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Annotation

Baum served with the 4th Armored Division during WWII. He was born in New York and grew up in the Bronx. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant and his mother was an American of Romanian descent. He left school and became a pattern maker for women's apparel. When he enlisted in the Army, he was sent to Engineer basic training. He transferred to the 2nd Armored Division,17th Engineer Battalion. He recalls the physical training they went through, which included boxing. He knocked out a Sergeant. He was asked to represent the battalion in boxing and he refused. The sergeant refused to let him go to OCS [Annotator's Note: Officer Candidates School], but the Majors he met with sent him anyway. When Pearl Harbor occured, he immediately went to his father. He told his father he wanted to enlist and he gave him his blessing. He had an older brother who joined the Army after him. Baum wanted to join the Air Force, but he had low blood pressure and vision problems. He was not that disappointed. He just wanted to serve. He didn't follow the war before Pearl Harbor. Baum applied for OCS because he did not want to work with the men in the Battalion. He made it through OCS with the help of another student. When he went to OCS, they sent him to the 4th Armored Division. He had many problems with the Captain he shared a tent with because he treated the soldiers of Italian descent very poorly, the Captain's brother was killed in Italy. Baum said something to him about it. He challenged the Captain, but the man did nothing. Baum was transferred to another Company, which made him very happy.

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Baum recalls that Jewish men did not receive the recognition that the other soldiers did. It was not as bad for the Jewish officers, it was worse for the enlisted men. In his unit 11 out of 42 men were Jewish. The Battalion Commander was a successful businessman from Alabama. He chose Jewish officers because of his experience with Jewish businessmen. They were the best armored infantry in the division. The morale was very strong in their division. When Patton wanted to promote a General, he sent them to the 4th Armored Division for 3 weeks to see how divisions should function. Baum was anxious to get overseas and fight. The 4th Armored Division arrived in Normandy in July of 1944 and went straight into combat. During their first time in combat, Baum's battalion lost 2 commanders and took a bad beating from the hedgerows. Baum was in the hedgerows during his 1st experience of combat. He was thinking about the troops, not about himself. An officer can't afford that luxury. He recalls the Battle of Troyes [Annotator's Note: late August 1944] and his participation in that. He said it was 1 of the best schooled armored force attacks in history. It was a massive attack, instead of the usual narrow attack. It goes down in history as one of the most magnificent battles. They teach that type of warfare in the Army today. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions. He was the Assistant S-2 [Annotator's Note: Assistant military intelligence officer] at the time.

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Baum recalls an event that took place at the Maginot Line. Harold Cohen had just taken over the battalion. He argued with Cohen about how the mission should go. They moved out from a small town towards a wooded area when three of Baum's officers were killed by mines. He made Cohen promise to go down the road and engage the Germans there before he went into the minefield with the medics. Baum stepped on a mine and was wounded on the back of his legs and buttocks. They were able to bring the troops back through that area. He estimates that he had at least 40 pieces of shrapnel in his body. Baum was sent to a hospital in France to be treated. Baum loved to dance. He snuck out to go dancing with a nurse at an Air Force club next to the hospital. He popped 11 of his stitches. He was in the hospital for a couple of weeks before going back to his unit. Baum remembers his participation in the Battle of the Bulge. He discusses the meeting between Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, and Patton about the situation at the Bulge and what should be done. Baum was told this story by people in the know. Eisenhower asked the group what should be done. Montgomery wanted to go back and retrain the soldiers. Bradley said to move on and do what is necessary. Patton said he could attack the area, the bulge, within 48 hours. The others laughed at Patton; but he was confident. The weather was terrible and the conditions were very bad.

