Jenkins, who was living in Richlands, Va., joined the Army in March of 1941 and was stationed to Fort Meade, Md. For basic training. He was in the second group of men to leave Tazewell County during induction.
"They sent us to North Carolina and South Carolina on maneuvers. We were on our way back when we got word the war had broke out," Jenkins said.
Jenkins was sent to Washington D.C. "They didn't know what was going to happen. So, they sent us to guard the Capitol, " Jenkins said. For 18 months, Jenkins was a bodyguard for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Later, Jenkins was sent to Europe with the Fifth Army as an infantry platoon sergeant. He was later sent to Naples, Italy.
"We went in on the beach in Naples. We couldn't get any heavy equipment or tanks or anything because of the mountains. Foot soldiers had to carry in the supplies." he said.
On October 9, 1944, near La Guarda, Jenkins' squad was assigned to attack a strongly defended enemy position. As they approached, they were spotted by the enemy and fired upon.
"I went in and wiped out a German machine gun by myself. I killed five German soldiers," Jenkins said. "They fired at us and half of the squad was killed. The rest were on the ground seriously wounded, including me."
"I couldn't believe they did that." The first thing I said was, "WHY ME? There were 14 people laying on the ground and I wondered why the picked me up," Jenkins said. "If those two German soldiers hadn't brought me to the hospital I would have been dead. They saved my life."
Jenkins explained that many times, although they were fighting each other, the Americans and the German soldiers respected each other. "I had a job to do. I wanted to fight for my country. I was willing to die for my country, and they were doing the same thing," he said.
The two German soldiers who carried him surrendered once they arrived at the hospital. "The war was about over and they had had enough of it. They told the doctors they wanted to surrender and get back home safe," he said. To this day, the identity of the two German soldiers is unknown.
Kelly Jenkins spent three months in the hospital and in 1945 was reclassified as disabled and sent home. During his service, Kelly Jenkins was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, and five campaign ribbons.
After returning home, his car carried a reminder of his experience. The license plate read "WHY ME?"
*Interviewed by Pam Lasure,
June 6, 2000