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Tries to join the Coast Guard, but ends up drafted by the Army

First death in Cannon Company in Ireland during training

Going ashore on Omaha Beach

Hill 192

Battle of the Bulge litter bearer at Elsenborn Ridge

Anyone who said they were not scared is lying.

8 Germans in a house

HIll 192

Talking about the war

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Baldwin was born on 7 February 1922 in Jasper, Alabama. His family moved to Birmingham in 1928 when he was 6 years old. He went to school in Birmingham and finished grammer school and finished 2 years of high school and then had to drop out of high school and go to work. He went to work for a friend that owned a grist mill and earned about $1 a day. It was during the Depression and he was fortunate to work for him and gave part of his paycheck to his mother on Friday to help the family. He then got a driver's license and went to work for his father, who had a coal business. He worked for him about a year and a half and thought he was doing good then making about $11 to $12 dollars a week. In 1942, 7 February, on his birthday, he went to work for U.S. Steel Corporation for 45 cents an hour. He worked 40 hours for $18. President Roosevelt had started Social Security and Income Taxes, so when they would cut his pay, he would bring home $15 to $16 dollars a week. Baldwin was dating a young lady and thought she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen in his life. They dated a while and he asked her to marry him. They married and he was then making 75 cents an hour, so that was $6 a day, $30 a week. They were married on 28 June 1942. They got an apartment and were doing good. But the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 on 7 December, so they knew Baldwin could get drafted. Baldwin thought he was going to beat the draft and they went to New Orleans so that he could join the Coast Guard. Birmingham didn't have a Coast Guard office at that time. This was in about September or October 1942. Baldwin was accepted into the Coast Guard and they told him they could swear him in that day, give him clothes and send him to training. Baldwin told them that he couldn't because he had his wife with him and they were expecting their 1st child. He was going to have to go home and give up the apartment and quit his job and find her a place to stay. She was an only child, so she lived with her mother and father while Baldwin was gone. Baldwin was sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama which was in Anniston, Alabama. They kept him a couple of days and then sent him home. Then he had orders to go to Fort McPherson, Georgia. He went there with a friend of his from home that was also being sent there. They thought that they would get to stay together, but when they got there they never got to see each other again. Baldwin was sent immediately to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. It was winter in Wisconsin and was 25-30 degrees below zero. Baldwin was wearing "summer khakis" [Annotator's Note: light khaki uniform] and was by himself, having never been away from home, and felt lost and frightened. After a while, other boys began showing up from different places. They were all put on a bus and carried 50 miles out into the boondocks and they were the 1st troops to train at Camp McCoy. That is where they started their training. There were men from Oklahoma, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. They were all sent there to go to the 2nd Infantry Division. The 2nd Infantry Division had come out of World War I and they were based originally out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Baldwin and the others took their basic training at Camp McCoy with the 2nd Division and were assigned to companies. While they were at Camp McCoy for basic training, it was so cold that your breath would freeze to your face while you were out marching or hiking or at the rifle range. It was terrible since they were primarily Southern boys and weren't used to such cold weather. Some of the division had been to Watersby, Michigan taking ski training, but Baldwin and his group were not a part of the division yet. The division was brought up to battle strength at Camp McCoy and the men were assigned to companies. They knew they would be going overseas, but they weren't sure what they were going to be doing. They had to get up at 5am each morning and the lights went out at 9pm each night. But when the day's training and drill were over, they had to go to the orderly room and write letters or in the barracks. At 9pm the lights were out until the next morning. They did this 5 days a week and usually had a small hike on Saturday. Baldwin and the division continued training through the winter [Annotator's Note: 1943]. They went overseas and arrived in Belfast, Ireland in October 1943. They were taken from Camp McCoy to Boston, MA and sailed from there. It took them 17 days on an old troop ship that had been converted from a merchant vessel. There were some 100 or so ships that left that week with escorts because of the U-boats. They went through a bad storm on the way over and everyone got sick. When they arrived in Ireland, they had 6 months of training to do there. At that time, both the 2nd Infantry Division and the 5th Infantry Division were there and training. The 2nd Division was doing training for the invasion, but Baldwin an the other men didn't know that. [Annotator's Note: Tape stopped so that Baldwin could ask a few questions. Tape resumes with backing up to Baldwin's wanting to initially join the Coast Guard.] Baldwin was going to New Orleans to join the Coast Guard, but came home to get things in order. When he got home and had been home for about 2 days, he received a draft notice. Now the Coast Guard wouldn't accept me since the Army was drafting him.

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The next morning, possibly around 3 am, Baldwin and the rest of Cannon Company were told to get ready to go ashore. To do this they had to scale the rope ladders on the sides of the ship. With a full field pack, rifle, bandoleers, etc., you had about 60 extra pounds on you. Baldwin weighed about 155 to 160 pounds at the time. Baldwin and 2nd Infantry Division troops climbed down onto a landing barge and they didn't know what was about to happen. It was dark outside, but the beach was fairly well lit with flares. And all the ships had dirigible balloons to keep German planes from coming in and strafing the area. They couldn't get their cannons ashore yet, so a young man from Georgia, James Lofton, and Baldwin were assigned to 1 another and issued a 30-caliber machine gun and 2 ammunition boxes. They were told that when they hit the beach, then they would know what to do. Lt. Kline [Annotator's Note: or Klein?] from Pennsylvania told them what to do and Baldwin felt he was one of the best Lieutenants you could ever have. As they went ashore, there were so many dead and so much equipment on the beach and it was so torn up that they realized they were in trouble. They went toward the hill and made sure not to bunch up. When they first got on board the barge that there was a sailor that didn't even have a cap on. He had a t-shirt and pants on and no shoes on. He had been landing troops on the beach all day and seemed comfortable and like he was relaxing. Baldwin remembered that they had sank so many landing boats off the coast that they had to weave their way toward the shore. So many had been killed there that the water was pink as it washed up on the sand. Lofton and Baldwin went ashore and moved on inland into position. When they finally got to a ridgeline, they were told to get into position. There was noise everywhere, you can't imagine what was going on. There was machine gun and rifle fire, and explosions everywhere and you weren't really sure what everything was about. There was noise everywhere. They went into position and there was a town not far from their position called Trévières. The riflemen had gone in and the heavy weapons troops, like Lofton and Baldwin, were right behind them. The Germans made up their mind that they weren't going to leave the town. The 2nd Infantry Division wanted it for their headquarters. Lofton and Baldwin set up their position and it was from there that the war started for them. As they went ashore on the beach and got into Normandy, they were in a hole and the Germans brought up tanks and infantry. Anywhere you heard tanks, there would be infantry around them too. They came up to the beach as close as they could and fired onto the beach. As Lieutenant Siegfried in Cannon Company was getting the first M3 105mm Howitzer cannon ashore, they hurried to get it into position. When they got it into position and ready to fire, the tank fired on them, killed them, and destroyed the gun. These were the 1st men, or boys, that the Cannon Company lost during the war. These were men that Baldwin trained with at Camp McCoy, Ireland, Wales, and now the rest of the company wasn't even off the boat and they were already losing men. Lofton and Baldwin did what they could from their position. Lofton said that Baldwin looked tired and suggested that he just take a nap in their hole. Everything was really quiet and there was a lull in the battle. Baldwin recalled that the Germans were resting and resupplying at times, just like the American troops. James Lofton was a big guy and very strong. He would tell Baldwin to get the ammunition boxes and Lofton would get the gun and the tripod. They could have that gun in position and firing in a matter of seconds. This time Lofton told Baldwin to rest and said that he would be alright for a while, so Baldwin rolled over into a ditch and lay down. In a few hours, Lofton woke Baldwin up and was laughing. Lofton asked if he know where he'd been taking his nap. Baldwin realized that there was a dead German laying in the hole with him. This was the first German that Baldwin had ever seen in the war. Lofton knew the dead soldier was there, but just let Baldwin sleep for a while. People wonder how you slept during war, but you just shut your eyes and fell asleep. You were so exhausted and tired you just fell asleep. They went on and took the town of Trévières, even with the Germans not wanting to give it up. Several rifle companies entered the town and took it, even with some hand to hand combat. Baldwin remembered that they fired on the town with as much artillery and machine gun ammunition as they could and when they finished, the rifle companies went into the town. They went building by building fighting the Germans out of there. The 2nd Infantry Division took that town, but lost a lot of men doing so. 2 days later, General Robertson [Annotator's Note: Major General Walter M. Robertson] and the 2nd Infantry Division Headquarters came in within the next 2 days. Baldwin and Lofton were positioned during the attack with their machine gun up on a hill. There was an apple orchard or something there and a long grade [Annotator's Note: open view] into the town. There was a dirt road going from their machine gun position that went down a hill into the town. They were approximately 200 to 250 yards away firing into the town. They held fire once the riflemen entered town. After the fighting in Trévières, their M3 105mm Cannons arrived and they had to give their 30-caliber machine gun back. They started forming gun sections and Lofton was placed in 1, while Baldwin was placed in another. During the rest of the war, they were never together on the same crew other than seeing each other. Baldwin was assistant gunner in his section and he thinks Lofton was in his too. After they left Trévières, they were told that things would be bad. What they didn't know was that supplies were short. They were rationed bullets, food, shells f the cannons. The tide had gone out and weather had gotten bad causing so much difficulty in getting supplies ashore. The Cannon Company along with the 2nd Infantry Division were now going to have to take Saint Lo.