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Baum's combat command was a reserve command and the 1st 1 into the area at the front of the division. They came under a different Corps Commander, who wanted them to send a small task force into Bastogne. This was unheard of. Baum was a Major at this time. When they reached Bastogne, they reported to the 101st Airborne Command. They sent Baum and his men to support the 10th Armored Division, but when Patton heard about this, he ordered them out. He did not want the 4th Armored Division serving under another Army. By the time Baum left the 101st Command, Bastogne was being surrounded. He was taking on small arms fire in his jeep.Baum's men moved into Bastogne twice. At this time, his unit was with the 8th Tank Battalion. They were on foot. This was the 1st time Baum was given command of a task force. He recalls how much distress the 106th and 28th Divisions were under by the time Baum and his men reached Bastogne, but the 101st faired better. He was hurt by the fact that no one would put his men to work when they reached the 101st Command and that he was put in another Army. Baum recalls his personal opinions of Patton. He would not want to be related to him, but he respected him and his performance was outstanding. When Patton gave an order, everyone listened. People did not like Patton's mentality.

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Baum remembers some of the men in his division. He talks about his feelings towards Creighton Abrams. Abrams was the 37th Tank Battalion commander. Cohen and Abrams had great respect for one another, so their divisions fought together on several occasions. Abrams led by example, was a tactician and was aggresive. He could get a soldier to do anything because he was so respected. If Abe [Annotator's Note: Abrams] had asked Baum to kiss his butt, he would've done it. He told the tankers that during artillery attacks, they didn't have to button up [Annotator's Note; close all of the hatches] as long as they trusted the protection of the infantry; this exposed them more, but gave them better vision and made them more aggressive. This was 1 of the things that married the 10th [Annotator's Note: 10th Armored Infantry Battalion] and the 37th [Annotator's Note: Abrams' 37th Tank Battalion]. Harold Cohen {Annotator's Note: Lt. Colonel Harold Cohen] was from Spartanburg, South Carolina and was an apparel manufacturer before the war. He went to military school and OCS. According to Baum, Cohen was street smart. He adjusted well in different situations and became a very good Battalion Commander. Baum recalls the 1st time he heard about the Hammelburg Raid. He was laying in his halftrack to keep warm when he was called to headquarters. He stood by listening to the decisions being made by Patton. It was initially recommended to lead in a combat command. They decided to send in small task forces under Cohen's command, but Cohen had piles. Patton thought Cohen might be a Goldbrick [Annotator's Note: loafer or in this case, faking illness] because he was Jewish; Patton had a touch of antisemitism. But he saw that Cohen was not lying. Patton ended up assigning the job to Baum. Stiller [Annotator's Note: Major Alexander Stiller, aide to Patton] went along for the ride, but Baum made sure that he knew who was in command. He did not want Stiller taking control of the mission. He knew something was not right with the mission. He was told that they were going to liberate 300 POWs. In reality there were 1500 POWs there. Patton told Baum that if he pulled off the mission he would give him the Medal of Honor. Baum said he did not need to bribe him, that he had his orders. Their mission was to get there, not to engage the enemy, but to do it discretely.

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They were supposed to leave around 4 p.m., but they were delayed because the area around Schweinheim had not been secured. Baum went through later anyway, but lost the crucial element of surprise. Baum thought the mission could have worked if it was a surprise attack, but that was eliminated. He knew something was wrong when he did not have the Division's support or contact with the Division. A Piper Cub [Annotator's Note: Piper J-3 Cub] had been used to follow them and maintain contact, but he only went as far as he felt safe, then he pulled back, causing them to lose verbal contact. Baum only had 3 or 4 hours to put the task force together; actually Cohen and Abrams put the task force together. The task force was made up of a company of infantry, company of light tanks, company of medium tanks, a recon platoon, assault gun platoon-- 3 tanks with a 105 millimeter cannon-- and a medic and maintenance platoon which carried extra ammo and gas. Baum's orders were orders. He reflects on the mission and mentions the website taskforcebaum.de and the author Peter Domes who wrote about the Hammelburg Raid. Their biggest enemies were the German civilians with the Panzerfausts [Annotator's Note: German anti-tank weapon]. They did not face German tanks until they reached the road going into Hammelburg. He recalls that Stiller was there to identify John Waters, Patton's son-in-law, but Baum did not think about this, he thought about completing the mission. successfully.

