Segment 2


The Irish were good to the 2nd Infantry Division while they were there training. Baldwin's company had a horrible thing happen while they were there training. They were issued their trench knives and were told to sharpen them really sharp. Baldwin remembers they had to stick theirs in their boot or on their belt. They lived in little Quonset huts. 1 day, Charles "Punchy" Simmons and George Pappas were standing back to back and "dueling" by taking three steps and drawing their trench knives. "Punchy" was a Golden Gloves boxer and he was really fast. He was going to have some fun and mess with George and not take his 3 steps. So when George took 3 steps and they turned around to make their thrust, Charles's knife hit George in the chest and penetrated his heart. Jack remembered they laid him down on a bunk and he died there. Just before he died, he looked up and said, "Punchy, you killed me." Before the medics could even get there, he died. This was the 1st military funeral Baldwin had ever seen. It was a sad occasion and broke everybody's hearts. He was young and probably younger than Baldwin, who was 20 years old at the time. George's father had written him a letter before he died and told him that when he returned, he would buy him a Buick convertible. Well George was thrilled, but that was the end of that. Many months later, while they were in combat, Punchy basically lost his mind and got out in front of the line of fire and they were able to get him back. He went back to Texas and went to school and became a school teacher. At Camp McCoy and in Ireland, Baldwin and his company were trained with an M1 [Annotator's Note: M1 Garand] rifle, 30- caliber machine gun, hand grenades-- the basic tools for infantrymen. Just before their training was over in Ireland, they asked for volunteers to go to Ranger training. 16 others and Baldwin volunteered for the training. Lieutenant Siegfried, who was later killed on Omaha Beach, trained them for 90 days. At the end of the 90 days, they were given little black patches with a white skull to sew on their uniform signifying they had been Ranger trained. They never really were told why they were trained, but Baldwin thinks it was in case they needed replacements for the 2nd Ranger Battalion, "Darby's Rangers" that went in at Omaha. Baldwin and the others never were called. When the invasion started, Baldwin recalled there was something like 178 out of 2,000 men left, but they were never called and were left with the company. He's sure there were others in other companies that had those replacements ready and they didn't call any of them. After the beachhead was established and they began to go in, they didn't need them because the Rangers didn't come back yet. There were so many ships off the coast [Annotator's Note: in the English Channel] that you could nearly put a plank down and walk from one to the other there were so many. He thinks they estimated some 950 to 1400 ships with supplies, infantry, etc. They didn't even know where they were going when they left Ireland and went to Wales. If the Germans came over or sent buzz bombs at nighttime around Wales, they had to get out of bed and go dig a hole to hide in. The next day, they would have to go fill in those holes. Then it would happen all over again and it became routine. They weren't sure at the time why they had to do it, but realized later what it was all about [Annotator's Note: getting fast at making foxholes]. 1 day, they received orders of what to pack, how to pack it, and what to do. They knew something was going on, but they weren't sure what it was. Baldwin and the men in his company knew there was fighting in North Africa, Sicily and Salerno, but they weren't sure what was going on. So they were taught how to get ready and were put on an old ship from there. They headed to the coast of France and were given a little book and some French money. They knew then where they were going, but didn't know what was going to happen. When the ships anchored, they stayed out for 5 or 6 days. The bunks were 18 to 20 inches apart. To get in you had to had to climb a ladder and roll into the bunk on your side. You also had to eat K-rations [Annotator's Note: daily combat food ration] and you had to man the guns [Annotator's Note: talking about from US to ETO now]. When they left Boston, they had to man the 5-inch guns that were on the ship and do all the major work on board. If you were on guard duty or on watch then sometimes the sailors would come out and sell you a sandwich and a cup of hot coffee for couple of dollars, which they made a few dollars since the GIs would buy it if they had a dollar, rather than eat those K-rations [Annotator's Note: still talking about heading to the ETO]. But they sat out there for several days and heard shelling or bombing and other noises. They were ready to get off the ship as quickly as they could, they weren't sure what they would face, but they were ready for it since the living conditions were so horrible. He remembers the invasion starting early around 5 am on 6 June. The 29th Division started inland, more recently known as the Bedford Boys, and they went in as possibly a sacrifice. They didn't know for sure, but knew a lot of them were in their 40s and in the National Guard.


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