Robert Frank Gentry celebrates 100th birthday

Published 1:03 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

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Robert Frank Gentry of Elizabethton is celebrating his 100th birthday today, March 17. Later this month he will have a celebration party at his daughter’s home.

Frank, as he is known to friends, is a Carter County native and long-time Elizabethton resident. Prior to retirement, he worked at Great Lakes Corporation in Elizabethton and as an electrician, doing a lot of contract work. He is the father of two children, Sharon Gentry Abernathy and Louis Daniel Poland. He was married to Margaret Evelyn Gourley Poland Gentry, who died six years ago. He also has eight grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Gentry has a colorful military record, having served with the U.S. Marines at Iwo Jima during World War II.

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Gentry had registered for the draft a few months earlier on his 18th birthday. The draft was being filled out with young boys that had just registered. Gentry knew he wanted to be a Marine, so he joined and one day later was on his way to San Diego for training. From there he was sent to Camp Pendleton to await transport to the Pacific Theatre, where he eventually saw action in Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima.

Gentry’s division landed on Iwo Jima in February 1945 and embarked on five weeks of heavy fighting that left tens of thousands dead on both sides. Gentry spent his 21st birthday on Iwo Jima, and in the fighting lost a fellow squad member from Elizabethton, Lloyd Carver. 

“That hurt me with him being from Elizabethton, and I was his squad leader,” said Gentry.

After five weeks of heavy fighting, Gentry was on Iwo Jima as six U.S. Marines raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi. Gentry had no way of knowing it at the time, but Iwo Jima would prove to be his final combat action.

Days later and after 28 straight months of service in the South Pacific, he was told to get his sea bag and rifle, he was going home.

When his 30-day furlough was over, he reported to Key West, Fla., prepared to head back into the heat of battle, but atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the surrender of the Japanese spared Gentry from any further combat.

Gentry, after the war, worked in construction and traveled a lot to the Great Lakes to work.

Over the years he has been a member of the Masons and was a member of the Electrical Examination Board.

In 2019 he was honored by the U.S. Marine Corps at Brevard High School in North Carolina, where his grandson was principal.

In his spare time since retirement, Gentry has enjoyed fishing and yard work and spending time with his grandchildren. And, of course, he has his memories and has always lived up to the Marine motto: “Semper Fidelis,” which means Always Faithful.


Photo Contributed

Frank Gentry will celebrate his 100th birthday, March 17.