Segment 1


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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