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Comrades pay tribute to veteran


El Paso (TX) Times

An El Paso World War II veteran whose platoon helped hold off the Germans in the critical Battle of the Bulge was honored for his efforts to help defeat the Nazis.

Sam Jenkins, 81, heard a recount of his experiences — from basic training near Paris TX, to intelligence and reconnaissance missions to the battle with the Germans for the port city of Antwerp, Belgium, in January 1945.

Jenkins sat stoically at Vista Ysleta United Methodist Church as his war buddies detailed several Nazi attacks that failed as the Nazis marched up a snowy hillside. The platoon held off the better-manned Germans after three attacks, but on the fourth, after the Americans ran out of ammunition, Jenkins' platoon retreated. Its members later were captured.

Two of Jenkins' platoon, which is featured in the book "The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of World War II's Most Decorated Platoon," made the trip to El Paso to honor Jenkins.

"What they were doing is coming up a snow-covered hill toward us. Halfway down, there was a barbed-wire fence they had to crawl through, so they were exposed," said Louis Kalil, 82, who came from his home in Mishawaka IN, for the presentation to Jenkins.

"He was never a person for too many words," Kalil said of Jenkins.

Also speaking was Vernon Leopold, who suffered frostbite and was told by their platoon leader to go to a hospital before heavy fighting.

Leopold, 81, said he then lost contact with his platoon, only to believe, as the war ended and for the next 30 years, they had perished in the fighting.

During a vacation in 1979, Leopold saw an article in a Florida newspaper that recounted the platoon's position.

"I had given up on it," Leopold said. "I thought they were MIA."