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Baum remembers when they broke through Schweinheim they were moving pretty fast. By that point, the Germans knew they were coming, but they did not know they were heading towards Hammelburg until later on that day. When the Germans saw Baum's task force, they thought the 3rd Army was moving, so they adjusted their positions. Before they reached Hammelburg, Baum's task force caused a lot of damage along the road. They knocked out telephone poles, fired on a locomotive train, and knocked out tug boats in the river. Germans surrendered to them along their route. They captured a soldier claiming to be a General, Baum did not think he was. They interrogated him and made him sit on the front of 1 of the halftracks. The men were uncomfortable being around the German General. At 1 point, he looked back at the rest of the task force and the German General was gone. He has no idea what happened to him. He remembers encountering Russian POWs. It made things more difficult for the column. During the mission, Baum switched the positions of the tanks depending upon the danger present.

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At Lohr, they lost their 1st tank from a German Panzerfaust. Baum says they did not have time to think about it, they had to keep moving. They could not stop. Baum was always with the column, he moved around to talk to the company commanders and made sure the column was moving and where it needed to be. They experienced intense fighting at Gemunden. There was a bridge in Gemunden that Baum wanted to take. The bridge was rigged with bombs. When the column started moving over the bridge, the Germans opened fire. Then the Germans blew the bridge. Baum's recon and infantry platoons were captured and were cut off from the rest of the column. Then they arranged for German guides and started headed in through towns. Baum was wounded at Gemunden. Baum did feel he was a good leader and that his men had confidence in him. After the bridge was blown, Baum was forced to find another way to Hammelburg. Plus he knew he would never get to Hammelburg if he engaged the Germans at every opportunity. Their guide to Hammelburg was a German civilian who owned a pub and hotel called Grunenbaum. Baum went to see the family many years later, he found the family again. He did not trust the guide at 1st, but now he knows he should have. He should've followed the directions given by the German guide, attacking from a different angle.The guide has since died.

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As they got closer to Hammelburg, they were attacked by German Hetzers [Annotator's Note: German light tank destroyer Jagdpanzer 38(t)]. It was the 1st time they had been attacked by Hetzers. The unit was caught in a column. Everything happened very quickly, the tanks did not have an opportunity to fire back. The 1 assault gun on the top of the hill could see what was firing on them, but the other tanks could not. He lost a number of his tanks and halftracks at this point. Zawada was knocked out of a halftrack in that area [Annotator's Note: NWWIIM volunteer and Interviewee Bob Zawada]. He had been a replacement in the unit. Few people stayed around. They were able to get out of the ambush and Baum ordered the remainder of his men to fan out and make a frontal attack on Hammelburg. Baum was relieved when they made it to the camp, but it was short-lived after seeing the 1,500 POWs. The camp didn't have much German protection. Waters [Annotator's Note: Lt. Col. John K. Waters] came out, but was shot by a German guard and was taken back in. Baum was stunned by the sight of the POWs. The POWs were in terrible shape. He had no idea how many men were in the camp, he was told they had to rescue 300. But he got a hold of himself. Despite his personal feelings, Baum was in command and he had to take control of the situation. He spoke to the troops and explained the situation. He had to tell the prisoners that he could not get all of them back; he did not have enough men and vehicles. Colonel Goode [Annotator's Note: Colonel Paul Goode] was Commanding Officer of the camp and he also had to talk to the POW mob. Baum was overwhelmed with the situation.