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On 16 December 1944, the Germans started the biggest battle of offensive fighting in the world's history, the Battle of the Bulge. 41 days, from 16 December to 21January. There were more than 90,000 casualties in 21 days. That was the Americans, British, Australians, and Candians. The fighting started in Belgium in the Ardennes and ended up with some 91,000 casualties. The Germans lost many thousands too. But the Germans didn't have the equipment, supplies, and gasoline that the Americans had. Had the Germans had the capability to get supplies like the Americans were from the beaches, that they would have been nearly impossible to stop. He feels that they had the best equipment in the world, but they ran out of what they needed. They couldn't win the battle with just manpower. Baldwin was told that the Germans were held and came within 2 miles of the largest gasoline depot that the Americans had in Europe. There was something like a million gallons of gasoline camouflaged along the edge of a forest. Baldwin wonders if they would have gotten that, how many more lives would have been lost? How much longer would the fighting have taken? Would they have run Americans back to the beach? The Americans were in a tough spot, but thankfully the Germans didn't do that. The Germans didn't find the gasoline depot. The 106th Infantry Division had come up to the line, along with the 28th Division and the 99th Division. The 106th and 99th were new divisions and the 28th Division was basically new after receiving numerous replacements during the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. They started relieving the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisons and the other "old" divisions that had been fighting since D-Day. He isn't sure if the Germans knew that or not, but wonders if that is why they hit those weaker divisions 1st. When the fighting was over in some of those new divisions, there was basically no one left. Maybe a few hundreds out of 22,000 men. Jack remembered 1 night during the fighting at Elsenborn Ridge being assigned with Art [Annotator's Note: Art Kierstead], a young man from South Portland, Maine that finished high school and went through training and came into the unit, they were told to go on litter bearer duty for a night. They were given a helmet with a Red Cross and a Red Cross armband and then they started out. Baldwin suggested they get into the edge of the woods since they didn't have a rifle. They did so and eventually got out of the woods and crossed a road. Eventually, they heard someone yelling, "Help me! Help me! Help me!" Baldwin told Art that something wasn't right. At the time the 106th Infantry Division, the 99th Infantry Division and the 2nd Infantry Division were all basically mixed together. Across from their position were Germans. Knowing this, Baldwin's gut told him that the person yelling was a German that was trying to draw them out and locate their position. Later on, they had heard a tank coming down the road. Just before that, they had been in an old house where they hid in the barn with some old cows. They could hear Germans upstairs walking around and as they passed a door, you could see their hobnail boots. Baldwin and Art hid in the barn and found a sack of carrots. They filled their pockets because they ate carrots and turnips since the locals grew a lot of them. In fact, that's what they fed their cattle. A few of the Germans came into the barn and were talking. They were some 15 to 20 feet away from Baldwin and Art, but since neither of the men had a rifle then, they let them go. Had they had rifles, they could have killed the Germans. Come to find out later, some of the Germans were lost too and didn't even know where they were. But he and Art left the barn when they had the opportunity and got out of the area and reached a road. That's when the tank started coming down the road and it came to a ridge. Art and Baldwin saw a gate and stopped at it about the time the tank reached the ridge. They watched the barrel of the tank come over the ridge and they dove into a ditch. You didn't even want to breathe loud. The tank was trying to draw fire. The tank then turned around and drove back. They got out of the area as quickly as they could. They ran into an MP and were led to a barn where they could get some rest. He told them to just kick somebody and they'd move over and you could lay down on some hay, pull your helmet down over your face and you would sleep a few hours. They slept about 2 or 3 hours and then someone nudged them and told them that the 2nd Infantry Division was down the road at a crossroads. He and Art gathered their gear and headed down the road to link back up with the division. They asked around and found out where the Cannon Company was located and joined back up with them. When they got back to the Cannon Company, he and Art tried to find the 2nd Platoon. They were told that everything was all messed up and everyone is just helping 1 another out. Apparently, while he and Art were away the 2nd Platoon was in part of a house and the gun section was killed. Art and Baldwin were supposed to be with them. Baldwin saw it as a blessing from God that they weren't in there. The men were told to get in these houses and get out of the weather to get warm, something that they didn't usually do. The Germans shelled them. The German shells were very much like the American shells. Jack explained that he could put a timer on the shell and have it go off in 10 seconds or whatever time you wanted. You would do this in order to fire a tree burst and have the shell explode early sending tree limbs as shrapnel down on the enemy. The men told Baldwin that when the shell came through the roof of the house, it exploded and killed the men inside. He and Art were supposed to have been in there. So, now they had a new gun section. All of this happened at Elsenborn. After that, they finally got back together and got organized. Things were so mixed up with several of the divisions, but at this point the 99th, 106th and 2nd Infantry Divisions were able to seperate themselves from 1 another and spread out along the line.

