Segment 8

Annotation

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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