomas Edgar Jenkins, Jr. as part of the Nash County Cultural Center’s Oral History Project. Jenkins, born Aug. 6, 1912, was a POW during WWII. He reflects on his time in the Army, and on growing up in NC during the early 20th century. Jenkins says a failed physical due to smoke inhalation while working as a volunteer firefighter kept him from joining the Army in 1941. However, he passed one year later and was sent to Ft. Bragg to receive his uniform, and then sent to Ft. Polk, LA for basic training. He discusses the pay rate at the time and a long train ride to California, and more training in the desert. Jenkins says he went to Europe aboard the Queen Mary in June of 1944. After arriving in Greenock, Scotland, he travelled by train to Kibworth, England where he stayed until Aug., 1944. Jenkins was assigned to the 7th Armored Division under Gen. George S. Patton, and mentions Patton speaking to the troops about what to do if they were to be captured. Jenkins describes landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France and his unit pressing on toward Verdun. He details how he and several other US soldiers were captured on Dec. 23, 1944 by a German tank crew during the Battle of the Bulge. He talks of being transported to a POW camp by walking for several days with little food before being loaded into boxcars of a train. He describes the camp, the food, and speaks about meeting a fellow POW from near his hometown. Jenkins says he spent a month at the camp before being sent by train to Rodewisch, Germany where he was forced to work in a factory. He says he spent two months there, working 8am-5pm daily, and being locked in a house at night. He reflects on German soldiers releasing the POWs in April of 1945; being taken to Allied HQ, getting fed, and then placed on ships back to the US. Jenkins discusses growing up in Rocky Mount, doing yard work for Capt. John H. Thorpe, a lawyer, farmer, and Confederate Army veteran who often discussed the Civil War with Jenkins. He says his father was a railroad engineer, and talks about regularly riding around the region on trains. Jenkins mentions that he worked for the fire department for 35 years, starting in 1940 as a volunteer. He details the work schedule and describes the bell codes and ticketing system used to locate fires. He reflects on the first station’s dog, and talks about the fire department’s ability to help the community extending beyond just extinguishing fires. He briefly talks about his post-retirement hobbies, and a desire to help others.

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