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When they left St. Lo, they were in dairy and farming country. The farms were laid out in squares and there were mounds of dirt around each 1 and on top of these mounds were hedges, what they called hedgerows. All kinds of bushes and trees were growing up on these mounds. When they got to the hedgerows, the troops just started going over them and the Germans were on the next hedgerow waiting and started killing them. A lot of guys would try to get back over and you'd see them laying over the hedgerows where they had been killed. This wasn't going to work so they brought tanks up and they would look for a small place on the hedgerow that they could try to climb over. The infantry would try to get behind them and continue over the hedgerow, but too many of them were getting killed in the process. Someone decided to put prongs on the front of the tank and go in under the hedgerow, pushing dirt aside and the infantry can move in easier and have the tanks to go ahead of them to provide cover. The Germans were using small arms fire that now wouldn't work against the Americans. They weren't using their tanks, only their infantry. That worked out for the GIs. They started bringing tanks up with these long metal spikes with sharp points on the end that just dug straight into the hedgerow and just go on through, piling the dirt back. When they went through they'd start using their gun. Some had 1 or 2 50-caliber machine guns that they could use too. The infantry would pile in with them and other tanks and men would also break through in other hedgerow areas down the line. They started taking hedgerow after hedgerow and got the Germans moving back. Over a period of days, they had taken control of a great deal of hedgerow territory. The Cannon Company was behind the advancing infantry firing ahead of them as they attacked, as were other Cannon Companies and artillery units further to the rear. The only thing that he could see and what James, the interviewer's grandfather, could see was what was right in front of them. They didn't know what was going on a mile down the road, just what was right in front of them. All they had on their mind was to do the job they had to do and stay alive.Eventually, the Germans started bringing up their tanks too and the heavy fighting continued on beyond hedgerow country. You weren't supposed to shoot at cathedrals, churches or cemeteries and avoid them. The Germans saw what kind of beating they were taking and started using them. A call came in 1 day saying that the Germans were firing from a bell tower on the steeple of this church. They were opening up and killing soldiers when they advanced. Their machine guns, like the 1 he and James Lofton had when they got to Omaha Beach, had a tracer every 3rd round so you could tell where you were firing. The forward observers called for fire on the church steeple and gave the distance, etc and the Cannon Company opened fire. The forward observer said they just barely missed their mark and told them how to adjust. The next round centered the steeple and exploded when it hit point blank. Those within line of sight said that when the shell exploded, you had never seen so many arms and legs and pieces of equipment come out. There must have been about a dozen in there. He thought such a sight was kind of comical, but that the Germans started it by doing unlawful things. They knew that they were using a church steeple to fire beyond a cemetary at the Americans. A friend of his from Jasper, AL took a water-cooled machine gun and walked across the cemetary by himself while his buddies were in prone position firing as much as they could, and he fired all over until he ran out of ammunition. When he ran out of ammo and fell, part of the meat on his hand had melted away. He held it until it blistered. He risked his life to save lives and he got away with it; that was the kind of men the Army was made of. You could take his son or the interviewer and put them in a camp, the uniform and ammunition and the technology we have now and you'll fight. It is just in Americans, we have something to fight for. Baldwin left his wife and baby that was 9 days old to go to war. He got a call at Camp McCoy Annotator's Note: Wisconsin] that said his wife had a baby and the Army would let him go home and see it. He went home and saw the baby and when he left he was 9 days old. He kissed his wife and the baby and didn't see them again until October 1945. Baldwin was known during the war for digging a foxhole faster than any man in the company. They would say that he had a reason [Annotator's Note: to get home to his wife and baby]. He wasn't as scared as some, but he wasn't a big hero. When they dropped the trails on the gun and were going into firing position, he dug a hole. He didn't care if they were only there 15 minutes, he dug 1 anyway. He probably dug a thousand foxholes that he never had to use, but he didn't care. He had 1 if he needed it.

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One day they attacked the city of Leipzig [Annotator's Note: Germany]. It was industrial, like Birmingham, Pittsburgh, or Detroit. The city was fortified with anti-aircraft guns and would build them in a big circle and then they had a big gun that would raise up and fire, but could also lower and fire on ground troops. But they learned that it could only fire as low as the top of the wall for the city. They learned that the shell from the big gun would go over their head if they were fired at. That helped them some. They were sitting out in a field and had recently had a bath and clean clothes getting ready to take the city. Replacements were being brought in from England out of the Air Force [Annotator's Note: US Army Air Forces] to replace troops and prevent more men from coming from the US. There was a young man brought into Cannon Company that was an Italian from New York. He was put in Baldwin's gun section. Baldwin told him to dig a hole and the man questioned it. Baldwin explained that you never know when a shell might come over or when a plane may come by to strafe or bomb. The new replacement said he didn't see anything going on yet and decided against it. It wasn't long before the Germans lowered their AA guns [Annotator's Note: 88's?] and opened fire. You could hear them whiz past you and hear the shells explode before you hear the gun. Baldwin's foxhole was about 8 to 10 feet from his gun position. He was sitting in this field with his rifle sitting there with it resting it on his big toe. He told himself that if he shot off his toe, then he could get out of the war and go home. Thoughts such as these were not good thoughts, and he probably would have been sent to Fort Leavenworth instead of home. When the Germans started firing, Baldwin knew the shells were over their head, but he dove for his hole and this new replacement beat him to it. Baldwin dove in on top of him. The Germans stopped firing and would just shoot a volley of fire every once in a while. When they stopped, Baldwin got up and got out of the hole and asked the GI to sit down. Baldwin explained to the new replacement that he said that he previously needed the hole and the young man wouldn't listen. Baldwin told him that he beat him to his foxhole and that he would tell him 1 more time to dig a hole in the next position they come to. He also told the replacement that if he wanted 1 that he wasn't getting in Baldwin's hole anymore and if he did, the Germans would never have to worry with him anymore, because he would take care of him himself. Others heard it, but said nothing. The next time they got into a new position, this young man dug a hole faster than Baldwin. Another time, they were going through a town with their rifles and their guns had not arrived. A lot of times, they had to use their rifles. There was a building at the end of the street with a big oak tree out front. There was an opening coming out of the top of the building. All of the sudden there was machine gun fire spraying up and down the street. A lot of the streets in Europe are narrow and the houses are built fairly close to them. He and the rest of his unit dove for a wall when the enemy fire opened up. When he got there, another GI-- he thinks was named Barter from Wyoming or somewhere-- had scooted under him and put him up in the air. Had he been pushed up a few more inches than the bullet holes could have riddled him. Baldwin had to have a talk with him after that too.

