When we were little, one of my cousins thought that our Uncle David was the David of the Old Testament. Although I knew better than that, our uncle did have legendary status for me and I think for all of us younger cousins, who knew him only as a name, the uncle who fought in the war and didn't come back. To a child the war seemed long ago. After all, it was over before I was even born. When I grew older, I was surprised to realize how recent Uncle Davidís death had been in my early childhood and how fresh and raw the familyís grief must have been.
David Nolen Gentry was the sixth child and third son of my maternal grandparents, Zebulun Beard Gentry and Goldie Gertrude Butner. Named for his maternal uncle David Simeon Butner and for the doctor who delivered him, Beverly Toon Nolen, Uncle David was born on July 4, 1922, in Franklin, Tennessee. When he was born, Dr. Nolen commented, "This is Uncle Sam's baby."
David Nolen Gentry, about 1923, and with his younger brothers and niece, about 1928
By the time Uncle David started school, two younger brothers, born in 1925 and 1927, had joined the family. In addition, a niece, born in 1925, was part of the household. Uncle David enjoyed the usual pleasures of small-town boyhood. He played football at Franklin High School, from which he graduated in 1940, and attended the University of Tennessee at Martin until he enlisted in the Army in October 1942.
Playing football, about 1941, and with his four brothers. He also had three older sisters.
After training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and in Yuma, Arizona, he went overseas in December 1943, serving in North Africa and Italy. In his letters home, he asked about those at home, sent his love, bemoaned the slowness of mail, and sometimes made requests. In February 1944, he wrote to his mother, "Honey, could you send me some kind of chocolate candy, any kind, homemade or bought?" By April 1944 he was in Minturno, Italy. On April 29, while he and his tent mate were making repairs to their camp, he was killed by a German shell. Back in Franklin, nearly three weeks later, an insensitive delivery man rang the doorbell and thrust a telegram into the hands of my grandmother, saying "Here. Your son is dead."
Uncle David was buried in Carono, Italy, about sixty miles from Naples. His body was returned to the United States in September 1948 along with the remains of 2,080 others, arriving in New York City aboard the Army Transport Carroll Victory. Services were conducted in Franklin on September 22 with burial at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Franklin near his parents and maternal grandparents.ANCESTOR BIOGRAPHIES