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Moving Forward

June 2024
1min read


A QUICK GLANCE REVEALS THIS ISN’T the usual World War II snapshot of American liberators—not with four African-American flag-bearing soldiers flanking the aged Frenchman. It came to us from Preston Russell, of Savannah, who obtained the picture from his father-inlaw, Hugh Jenkins, who had been an officer with the 390th Engineer General Services Regiment, one of the first black units to land at Normandy. Jenkins recalls that a fellow officer, Capt. Gordon Watts, took the picture on V-E Day in Pont-à-Mousson, a small town in eastern France.

“The pride and dignity of these men who served under Patton are evident,” Jenkins writes. “I was a 25-year-old captain from Savannah, Georgia, who had the privilege of commanding these troops. The primary mission of the 390th was to recondition the railroads from Normandy to the German border. Along the way, we collected railroad cars and, finally, a diesel engine. When we had enough cars, I housed my company in the train. We ended up in luxury with a dining car, a car for taking showers, an electric-generator car, and about 20 sleeping cars. As we rebuilt the railroads, we just moved our quarters forward.”

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