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Baum was sickened by the sight and the situation. He had to regroup his men and come up with a plan to get back to the division command. He mentions Charles Graham, the assault gun leader from the task force, fine soldier. He told Nutto [Annotator's Note: 1st Lt. william J. Nutto] to go down a little road in the camp. They hit a road block and lost a vehicle. Once they were followed by a German civilian on a bicycle who blew the tank up. Baum set up on a high ground, Hill 421 and siphoned gas from halftracks into tanks. He was running out of fuel and ammunition. He was prepared to move the column at daybreak and was ambushed by a platoon of German officer cadets with Panzerfausts and Hetzers and infantry units. They had no opportunity to move, they were surrounded. They were in column, prepared to go, not fight. The only 1 in position to fire was Graham with the 3 assault guns. They fired; he lost 2 guns. He kept firing until Baum said to stop because it was only causing the Germans to fire back on them. Graham and 2 others took off on foot; his hillbilly instincts got him through. He was a tremendous Sergeant. When the Germans opened fire, they destroyed a building that Baum had designated as a hospital. There were no survivors, not to his knowledge. After the Germans attacked the task force, Baum and 2 other guys retreated to the woods. They were approached by a buggy with 2 German civilians, the Home Guard. Baum tried to grab his .45 [Annotator's Note: Colt 1911 45-caliber pistol] but his hand was bandaged. The German put his rifle down, took out a pistol and shot Baum in the groin area. Baum says, "You son of a bitch, you almost shot one of my balls." The German begins to laugh; he was an American of German descent from Connecticut and member of the Bund, the Nazi organization in Chicago and New York. German soldiers came and captured them and took the other 2 task force members, but left Baum since he was wounded and couldn't walk. Some others came and put Baum in the hospital.

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A Serbian doctor in the hospital hid Baum. By this point, he had discarded his dog tags because if the Germans had found out out who he was, they might have killed him. The Germans thought Stiller was the commander of the task force because of his rank. The Serbian doctor hid Baum in the hospital. He saw John Waters in the hospital and was able to talk to him. There was a black Captain in the hospital who had been close to Zawada's column and had lost a leg. Baum wanted to console the man, who said he didn't need consolation; he was proud because when he got back to Harlem everyone would know he had been in the war. The black captain had been captured during the Bulge and was from one of the truck units or supply units. He was in the camp for about 11 days before the 14th Armored Division liberated the camp. He thought it was the 7th Army because he heard the artillery. The tank battalion commander was starting to parade the tanks through the camp. Baum and an old West Pointer Lt. Colonel went back to the hospital where Waters was. Patton visited the hospital and spoke with Baum. Patton told him that his unit went east and did not meet much resistance. Patton started to give Baum advice on how to fight tanks. Patton told Baum he was going to have him awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, instead of the Medal of Honor he had previously mentioned. Baum told Patton that he wanted to finish the war with the troops, but Patton told him that was not possible because he could not fight in the same area where he was a prisoner. Baum convinced Patton to let him fight with his men. He had a P-47 [Annotator's Note: Republic p-47 Thunderbolt] pilot pick Baum up in an l-4 Piper cub. He convinced the pilot to take him to a field hospital not far from where they were to pay a visit to a friend. They almost crashed into another plane. The man in the plane was a general that wanted to have Baum court-martialed for an incident earlier in the war. Baum had cursed him out for some ill-advised moves that the General had ordered.

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The end of the war was approaching. Baum went to the command platoon, to Abrams, to get permission to rejoin the troops. The division surgeon was not happy that Baum did not get permission from him and the division's psychiatrist. They tried to make him rest, but he wanted to finish the war with the troops. Against Baum's will, they sent him to the French Riviera for 11 days of rest. He had to share a room with the Lt. Colonel hat tried to court-martialed him. After his rest, he was finally able to go back and finish the war with the troops. He wanted to be back with the men because that was his life. Looking back on it now, Baum thinks the Hammelburg Raid was a success and a failure; it was a failure because they could not give the POWs the help they deserved, but it was successful because of the damage and confusion they inflicted on the Germans. His states his men were outstanding on this mission. The task force functioned well. The mission started going bad at Gemunden because he could not keep moving. He never thought that they were in real danger until the final attack. After the war in Europe was over, Baum was supposed to be transferred to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana as an infantry officer. He refused to go to Louisiana; it had a reputation as the worst post. He called General Wood was in charge of the replacement center at Fort Knox; Wood changed his orders and Baum was sent to him. Wood sent Baum to armored school to teach them how to fight tanks. He reported to a Colonel Brown who wanted him to write a field manual. Baum thought that was ridiculous because he hadn't even graduated high school and he wanted to be out in the field with the troops. The following day he was teaching an OCS group when they found out the war in Japan was over. They sat down under a big tree and they began to kibbutz [Annotator's Note: Yiddish for wisecracking and joking around]. A Major walked up and started to reprimand Baum in front of the students. Baum told him, "When you've taken your 1st village, come back and talk to me." Baum walked away; he received a letter telling him to treat officers with respect no matter what their experience. But General Wood ended up siding with Baum because they were both from the 4th Armored Division and kicking the major off of his post.

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After the war ended, Baum returned to New York to get some of his wounds taken care of. He was so happy, because of his family, that he was medically discharged. His family received 4 telegrams about him. Wood, Clark [Annotator;s Note: General Mark Clark] and Abrams wanted him to stay in. He is proud that he led the raid on Hammelburg and that he got the orders from Patton. After the war Baum and Clark had a good relationship. He met General Clark for lunch 1 day at Rockefeller Plaza; he felt so out of place. In walked Governor Rockefeller, men involved in Chase Manhattan Bank, four star generals, and Clark. He had no idea what he was in for, he wanted to keep his mouth shut, but all of the men wanted to talk to him about everything. They kept asking him what he thought. Baum was furious, but Clark explained he did it because he wanted those men to understand that Jewish soldiers fought in the war and their value. He saw Clark years later at Fort Hood. While on a business trip Baum paid a visit to Clark at his home near Ft. Hood. Clark came out 45 minutes later and took Baum to Ft. Hood so that Baum could test a tank course for him. He had to critique the course in front of 60 officers. Clark would not let him go; he had him review the troops. He wanted to honor Baum for all his hard work and time of service. He put Baum on the reviewing stand to review the troops. Baum thinks all the men he worked with fine people and that he was fortunte to work with men like Abrams, Clark and Cohen. His mother insisted on meeting Abrams and he agreed to spend the weekend with Baum's family in a 6-room, 6-story walk-up in the Bronx. That shows how much they respected one another. Abrams was a wonderful person with a wonderful wife. Their children, John and Creighton became Generals. Robert Bruce Abrams [Annotator's Note: named after Clark] is also a General.

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Baum recalls the POWs at Hammelburg and the concentration camps victims they encountered. They brought their replacements through Ohrdruf [Annotator's Note: part of Buchenwald concentration camp], a camp they had liberated, to show them what type of an enemy they were fighting. He says it gave them more of a will to fight. Hammelburg was the first POW camp that he encountered. The men taken prisoner at the Bulge were still clean when they got to Hammelburg. The men from Oflag 64 [Annotator's Note: German POW camp for officers near Szubin, Poland] had been prisoners for nearly 5 years. Some of these officers in the camp tried to implement rules for the POWs to bolster their self respect. The Oflag guys were really regimented, very close, married to one another. They've had a convention every year since the war, with 200 or 300 attendees. They asked Baum to speak once and he's gone most years afterwards. Baum spoke with Waters about the raid when they were in the hospital together. They talked about the raid and how he got hurt. Waters asked if they were there because of him; Baum did not have the heart to tell him that it was the truth. Baum did not resent Waters at all, they became good friends. Patton would never tell Waters if he knew that he had been in Hammelburg. He became friends with Waters' sons. Pat Water also became involved with Oflag 64. Pat was a warm, nice person who was in the Navy. He was a maverick. Baum was impressed by the men that he liberated from Hammelburg that were still willing to fight. They were still eager, but many were inexperienced in terms of combat. Lyle Bouck [Annotators Note: 99th Infantry Regiment Intelligence &Reconnaisance Platoon, also interviewed by the NWIIM] is mentioned as is Bob Thompson and the diamond story [Annotator's Note: Thompson buried a box of diamonds he found in Hammelburg and recovered them after the war].

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Baum goes on to discuss his career after the war. In 1948, he worked with the Israelis during that war. He advised them on battle tactics while they were in the US. The Israelis had acquired some light tanks and they asked Baum to train their tank battalion. He met with various groups of Israelis before the FBI ordered them to stop operations. They just moved to a different building. The interview ends with Baum looking through photographs of his time in service and his trips back to Europe.

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