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The 2nd Division took Leipzig, Germany. It was heavily fortified. In Leipzig they found doorways and stairways that led to underground munitions plants. In 1 town, Sergeant Brodie [Annotator's Note: Jesse Brodie], who Baldwin didn't care for, and a guy by the name of Rich, found a brewery. The men of Cannon Company opened the kegs and let them run. When it got to the steps it ran out into the street. Brodie's buddy Rich had a keg on his section truck and was drunk. Eventually he was told to get rid of the keg. The Cannon Company got through Leipzig and the war was pretty well over. The 2nd Infantry Division was close to getting to Berlin, but they were stopped and diverted which upset them since they had been fighting so long. They turned the division into the Alps and sent them down to Czechoslovakia. The Alps had snow on them still in April, but there was sun and warmth down in the valley. They crossed the Elbe River and crossed into Czechoslovakia. Some history books say that the Russians took Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, but that is wrong as the 2nd Division was the 1st uniformed military unit to liberate the city. Then the Russians came along later. Jack remembered that some of the 2nd Division guys drank vodka with the Russians. The US had given them clothing, aircraft, war materials and then after the war ended, the Russians turned on them. At the end of the war, they were fed well and then those with wives and children were "high pointers" [Annotator's Note: rotation home was based on a point system]. Baldwin had 88 and you only needed 80. Lofton, mentioned earlier, was sent back to the United States to train for Japan. Baldwin was sent to Camp Pittsburgh in Southern France where they had a bunch of prisoners that needed guarding. James O. Smith and Baldwin were together. Both men were married, Smith with a little girl and Baldwin with a little boy. Richard "Dick" Winters was in charge of the camp, which Baldwin didn't know until years after the war. In October 1945, Baldwin returned home to the United States. He heard during the war that he was due about $3,000. This was because of an agreement that FDR would give troops who served overseas a dollar for each day of combat, money for other specific duties, etc. Baldwin recalls that when he was discharged he only got $100, as Truman was now in office and realized the government didn't have the money to pay such high amounts to returning troops. When Baldwin got to New York, he thought it was the prettiest sight that he had ever seen. They were on a brand new ship, the USS Rushville Victory Ship. It was purchased with bonds by Rushville, TN. He was well fed and then sent to Fort Benning and then to Fort McPherson. He was given $100, and was forwarded $200 later, and got a duffel bag to put what few belongings they had in it. They were directed to the bus station and told to get home the best way they could. A friend of his was from Birmingham and had a car and got him home. Baldwin came home and went back to work and worked 40 years. He had another son, Larry. His oldest son went into the Coast Guard and became an honor guard representative during President John F. Kennedy's funeral. His 2nd son Larry served 6 years.

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Baldwin didn't have much to do with Capt. Fritts, but he liked him alright. Fritts knew he was a Captain, knew he was in charge, knew he had 4 Lieutenants under him, 4 platoons, they answered to him. Baldwin remembers Bob Carlson [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Robert "Bob" Carlson] . He brought the book with him [Annotator's Note: he did things by the book]. He was assigned to review and censor the mail being sent out. Baldwin saw him recently and he apologized for cutting things out of his personal letters. Baldwin said that it was ok; he never put anything in his letters about what they were doing. Carlson said he got a lot of static for it, but that was his job. Baldwin appreciated that. When Carlson first got there he was like a lot of 2nd Lieutenants in that he came in wanting to win the war. He went to college and OCS and was a "90 Day Wonder" and eventually adapted. He was in intelligence a long time after the war and stayed in [Annotator's Note: Carlson ended up working with the CIA]. Baldwin heard he had made Full Colonel, but he wasn't sure if that was true. When Lt. Siegfried was killed on the beach, Baldwin thinks Carlson took his place. Baldwin remembers that the Siegfried line had staggered concrete blocks and tank obstacles to prevent tanks and troops from moving through. His friend from home, Wade, asked him to tell his family if he didn't make it home where they last saw 1 another. Baldwin never did. Baldwin recalls that to knock out a pillbox was difficult. You could drop a grenade down the air ventilation shaft. He heard that the Germans let Wade walk closer to the pillbox before opening fire. He heard the rounds went through him and through the pack. Baldwin said the difficult thing would be taking prisoners after something like that. He was so glad that he wasn't a rifleman. Lieutenant Worthington was unorthodox. He never cared how his uniform looked, never bloused his pants over his boots, didn't care how he looked. Baldwin heard he stayed about 30-something years in the Army. [Annotator's Note: interview interrupted by Baldwin's wife] When they got to Belfast, Ireland the people crowded around the dock as the Americans came in. The people there loved oranges and actually had an orange festival. They had plenty of oranges on board, so some GIs through them down to the crowd and people would scramble to get them. Baldwin remembers loading trucks from there and moving along until they got 4 miles out of Newry, Ireland. They had a castle there and a rich couple had several girls that would come visit Jack and the company. George Kepner, a married GI, got pretty close to 1 of the girls. Their family had cows, horses and lots of land. They let the US put Quonset huts on their property. There were about 20 of these huts and each had an old stove heater. They would build a fire at night to keep warm. If you slept on the end of the hut nearest the heater then you were warm. Those furthest away were cold. There was a barn there that they went and got hay from. They'd get a bag and fill it with hay and sew the end up. They would do the same thing for a pillow. Jack remembers each soldier got 3 4x4 boards, 3-foot long and then 3 1x12 pieces of lumber. They would put the 4x4s down 1st close to the ground. Then they put the 3 boards on top of them and then the mattress and the pillow. You got 2 blankets and that was it.

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When you woke up in the morning, you had to make up your bed and it had to be basically a foot or 2 off the floor. The people that lived at the property had 2 or 3 little children. The men got to be good friends with the family and Baldwin would go talk with them and play with the children. The British would come around 2 or 3 times a week and get the eggs and milk from the family so they could help feed the Army and other people. England was in bad shape. This family would save so many eggs and so much milk for the GIs. They would get about a gallon of milk and about 2 dozen eggs. Sergeant Woods was head of the kitchen. He had his own Quonset hut with a kitchen set up. All of the bread was made out of potatoes. The bread was made round with a flat bottom. They would take that, the milk and the eggs and have a cookout on the potbellied heater. Had the British found out, they may have gotten on to the family. When Christmas came, the men in Cannon Company decided to ask permission to have the children come eat Christmas dinner with them. They were given permission so they got a tree and decorated it and put it on the table. They went down to get them and the children were all dressed up and ready for Christmas. Baldwin and the men took them gifts too. He felt like he was probably the main one wanting to do all of this for the children, probably because he had always had Christmas like that at home and he had a little boy back home. A guy from Texas came over to the table where the children were sitting with Baldwin and some of the other members of Cannon Company. This GI from Texas asked why they couldn't have the children sit with them. Baldwin refused since this GI and others didn't want to help initially with the Christmas plans for the children. Baldwin and this GI, named Carl, kept arguing about the children leaving the table and going to another 1. Baldwin finally told him to step outside and they can solve the matter because the children aren't moving. So they went outside and had a fight and had to be separated. The children didn't move and got somewhat scared or nervous at first, but they ended up alright. Baldwin was young and should have left it alone, but things like that happened. They trained there for 6 months. There was an old man from Newry that was in his 60s that was a stone mason and would pass by the gate sometimes when Baldwin was on guard duty. They would talk occasionally and 1 day the man invited Baldwin to go rabbit hunting. He had little ferrets that he would put in the rabbit hole and run the rabbit out. Jack got permission and would go rabbit hunting with him on several occasions. The man took Baldwin home 1 time and met his wife and 2 or 3 little children. His wife was a young pretty lady that married him because everyone was poor and she needed a home, Baldwin assumed, and he was well off. They cooked in an oven that was built in the wall with rocks. They would cook with the long- handled things they would side the tarts/cookies around with. They would bake hot tea and these tarts and would have tea at 10, 2, and 4 each day. He would furnish the guns and Baldwin would go home with him and she would bake a few things. Training in Ireland was routine. Hiking, obstacle courses, calisthenics, lots of walking and bivouacking. They had an ammunition dump there. It was huge and right outside the fence from where they were. Baldwin remembers they had to guard that 24 hours a day. That was 1 of their duties too. They had an obstacle course 1 time that you had to crawl under that had machine guns shooting crossfire over the barbwire. They would have to crawl and knew that if they raised up they could get hit. Some people thought the bullets were blanks, but Baldwin remembers that some of the shells had tracers on them. He didn't remember them ever losing a man to that. They also had to climb walls, swing over mudholes in their gear and keep going. As small as he was, he had a tough time sometimes. Melbourne Headrick, a member of Cannon Company, was over 6 feet tall and like a bean pole. He didn't have a problem. They trained on rifle ranges too. They would open a church several times a week for those that wanted to go. It rained nearly all the time in Ireland too. Not a hard rain, but at least a mist or fog. They grew potatoes there pretty easily and made a lot of things out of them.

