Segment 9

Annotation

They were approaching the Rhine River, one of the largest in the world. The Tennessee and Mississippi could compare to the Rhine. Anyone who says they weren't afraid over there or the Germans didn't scare them, didn't know what they were talking about or weren't there. He doesn't believe they actually knew what they were talking about. He was scared lots of times, pretty badly. Baldwin had a feeling when they got to the Rhine that he wasn't going to make it. Every bridge had been blown up in that area, but 1 was left as an escape route. The Germans were going to use it until they got the last of their troops over the bridge, then they were going to blow the bridge. It didn't happen though, something went wrong. Baldwin remembers that when they got to the Rhine, the rifle companies would try to take some pontoon boats across. Some of the boats had a little motor on them, but when they got out into the river, they would catch a current and the Germans would open fire on them. 1 boat might get across if it was lucky. Finally, they got enough across to get a foothold. He was scared and finally they started getting a pontoon bridge put up,a pontoon bridge that could hold up a truck or tank. They crossed on the pontoon bridge and didn't lose a man. But hundreds of men were lost in the Rhine River trying to get across before the bridge. With all of that equipment on and you get wet, you're in trouble. Baldwin read some stories about just trying to get 1 man across just to get some firepower on the other side. He also remembered that men were piling across the bridge up river from them. The Cannon Company got across the pontoon bridge in one piece. Baldwin wasn't sure why, but he was just frightened the whole time they were there. 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. At one point in the war, a cook came up and they had gone through an apple orchard. They got green apples and sugar from the truck and were going to make us apple pies. It came time for Baldwin to get a pie as well as some of the others in his section. Lt. Klein, one of the nicest guys in the unit, was in his 40s; Baldwin thinks he was a school teacher who volunteered and was put in the infantry. Lt. Klein came up and told Jack that he had to go on patrol. The Cannon Company occasionally had to go on outpost at night, but not really on a patrol. Klein told Baldwin that they knew Germans were nearby, but they don't know how far or how many. There were other patrols going, but Klein wanted Baldwin to take a patrol too and see what they can find out. There was a no-man's land that they couldn't cross, but he wanted them to go around it and see what they could find out. Baldwin told the Lieutenant that they had just got the chance to get their pies and have been waiting and waiting. He told Baldwin that he knew, but they have to go and time is running out. Klein told him that when he gets back the cooks will bake him all that they can eat. Baldwin and 3 or 4 more men set out. During the daytime, some Germans had been spotted walking around in the woods. They didn't shoot at them, because they didn't want to engage them and you didn't want to take a sharpshooter out and tell him to shoot them in the head. In doing this you took a chance on getting killed or drawing more fire out. A lot of snipers got killed over there. