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Baumgarten served with the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division during the first wave of attacks on D-Day. He recalls his childhood in New York City. He attended local public schools before attending the Universtiy Heights Branch of New York University at the age of 16. He was a member of the university's ROTC program, which was compulsory at the time. He tried to enlist in the Air Force when he was 17, but they rejected him, so he stayed in school. Baumgarten stayed in school for two years and completed two years of ROTC before being drafted on June 26, 1943, but he was technically in the Army for two years beforeHe completed 17 weeks of training at Camp Croft, South Carolina. While he was there, he was convinced to sign a release forgoing OTS [Annotator's note: Officer Training School] to go to Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) at Clemson University in South Carolina with the star unit. He stayed at Camp Croft for about three weeks training soldiers on rifles before the Army canceled the ASTP and sent him overseas. He went to Ft. Meade, Maryland, where they trained for a while before going to Camp Shanks, New York. Baumgarten recalls that one night, they crossed the Hudson River and boarded the Il de France, the third largest ship in the world at the time, to serve overseas. The ship was so fast it only took them five days to cross the Atlantic and reach Green Ox, Scotland. They took a train to southern England and were placed in a "repo depot," a replacement camp. He transferred to Crown Heights, Plymouth, the headquarters of the 116th Infantry Regiment, also known at the "Stonewall Brigade" because of its southern background. When they arrived, Colonel Charles D. W. Cannom addressed them, saying that two out of three of them were not going to make it back to the states because they were going to be the spearheads for the second front.He was sent to Company A, known as the "boys from Bedford," with many of the men he was with at Camp Croft. They wouldn't let him and his friends join the regulars until they were trained their way. They broke into boat teams. There were six in Company A, 29 men in each with one officer. Baumgarten was in Boat Team 6 of Company A. They trained on the moors with mock assault boats. The attack formations and training became second nature to the men. They could do it in their sleep. He remembers some of the men shooting right between his legs because everyone knew where each person was going to be. They were that good.In the early part of April 1944, he began training for his expert infantry badge. He remembers that during training you had to carry a man on your back for 75 yards, crawl through barbed wire courses very fast, do 50 pushups, about 30 chin-ups, and throw a grenade a certain distance. He was paid 5 dollars more a month after receiving this badge.After his expert infantry training, Baumgarten transferred to amphibious training in Broughton, England. They trained on the sand at Woolacombe in Wales because it had the same terrrain as Normandy. He trained with the rangers from Company C of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. They climbed the cliffs with the rangers and practiced climbing cargo nets on the sides of mock boats. He recalls being scared falling while climbing down the super structures on the back of the ship because he was wearing metal cleats and carrying 150 pounds of gear and his rifle. They taught him how to shoot his weapon while lying on his back and to fire bazookas. From LCAs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Assault], they attacked pill boxes on the beach with the tactics the rangers taught them and then climbed the cliffs to practice throwing grenades.

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In late April [Annotator's Note: 1944], they practiced two maneuvers at Woolacombe with the Empire Javeline, the same ship they would use on D-Day. The practice landings on the southwest coast of England were a picnic compared to D-Day. He does not remember his position in Company A because on May 23, 1944, Baumgarten was transferred to Company B, Boat Team 1 after sixteen men died in an explosion. He recalls British civilians evacuating their homes overlooking the English Channel so they could practice their maneuvers.They marched back to their camp in Ivy Bridge. These maneuvers were called Fox 1 and Fox 2. In between Fox 1 and Fox 2, he recalls a maneuver called Tiger, in which there was a miscommunication and German E-Boats came in and sunk the landing transports, killing seven hundred and fifty American servicemen. The Army made everyone keep quiet about it. Baumgarten states that their training was excellent.In May 1944, he was stationed in a tent camp called Blansford and was given all new equipment. At Blansford, they had a parade of the entire 29th Infantry Division and they were reviewed by Patton, Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery, and Churchill. It was the first and last parade Baumgarten participated in with the 29th Division. Three quarters of the men marching in the parade died in combat. They issued new life preservers, gas masks, first aid kits with one grain of morphine, seasick medication, ply form bags to protect the rifles, and a half pound block of TNT, which the men used to play touch football with, in preparation for D-Day.He recalls carrying the TNT in his back pocket and the fuse, lighter, and blasting cap in the netting in his helmet because all the other guys were doing it. On May 15, 1944, they were driven to a special camp known as a sausage, because of it shape. He was placed in Camp D-1. He remembers seeing a clay mock-up of the beach they were going to attack and pictures of the beach taken from P-38's of the German soldiers and fortifications. When he looked at the mock-up of the beach, he was terrified to see the three pill boxes elevated.Baumgarten was afraid he was not going to make it home alive. He wrote to his sister Ethel telling her to intercept the telegram about his death and to break the news to their parents.General Romel [Annotator's Note: German General Erwin Romel] put in four rows of obstacles, starting 300 yards from the beach. He put in 6.5 million mines. The first row was known as the Belgian Gates, iron gates that were ten feet high, seven feet wide. Second row was the concrete poles facing north with mines strapped to the top. Third row was the ramps that would capsize the ships and the "hedgehogs," barbed wired and mine steel rails five feet high that were only visible at low tide. Baumgarten states that it was because of the "hedgehogs" that Eisenhower planned H-hour at low tide.

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On 23 May of 1944, Baumgarten was transferred, along with Robert Palmer, to Company B to make up for the lose of men. He did not have time to make new friends between then and D-Day [Annotator's Note: Invasion of Normandy], but his best friend, Robert Garbette, Jr. was transferred with him. He was with Boat Team 1 and was the Assistant BAR [Annotator's Note: Browning Automatic Rifle] man. He was the fifth man on the left side of the ship. Everyone had to know their place.On 3 June, they loaded the men in trucks and took them to Waymouth, England. They marched down to the boats and the local people were cheering them on because "they knew it was the real thing." He recalls staying aboard the USS Empire Javeline [Annotator's Note: Infantry Landing Ship] for three days before shipping out to Normandy. It rained most of the time while they were on the ship, but on 5 June they held a mass prayer on the deck led by Reverend Barber.At 5 p.m. on 5 June, the ships let the harbor. Baumgarten remembers that his ship was guarded by minesweepers and PT boats and the armada numbered about five thousand. USS Empire Javeline anchored eleven miles off the French coast at Dog Green Sector. It was the smallest of all the beaches, but the most heavily defended. They had their "last meal," but Baumgarten only ate Cadburry chocolate bars because he did not like British food. He recalls the weapons he had for hand to hand combat and the guns he carried with him. He had a terrible headache and took two Aspirin, not realizing it makes you bleed faster when wounded.

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At 3:30 a.m. [Annotator's Note: 6 June 1944], Baumgarten and Company B started disembarking from the ship. The weather was terrible and it was pitch black. The waves were fifteen to twenty feet high. They were lowered over the sides into the boats and were immediately soaked and freezing. The bilge pumps did not work in the LCA [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Assault] and 1st Lt. Harold Donaldson ordered them to bail the water out with their helmets. The water was up to their knees. They had to bail the water out with their helmets for three hours so they would not sink.Baumgarten recounts the strategic importance of the beach and the road leading into the neighboring town. He recalls the amount of firepower the Germans aimed onto the beach, including a pill box thirty feet high in the center of town that controlled the surrounding area. There were five 88mm cannons with a forward observer in the church steeple, and they had an advantage being on higher ground.He states that each US ship was an army in itself, including his ship. Each boat had riflemen, two automatic weapons, two bazookas, two 60mm mortars, flame thrower, demolitions, and Bangalore torpedos, along with seven hundred and twenty men and the USS Texas (Annotator's Note: BB-35).

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Baumgarten continues his description of U.S. firepower [Annotator's Note: during D-Day Normandy, France]. He states that the battleship USS Texas had to remain twelve miles off shore because of the German guns. The Navy shelled the beach the morning of 6 June [Annotator's Note: 1944] from 5:55 a.m. to 6:25 a.m. in preparation for the landing of the boats. The navy also had hundreds of rocket launchers and underwater demolition men. He recalls the presence of the Army Air Corps and the four hundred and fifty planes they were supposed to bomb Omaha Beach, but the weather was so bad that they delayed the drop, missing the target. They also had sixteen amphibious tanks with 75mm guns, but only two reached Dog Green Sector, the others sunk.Baumgarten talks about his experience on Omaha Beach and what happened to the men coming in. The men had to land on the beach in sequence, Company A, B, D, and then C. Companies C and D got lost. Company A landed on target, but lost three boats. Company B lost two boats. One landed, while the other struck a mine and exploded next to Baumgarten's boat. He recalls being showered with wood, blood, and body parts from the explosion. The Germans signaled for every machine gun to open fire on his ship when they lowered the ramp, gunning down Lt. Donaldson. He jumped behind the BAR [Annotator's Note: Browning Automatic Rifle] man Clarece Riggs, who was killed on the ramp, and a bullet grazed the left side of his helmet. When he got out of the ship, he was in neck high bloody and muddy water. He figures he weighed well over two hundred pounds with all of his gear on.

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Baumgarten continues talking about his experience when he reached Omaha Beach [Annotator's Note: on D-Day, 6 June 1944]. As an act of defiance against the Germans, he drew a large star of David on his field jacket with Bronx, New York . The tide was horrible and swept men out quickly. He landed on the western part of Dog Green Sector. The Germans shot at him from the trenches, hitting his gun instead of him, but the man following behind him was killed. On the sand behind a "hedgehog" he saw Pvt. Robert Ditmar and Sgt. Clarence Roberson die from machine gun wounds. He always mentions the names of the men and where they were from because he does not want people to forget about them.As this point in the fighting, Baumgarten and Charles Connor were the only survivors from Company B, which had experienced 85 percent casualties in the first fifteen minutes of fighting. He was wounded five times, twice on 6 June and three times on 7 June. The men decided to fight wounded rather than give up the beach or die. He was wounded by an 88mm shell that exploded in front of him. It blew off his left cheek, put a hole in the roof of his mouth, and shattered his left upper jaw. His rifle split in two and he discarded it, but a Nicholas of Company A handed him back his rifle to keep fighting just before he died. He found another rifle and moved closer to the seawall. He saw four wounded men on the wall and his best friend, Robert Garbette dead at the foot of the wall.

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Baumgarten continues his account of what he did on D-Day at Dog Green Sector [Annotator's Note: Normandy, France 6 June 1944]. When he saw his best friend dead on the sand he broke down and was "crying like mad." After seeing his best friend dead, he began to charge over the wall to kill more Germans, but another serviceman tackled him and forced him to stay put. Baumgarten says that man saved his life from the German machine gunners. All of the commanders of Company A and B were gunned down in the boats. Baumgarten states, "the destruction on that beach looked like a shipwreck." About 8:00 a.m., Ray Nance, second in command of Company A, and Captain Robert Ware, the battalion surgeon, landed one hundred yards east of where Baumgarten was. They had three aid men with them. The only men to make it of the boat were Cecil Breeden, one of the three aid men, and Ray Nance.Cecil Breeden made his way down to Dog Green Sector to aid the wounded men and found Baumgarten, who said, "he saw a halo around Breeden's head because he was an angel of mercy." Breeden patched up Baumgarten's face and he states that he was the biggest hero on D-Day. At 10:00 a.m., he decided to rescue John Frasier from enemy fire. During the rescue, a mortar shell went off to his left and blew three holes in his helmet. He saved Frasier's life by hiding behind the wall.Around 11:00 a.m., Baumgarten was cleaning the sand out of his rifle when he saw Company B of the 104th medical battalion storm the beach. They offered to evacuate him, but he stayed. At 1:00 p.m., he joined a group of eleven guys to climb up the bluffs, he called them the "walking wounded," because every man was wounded, some worse then him. By the time they fought the Germans on the bluff some of them died from their wounds, not from being killed.

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Baumgarten and the men he was with, engaged about five Germans at a farm house on the bluff. He killed one of the German soldiers. The skirmish lasted for an hour, Baumgarten and several men made it out alive. They fought a second group of Germans stationed at a machine gun just after the first skirmish. Only seven men made it out of the second skirmish.They crossed the beach road and had to crawl to safety. While crawling to safety, Baumgarten was struck by a castrator mine [Annotator's Note: German S-mine, also known as a "Bouncing Betty"] and shot in his left foot between his toes. They stayed behind a hedgerow until 12:30 a.m. on 7 June [Annotator's Note: 1944]. They crossed the road and were ambushed by a machine gun fifty yards down the road. He was wounded on the right side of his face by a bullet, falling on top of two dead members of his team from the pain. He gave himself a shot of morphine. He fell asleep from the pain thinking they had lost the battle. A German soldier searching for cigarettes did not kill him.

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Around 3:00 a.m. on 7 June [Annotator's Note: 1944] Baumgarten saw an Army ambulance coming from the west. He hadn't seen an ambulance all day and he knew he needed to get its attention. He fired a sub machine gun belonging to a dead ranger in his group over the ambulance and they got out with their hands up before realizing Baumgarten was one of them. He remembers having to sit up in the ambulance because of all of the wounded men and falling back from being to weak. They took them down to the beach and put them on stretchers and they were attended to by aid men.At 11:00 a.m., German snipers in the bluffs began shooting at the aid men and the wounded. They shot Baumgarten in the right knee. They aimed for his head, but a US destroyer off the beach killed the snipers with 5 inch guns. They evacuated him off the beach and put him in an assault boat that carried him out to LST-291. He saw the US flag on the boat and that was when he knew they had not lost the war. He was taken to an operating room on the ship, where an ensign patched up his wounds and gave him morphine and penicillin. He was on the ship until 11 June. The ship docked at Portsmouth, England and he was taken to a Royal Navy hospital just outside the city. They took him into surgery to clean up his face and repair his leg. He thought he lost his leg because he couldn't feel it through the cast.He stayed in that hospital until the end of June 1944. They treated him very well. The British civilians brought him fruit, that he could not eat because of his injuries, and beer.

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Baumgarten was released from the Royal Navy hospital around 4 July of 1944 and taken to the 250th station hospital in southern England. They repaired his face. He didn't want to look at his face. After his surgery, they transferred him to 158th general hospital in Salisbury, England. They took his cast off because of an infection. He was awarded the Purple Heart while he was in the hospital. He was moved into a tent with other men who had facial wounds. He was transferred back to the states and went to Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island, New York to get a new cast. His parents came to visit him, but he looked so bad they didn't recognize him.In October of 1944, Baumgarten went to Cushing General Hospital in Massachusetts. He received plastic surgery on his face and received new teeth. They closed the hole in the roof of his mouth. He was discharged on 12 February of 1945 because he wanted to go back to school at New York University. He had to promise the Army that he would go back to the VA hospital in between semesters for more surgery.

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On the 13 February of 1945, Baumgarten took his discharge papers to the Bronx County Courthouse. By 14 February, he was back in classes at NYU. He took German, chemistry, and biology and played on the school's baseball team. He remembers traveling to West Point twice for baseball games. The team won the Metropolitan League championship four years in a row. He enjoyed college very much. He received another operation on his foot in September of 1945 and several subsequent surgeries in the following years.In January of 1947, Baumgarten received his B.A. He left New York and attended the University of Miami for medical school, where he met his wife. They have three children together. He never talked about D-Day until 1988. He would have nightmares about it. In 1988, he went to Normandy to dedicate a monument to the 29th Infantry Division. After visiting the cemetery in Normandy, he decided to tell his story and those of the men with them. Stephen Ambrose encouraged him to write about D-Day. He has written three books on the subject. He started donating artifacts to the D-Day Museum [Annotator's Note: now The National World War II Museum, New Orleans] in the 1980s and is listed as a founder.

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Baumgarten relives what he was thinking while he was in his landing craft coming up to Omaha Beach. He said all the men were very somber and you couldn't hear anyone talking. Some men were crying and others were sick. He prayed along with some of the other men in the boat. It gave him a "certain bravado." He kept thinking he was going to die. His best friend Robert Garbette gave him the o.k. sign and Robert Ditmar gave him a smile. He imagined most of the men thought they were going to die. He does not know how they beat the Germans, they were outnumbered sixteen to one.At the time of the interview [Annotator's Note: 2007], he was eighty-two years old. He tries to keep in good shape. He goes back to talk about his training. He states that he used the M1 rifle. On a trip to Bosnia in 2001 with Stephen Ambrose, he qualified expert with the M16 and 9mm pistol. He said he would not want have wanted the M16 at D-Day, the M1 was a better gun.He still has nightmares occasionally. He thinks it is very important to teach children about World War II and without the World War II Museum there is no real coverage of D-Day. The history departments at West Point and VMI [Annotator's Note: Virginia Military Institute] have used Baumgarten's books. Young children do not understand. The people in Normandy thanked him because without a success at D-Day they would be speaking German. He talks in the local schools in Jacksonville, churches, libraries, and in the D-Day Museum [Annotator's Note: now the National World War II Museum, New Orleans] . He also spoke at Stephen Ambrose's memorial service.If he had to, he would go back and do it all over again. D-Day brought an end to Hitler's regime. He loves the National World War II Museum and all of the proceeds from his books and talks go to the museum. Without the museum, the history would be lost.

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