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It would get cold on the hike. They would start the hike at camp and would end the hike at the hospital. It was a 20 mile hike. They were told that if anyone fell out then they would just be left there and nobody would be following them. They actually ended the hike near the hospital which put things in perspective for them. After their hike, they returned to camp around daybreak and were given the day off. Everyone was exhausted. One GI turned on his bunk facing the wall. Baldwin and other GIs decided to go to the mess hall and asked if he wanted to join. He told them he wanted to rest a while. Later on around noon, someone went to check on that GI and he was dead. His heart just stopped beating. Colonel Barsanti was a Battalion Commander. Baldwin thought he was great and said he went out to the field with his men. Baldwin remembered him first from Hill 192, when the Colonel realized the Germans were making their first big counterattack. Barsanti called Cannon Company to fire just ahead of his position to push the Germans back. The cannons were in the middle of changing positions, with the exception of Baldwin's gun. They opened fire and the rest of the guns soon got into firing position. Baldwin felt the Germans didn't know how much artillery was going to hit that hill and they should have let the Americans get over the hill and into the valley. The guns fired so much that the paint started coming off of the guns and the barrels lost their rifling and rounds were flipping end over end instead of spinning. New barrels and paint were needed after that battle. Some of the rifle companies would see a white flag from the Germans during a firefight. Several Germans would get up with their hands up and would walk toward the Americans. The Americans in excitement would get up and try to meet them. The Germans would drop to the ground and machine gun fire behind them would hit the Americans that came out to meet the surrendering Germans. He remembered the Germans did that a good bit during the fighting around Elsenborn Ridge. Baldwin didn't know where they were at the time and didn't remember anything specific about the "Twin Villages" of Rocherath and Krinkelt, but remembered a great deal of the fighting happened there and at Elsenborn Ridge. In the villages, there were basements, houses, barns, etc that the Germans would fire from. Americans had to fire artillery onto the buildings and destroy them to kill the Germans inside and keep them from using them for cover. Baldwin would rather fight in the woods than in the towns as there are too many places to hide in a town.

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The local principal got him to come up there and then teachers started asking him to speak to their classes. The students are amazed and haven't seen many medals and artifacts like that. Baldwin was one of the 1st in Cannon Company to receive the Combat Infantryman's Badge [Annotator's Note: CIB]. Baldwin had a haircut and had gotten cleaned up and when they pinned his CIB on him. Alessi and Canterbury are 2 men that earned it, but were killed before they could receive it. He was 1 of the 1st in Cannon Company to receive it because his name starts with a B. General Hodges was the head General of the 2nd Infantry Division. He was next of command under General Bradley. Baldwin felt that General Bradley was the finest general that put on a uniform in WWII. He was head of the 1st Army and he and Patton loved each other like a sore thumb. They had no use for each other. They got the whole 38th Infantry Regiment together at 1 point. Patton got up and was letting vulgar words fly. Bradley asked him to tone it down and Patton wouldn't so Bradley threatened to kick him off the stage. Patton felt he could get a thousand men in a day, but couldn't always get a new tank. Patton told General Robertson what to do with his troops in France. Baldwin didn't care for him. He also notes that he was the only General in WWII with more than 2 stars that didn't get home. He wonders if there's something to that. Every once in a while The Stars and Stripes [US Armed Forces newpspaper] would give them a paper and it would keep the GIs informed as to what was going on. Other than that, they had no idea. People higher up or at home on a radio knew more of what was going on with the war then the men fighting did. Someone in the Company drew a funny cartoon of Baldwin and various men in Cannon Company digging foxholes or trying to get home. Baldwin never got to see General Eisenhower. He felt he was a good General up to the point of the Normandy Invasion. Baldwin felt that he could've avoided sending the 29th Infantry Division in; he could have saved a lot more lives. Baldwin felt he listened too much to Montgomery and felt pushed to invade after the British failure at Dunkirk. Baldwin feels like overall Eisenhower did a good job.

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Jack feels that World War II is important enough that they shouldn't take it out of the history books. He felt it was the greatest war ever that there ever was in the world and that the next great one will be Armageddon. Baldwin recalls that James Lofton [Annotator's Note: Interviewer's grandfather] grew up on a farm and he remembered him talking about how hard he used to have to work. Baldwin also feels that if anybody had come between him and James Lofton during the 1st few weeks of the war, then he would have had to have been bigger than James. They were close. James seemed to help Baldwin all the time. He wasn't afraid, he carried his load, he'd do 1st, it didn't matter to him. They were just old Southern boys and that's all they knew. Baldwin felt James was 1 of the best. He talked about him a good bit until he had met the interviewer, James' grandson. They were together in the beginning during the bad days-- St. Lo, Hill 192. Baldwin loved him to death and felt he was a great guy. He wished that James could have talked more about it after the war. But he worked hard. The remainder of the interview is with Jack showing the interviewer, Tommy Lofton, his medals and a tattoo that he got during the war.

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Baldwin was born on 7 February 1922 in Jasper, Alabama. His family moved to Birmingham in 1928 when he was 6 years old. He went to school in Birmingham and finished grammer school and finished 2 years of high school and then had to drop out of high school and go to work. He went to work for a friend that owned a grist mill and earned about $1 a day. It was during the Depression and he was fortunate to work for him and gave part of his paycheck to his mother on Friday to help the family. He then got a driver's license and went to work for his father, who had a coal business. He worked for him about a year and a half and thought he was doing good then making about $11 to $12 dollars a week. In 1942, 7 February, on his birthday, he went to work for U.S. Steel Corporation for 45 cents an hour. He worked 40 hours for $18. President Roosevelt had started Social Security and Income Taxes, so when they would cut his pay, he would bring home $15 to $16 dollars a week. Baldwin was dating a young lady and thought she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen in his life. They dated a while and he asked her to marry him. They married and he was then making 75 cents an hour, so that was $6 a day, $30 a week. They were married on 28 June 1942. They got an apartment and were doing good. But the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 on 7 December, so they knew Baldwin could get drafted. Baldwin thought he was going to beat the draft and they went to New Orleans so that he could join the Coast Guard. Birmingham didn't have a Coast Guard office at that time. This was in about September or October 1942. Baldwin was accepted into the Coast Guard and they told him they could swear him in that day, give him clothes and send him to training. Baldwin told them that he couldn't because he had his wife with him and they were expecting their 1st child. He was going to have to go home and give up the apartment and quit his job and find her a place to stay. She was an only child, so she lived with her mother and father while Baldwin was gone. Baldwin was sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama which was in Anniston, Alabama. They kept him a couple of days and then sent him home. Then he had orders to go to Fort McPherson, Georgia. He went there with a friend of his from home that was also being sent there. They thought that they would get to stay together, but when they got there they never got to see each other again. Baldwin was sent immediately to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. It was winter in Wisconsin and was 25-30 degrees below zero. Baldwin was wearing "summer khakis" [Annotator's Note: light khaki uniform] and was by himself, having never been away from home, and felt lost and frightened. After a while, other boys began showing up from different places. They were all put on a bus and carried 50 miles out into the boondocks and they were the 1st troops to train at Camp McCoy. That is where they started their training. There were men from Oklahoma, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. They were all sent there to go to the 2nd Infantry Division. The 2nd Infantry Division had come out of World War I and they were based originally out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Baldwin and the others took their basic training at Camp McCoy with the 2nd Division and were assigned to companies. While they were at Camp McCoy for basic training, it was so cold that your breath would freeze to your face while you were out marching or hiking or at the rifle range. It was terrible since they were primarily Southern boys and weren't used to such cold weather. Some of the division had been to Watersby, Michigan taking ski training, but Baldwin and his group were not a part of the division yet. The division was brought up to battle strength at Camp McCoy and the men were assigned to companies. They knew they would be going overseas, but they weren't sure what they were going to be doing. They had to get up at 5am each morning and the lights went out at 9pm each night. But when the day's training and drill were over, they had to go to the orderly room and write letters or in the barracks. At 9pm the lights were out until the next morning. They did this 5 days a week and usually had a small hike on Saturday. Baldwin and the division continued training through the winter [Annotator's Note: 1943]. They went overseas and arrived in Belfast, Ireland in October 1943. They were taken from Camp McCoy to Boston, MA and sailed from there. It took them 17 days on an old troop ship that had been converted from a merchant vessel. There were some 100 or so ships that left that week with escorts because of the U-boats. They went through a bad storm on the way over and everyone got sick. When they arrived in Ireland, they had 6 months of training to do there. At that time, both the 2nd Infantry Division and the 5th Infantry Division were there and training. The 2nd Division was doing training for the invasion, but Baldwin an the other men didn't know that. [Annotator's Note: Tape stopped so that Baldwin could ask a few questions. Tape resumes with backing up to Baldwin's wanting to initially join the Coast Guard.] Baldwin was going to New Orleans to join the Coast Guard, but came home to get things in order. When he got home and had been home for about 2 days, he received a draft notice. Now the Coast Guard wouldn't accept me since the Army was drafting him.

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The next morning, possibly around 3 am, Baldwin and the rest of Cannon Company were told to get ready to go ashore. To do this they had to scale the rope ladders on the sides of the ship. With a full field pack, rifle, bandoleers, etc., you had about 60 extra pounds on you. Baldwin weighed about 155 to 160 pounds at the time. Baldwin and 2nd Infantry Division troops climbed down onto a landing barge and they didn't know what was about to happen. It was dark outside, but the beach was fairly well lit with flares. And all the ships had dirigible balloons to keep German planes from coming in and strafing the area. They couldn't get their cannons ashore yet, so a young man from Georgia, James Lofton, and Baldwin were assigned to 1 another and issued a 30-caliber machine gun and 2 ammunition boxes. They were told that when they hit the beach, then they would know what to do. Lt. Kline [Annotator's Note: or Klein?] from Pennsylvania told them what to do and Baldwin felt he was one of the best Lieutenants you could ever have. As they went ashore, there were so many dead and so much equipment on the beach and it was so torn up that they realized they were in trouble. They went toward the hill and made sure not to bunch up. When they first got on board the barge that there was a sailor that didn't even have a cap on. He had a t-shirt and pants on and no shoes on. He had been landing troops on the beach all day and seemed comfortable and like he was relaxing. Baldwin remembered that they had sank so many landing boats off the coast that they had to weave their way toward the shore. So many had been killed there that the water was pink as it washed up on the sand. Lofton and Baldwin went ashore and moved on inland into position. When they finally got to a ridgeline, they were told to get into position. There was noise everywhere, you can't imagine what was going on. There was machine gun and rifle fire, and explosions everywhere and you weren't really sure what everything was about. There was noise everywhere. They went into position and there was a town not far from their position called Trévières. The riflemen had gone in and the heavy weapons troops, like Lofton and Baldwin, were right behind them. The Germans made up their mind that they weren't going to leave the town. The 2nd Infantry Division wanted it for their headquarters. Lofton and Baldwin set up their position and it was from there that the war started for them. As they went ashore on the beach and got into Normandy, they were in a hole and the Germans brought up tanks and infantry. Anywhere you heard tanks, there would be infantry around them too. They came up to the beach as close as they could and fired onto the beach. As Lieutenant Siegfried in Cannon Company was getting the first M3 105mm Howitzer cannon ashore, they hurried to get it into position. When they got it into position and ready to fire, the tank fired on them, killed them, and destroyed the gun. These were the 1st men, or boys, that the Cannon Company lost during the war. These were men that Baldwin trained with at Camp McCoy, Ireland, Wales, and now the rest of the company wasn't even off the boat and they were already losing men. Lofton and Baldwin did what they could from their position. Lofton said that Baldwin looked tired and suggested that he just take a nap in their hole. Everything was really quiet and there was a lull in the battle. Baldwin recalled that the Germans were resting and resupplying at times, just like the American troops. James Lofton was a big guy and very strong. He would tell Baldwin to get the ammunition boxes and Lofton would get the gun and the tripod. They could have that gun in position and firing in a matter of seconds. This time Lofton told Baldwin to rest and said that he would be alright for a while, so Baldwin rolled over into a ditch and lay down. In a few hours, Lofton woke Baldwin up and was laughing. Lofton asked if he know where he'd been taking his nap. Baldwin realized that there was a dead German laying in the hole with him. This was the first German that Baldwin had ever seen in the war. Lofton knew the dead soldier was there, but just let Baldwin sleep for a while. People wonder how you slept during war, but you just shut your eyes and fell asleep. You were so exhausted and tired you just fell asleep. They went on and took the town of Trévières, even with the Germans not wanting to give it up. Several rifle companies entered the town and took it, even with some hand to hand combat. Baldwin remembered that they fired on the town with as much artillery and machine gun ammunition as they could and when they finished, the rifle companies went into the town. They went building by building fighting the Germans out of there. The 2nd Infantry Division took that town, but lost a lot of men doing so. 2 days later, General Robertson [Annotator's Note: Major General Walter M. Robertson] and the 2nd Infantry Division Headquarters came in within the next 2 days. Baldwin and Lofton were positioned during the attack with their machine gun up on a hill. There was an apple orchard or something there and a long grade [Annotator's Note: open view] into the town. There was a dirt road going from their machine gun position that went down a hill into the town. They were approximately 200 to 250 yards away firing into the town. They held fire once the riflemen entered town. After the fighting in Trévières, their M3 105mm Cannons arrived and they had to give their 30-caliber machine gun back. They started forming gun sections and Lofton was placed in 1, while Baldwin was placed in another. During the rest of the war, they were never together on the same crew other than seeing each other. Baldwin was assistant gunner in his section and he thinks Lofton was in his too. After they left Trévières, they were told that things would be bad. What they didn't know was that supplies were short. They were rationed bullets, food, shells f the cannons. The tide had gone out and weather had gotten bad causing so much difficulty in getting supplies ashore. The Cannon Company along with the 2nd Infantry Division were now going to have to take Saint Lo.

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On 16 December 1944, the Germans started the biggest battle of offensive fighting in the world's history, the Battle of the Bulge. 41 days, from 16 December to 21January. There were more than 90,000 casualties in 21 days. That was the Americans, British, Australians, and Candians. The fighting started in Belgium in the Ardennes and ended up with some 91,000 casualties. The Germans lost many thousands too. But the Germans didn't have the equipment, supplies, and gasoline that the Americans had. Had the Germans had the capability to get supplies like the Americans were from the beaches, that they would have been nearly impossible to stop. He feels that they had the best equipment in the world, but they ran out of what they needed. They couldn't win the battle with just manpower. Baldwin was told that the Germans were held and came within 2 miles of the largest gasoline depot that the Americans had in Europe. There was something like a million gallons of gasoline camouflaged along the edge of a forest. Baldwin wonders if they would have gotten that, how many more lives would have been lost? How much longer would the fighting have taken? Would they have run Americans back to the beach? The Americans were in a tough spot, but thankfully the Germans didn't do that. The Germans didn't find the gasoline depot. The 106th Infantry Division had come up to the line, along with the 28th Division and the 99th Division. The 106th and 99th were new divisions and the 28th Division was basically new after receiving numerous replacements during the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. They started relieving the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisons and the other "old" divisions that had been fighting since D-Day. He isn't sure if the Germans knew that or not, but wonders if that is why they hit those weaker divisions 1st. When the fighting was over in some of those new divisions, there was basically no one left. Maybe a few hundreds out of 22,000 men. Jack remembered 1 night during the fighting at Elsenborn Ridge being assigned with Art [Annotator's Note: Art Kierstead], a young man from South Portland, Maine that finished high school and went through training and came into the unit, they were told to go on litter bearer duty for a night. They were given a helmet with a Red Cross and a Red Cross armband and then they started out. Baldwin suggested they get into the edge of the woods since they didn't have a rifle. They did so and eventually got out of the woods and crossed a road. Eventually, they heard someone yelling, "Help me! Help me! Help me!" Baldwin told Art that something wasn't right. At the time the 106th Infantry Division, the 99th Infantry Division and the 2nd Infantry Division were all basically mixed together. Across from their position were Germans. Knowing this, Baldwin's gut told him that the person yelling was a German that was trying to draw them out and locate their position. Later on, they had heard a tank coming down the road. Just before that, they had been in an old house where they hid in the barn with some old cows. They could hear Germans upstairs walking around and as they passed a door, you could see their hobnail boots. Baldwin and Art hid in the barn and found a sack of carrots. They filled their pockets because they ate carrots and turnips since the locals grew a lot of them. In fact, that's what they fed their cattle. A few of the Germans came into the barn and were talking. They were some 15 to 20 feet away from Baldwin and Art, but since neither of the men had a rifle then, they let them go. Had they had rifles, they could have killed the Germans. Come to find out later, some of the Germans were lost too and didn't even know where they were. But he and Art left the barn when they had the opportunity and got out of the area and reached a road. That's when the tank started coming down the road and it came to a ridge. Art and Baldwin saw a gate and stopped at it about the time the tank reached the ridge. They watched the barrel of the tank come over the ridge and they dove into a ditch. You didn't even want to breathe loud. The tank was trying to draw fire. The tank then turned around and drove back. They got out of the area as quickly as they could. They ran into an MP and were led to a barn where they could get some rest. He told them to just kick somebody and they'd move over and you could lay down on some hay, pull your helmet down over your face and you would sleep a few hours. They slept about 2 or 3 hours and then someone nudged them and told them that the 2nd Infantry Division was down the road at a crossroads. He and Art gathered their gear and headed down the road to link back up with the division. They asked around and found out where the Cannon Company was located and joined back up with them. When they got back to the Cannon Company, he and Art tried to find the 2nd Platoon. They were told that everything was all messed up and everyone is just helping 1 another out. Apparently, while he and Art were away the 2nd Platoon was in part of a house and the gun section was killed. Art and Baldwin were supposed to be with them. Baldwin saw it as a blessing from God that they weren't in there. The men were told to get in these houses and get out of the weather to get warm, something that they didn't usually do. The Germans shelled them. The German shells were very much like the American shells. Jack explained that he could put a timer on the shell and have it go off in 10 seconds or whatever time you wanted. You would do this in order to fire a tree burst and have the shell explode early sending tree limbs as shrapnel down on the enemy. The men told Baldwin that when the shell came through the roof of the house, it exploded and killed the men inside. He and Art were supposed to have been in there. So, now they had a new gun section. All of this happened at Elsenborn. After that, they finally got back together and got organized. Things were so mixed up with several of the divisions, but at this point the 99th, 106th and 2nd Infantry Divisions were able to seperate themselves from 1 another and spread out along the line.

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When they left St. Lo, they were in dairy and farming country. The farms were laid out in squares and there were mounds of dirt around each 1 and on top of these mounds were hedges, what they called hedgerows. All kinds of bushes and trees were growing up on these mounds. When they got to the hedgerows, the troops just started going over them and the Germans were on the next hedgerow waiting and started killing them. A lot of guys would try to get back over and you'd see them laying over the hedgerows where they had been killed. This wasn't going to work so they brought tanks up and they would look for a small place on the hedgerow that they could try to climb over. The infantry would try to get behind them and continue over the hedgerow, but too many of them were getting killed in the process. Someone decided to put prongs on the front of the tank and go in under the hedgerow, pushing dirt aside and the infantry can move in easier and have the tanks to go ahead of them to provide cover. The Germans were using small arms fire that now wouldn't work against the Americans. They weren't using their tanks, only their infantry. That worked out for the GIs. They started bringing tanks up with these long metal spikes with sharp points on the end that just dug straight into the hedgerow and just go on through, piling the dirt back. When they went through they'd start using their gun. Some had 1 or 2 50-caliber machine guns that they could use too. The infantry would pile in with them and other tanks and men would also break through in other hedgerow areas down the line. They started taking hedgerow after hedgerow and got the Germans moving back. Over a period of days, they had taken control of a great deal of hedgerow territory. The Cannon Company was behind the advancing infantry firing ahead of them as they attacked, as were other Cannon Companies and artillery units further to the rear. The only thing that he could see and what James, the interviewer's grandfather, could see was what was right in front of them. They didn't know what was going on a mile down the road, just what was right in front of them. All they had on their mind was to do the job they had to do and stay alive.Eventually, the Germans started bringing up their tanks too and the heavy fighting continued on beyond hedgerow country. You weren't supposed to shoot at cathedrals, churches or cemeteries and avoid them. The Germans saw what kind of beating they were taking and started using them. A call came in 1 day saying that the Germans were firing from a bell tower on the steeple of this church. They were opening up and killing soldiers when they advanced. Their machine guns, like the 1 he and James Lofton had when they got to Omaha Beach, had a tracer every 3rd round so you could tell where you were firing. The forward observers called for fire on the church steeple and gave the distance, etc and the Cannon Company opened fire. The forward observer said they just barely missed their mark and told them how to adjust. The next round centered the steeple and exploded when it hit point blank. Those within line of sight said that when the shell exploded, you had never seen so many arms and legs and pieces of equipment come out. There must have been about a dozen in there. He thought such a sight was kind of comical, but that the Germans started it by doing unlawful things. They knew that they were using a church steeple to fire beyond a cemetary at the Americans. A friend of his from Jasper, AL took a water-cooled machine gun and walked across the cemetary by himself while his buddies were in prone position firing as much as they could, and he fired all over until he ran out of ammunition. When he ran out of ammo and fell, part of the meat on his hand had melted away. He held it until it blistered. He risked his life to save lives and he got away with it; that was the kind of men the Army was made of. You could take his son or the interviewer and put them in a camp, the uniform and ammunition and the technology we have now and you'll fight. It is just in Americans, we have something to fight for. Baldwin left his wife and baby that was 9 days old to go to war. He got a call at Camp McCoy Annotator's Note: Wisconsin] that said his wife had a baby and the Army would let him go home and see it. He went home and saw the baby and when he left he was 9 days old. He kissed his wife and the baby and didn't see them again until October 1945. Baldwin was known during the war for digging a foxhole faster than any man in the company. They would say that he had a reason [Annotator's Note: to get home to his wife and baby]. He wasn't as scared as some, but he wasn't a big hero. When they dropped the trails on the gun and were going into firing position, he dug a hole. He didn't care if they were only there 15 minutes, he dug 1 anyway. He probably dug a thousand foxholes that he never had to use, but he didn't care. He had 1 if he needed it.

