Originally created 10/26/01

Village honors veteran

Two weeks ago, Jacob Berlin received an unexpected phone call.

"I answered the phone, and a woman asked me if I was the Jacob Berlin that parachuted into France during World War II to help the French Resistance," the 77-year-old man said. "I told her yes, and she said, 'I have found you at last."'

The caller was the daughter of a member of the French Resistance - French citizens who fought the Germans. She invited Mr. Berlin to return to the village of Sainte-Nathalene, France, about 90 miles east of Bordeaux, for the dedication of a plaque in honor of his unit's service during the war.

"It's a very nice feeling that they still remember us," he said. "I still remember them."

For Mr. Berlin, who receives dialysis three times a week, taking a trip to France will take money and planning.

The DaVita-Nephrology Center of south Augusta, where Mr. Berlin receives his dialysis treatments, is working to make the trip happen.

It has arranged for Mr. Berlin to have two dialysis treatments at a French hospital, and center employees are having a bake sale Saturday at Sam's Club on Bobby Jones Expressway from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to help defray the costs of the trip.

On Nov. 7, Mr. Berlin, along with his wife and two of his five children, will return to France, for the third time since the war, to be honored for his heroic efforts. The ceremony is Nov. 10.

"There were three of us in our little unit, and I'm the only one left," he said.

On June 9, 1944, 20-year-old 1st Sgt. Berlin was one of three men who parachuted into Sainte-Nathalene to train members of the resistance.

"I was an American soldier defending my country, and I wanted to kill Germans," he said.

Mr. Berlin was in the Army's Office of Strategic Services Jedburgh unit. The mission of the unit, 100 in all throughout Europe, was to aid the resistance. The units also blew up railroad tracks and bridges to hinder the occupiers.

"We parachuted in with supplies, rifles and grenades, and we taught the villagers how to attack the Germans," Mr. Berlin said. "Our mission was to slow the Germans down from getting to Normandy."

The small group of 40 people managed to hold back German troops from Normandy for 16 days.

"We kept them from going to Normandy, and when they got there, they only had half their equipment," he said with a laugh. "It was an exciting time."

Reach Ashlee Griggs at (706) 823-3552.


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