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The 2nd Division took Leipzig, Germany. It was heavily fortified. In Leipzig they found doorways and stairways that led to underground munitions plants. In 1 town, Sergeant Brodie [Annotator's Note: Jesse Brodie], who Baldwin didn't care for, and a guy by the name of Rich, found a brewery. The men of Cannon Company opened the kegs and let them run. When it got to the steps it ran out into the street. Brodie's buddy Rich had a keg on his section truck and was drunk. Eventually he was told to get rid of the keg. The Cannon Company got through Leipzig and the war was pretty well over. The 2nd Infantry Division was close to getting to Berlin, but they were stopped and diverted which upset them since they had been fighting so long. They turned the division into the Alps and sent them down to Czechoslovakia. The Alps had snow on them still in April, but there was sun and warmth down in the valley. They crossed the Elbe River and crossed into Czechoslovakia. Some history books say that the Russians took Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, but that is wrong as the 2nd Division was the 1st uniformed military unit to liberate the city. Then the Russians came along later. Jack remembered that some of the 2nd Division guys drank vodka with the Russians. The US had given them clothing, aircraft, war materials and then after the war ended, the Russians turned on them. At the end of the war, they were fed well and then those with wives and children were "high pointers" [Annotator's Note: rotation home was based on a point system]. Baldwin had 88 and you only needed 80. Lofton, mentioned earlier, was sent back to the United States to train for Japan. Baldwin was sent to Camp Pittsburgh in Southern France where they had a bunch of prisoners that needed guarding. James O. Smith and Baldwin were together. Both men were married, Smith with a little girl and Baldwin with a little boy. Richard "Dick" Winters was in charge of the camp, which Baldwin didn't know until years after the war. In October 1945, Baldwin returned home to the United States. He heard during the war that he was due about $3,000. This was because of an agreement that FDR would give troops who served overseas a dollar for each day of combat, money for other specific duties, etc. Baldwin recalls that when he was discharged he only got $100, as Truman was now in office and realized the government didn't have the money to pay such high amounts to returning troops. When Baldwin got to New York, he thought it was the prettiest sight that he had ever seen. They were on a brand new ship, the USS Rushville Victory Ship. It was purchased with bonds by Rushville, TN. He was well fed and then sent to Fort Benning and then to Fort McPherson. He was given $100, and was forwarded $200 later, and got a duffel bag to put what few belongings they had in it. They were directed to the bus station and told to get home the best way they could. A friend of his was from Birmingham and had a car and got him home. Baldwin came home and went back to work and worked 40 years. He had another son, Larry. His oldest son went into the Coast Guard and became an honor guard representative during President John F. Kennedy's funeral. His 2nd son Larry served 6 years.

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It would get cold on the hike. They would start the hike at camp and would end the hike at the hospital. It was a 20 mile hike. They were told that if anyone fell out then they would just be left there and nobody would be following them. They actually ended the hike near the hospital which put things in perspective for them. After their hike, they returned to camp around daybreak and were given the day off. Everyone was exhausted. One GI turned on his bunk facing the wall. Baldwin and other GIs decided to go to the mess hall and asked if he wanted to join. He told them he wanted to rest a while. Later on around noon, someone went to check on that GI and he was dead. His heart just stopped beating. Colonel Barsanti was a Battalion Commander. Baldwin thought he was great and said he went out to the field with his men. Baldwin remembered him first from Hill 192, when the Colonel realized the Germans were making their first big counterattack. Barsanti called Cannon Company to fire just ahead of his position to push the Germans back. The cannons were in the middle of changing positions, with the exception of Baldwin's gun. They opened fire and the rest of the guns soon got into firing position. Baldwin felt the Germans didn't know how much artillery was going to hit that hill and they should have let the Americans get over the hill and into the valley. The guns fired so much that the paint started coming off of the guns and the barrels lost their rifling and rounds were flipping end over end instead of spinning. New barrels and paint were needed after that battle. Some of the rifle companies would see a white flag from the Germans during a firefight. Several Germans would get up with their hands up and would walk toward the Americans. The Americans in excitement would get up and try to meet them. The Germans would drop to the ground and machine gun fire behind them would hit the Americans that came out to meet the surrendering Germans. He remembered the Germans did that a good bit during the fighting around Elsenborn Ridge. Baldwin didn't know where they were at the time and didn't remember anything specific about the "Twin Villages" of Rocherath and Krinkelt, but remembered a great deal of the fighting happened there and at Elsenborn Ridge. In the villages, there were basements, houses, barns, etc that the Germans would fire from. Americans had to fire artillery onto the buildings and destroy them to kill the Germans inside and keep them from using them for cover. Baldwin would rather fight in the woods than in the towns as there are too many places to hide in a town.

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The local principal got him to come up there and then teachers started asking him to speak to their classes. The students are amazed and haven't seen many medals and artifacts like that. Baldwin was one of the 1st in Cannon Company to receive the Combat Infantryman's Badge [Annotator's Note: CIB]. Baldwin had a haircut and had gotten cleaned up and when they pinned his CIB on him. Alessi and Canterbury are 2 men that earned it, but were killed before they could receive it. He was 1 of the 1st in Cannon Company to receive it because his name starts with a B. General Hodges was the head General of the 2nd Infantry Division. He was next of command under General Bradley. Baldwin felt that General Bradley was the finest general that put on a uniform in WWII. He was head of the 1st Army and he and Patton loved each other like a sore thumb. They had no use for each other. They got the whole 38th Infantry Regiment together at 1 point. Patton got up and was letting vulgar words fly. Bradley asked him to tone it down and Patton wouldn't so Bradley threatened to kick him off the stage. Patton felt he could get a thousand men in a day, but couldn't always get a new tank. Patton told General Robertson what to do with his troops in France. Baldwin didn't care for him. He also notes that he was the only General in WWII with more than 2 stars that didn't get home. He wonders if there's something to that. Every once in a while The Stars and Stripes [US Armed Forces newpspaper] would give them a paper and it would keep the GIs informed as to what was going on. Other than that, they had no idea. People higher up or at home on a radio knew more of what was going on with the war then the men fighting did. Someone in the Company drew a funny cartoon of Baldwin and various men in Cannon Company digging foxholes or trying to get home. Baldwin never got to see General Eisenhower. He felt he was a good General up to the point of the Normandy Invasion. Baldwin felt that he could've avoided sending the 29th Infantry Division in; he could have saved a lot more lives. Baldwin felt he listened too much to Montgomery and felt pushed to invade after the British failure at Dunkirk. Baldwin feels like overall Eisenhower did a good job.

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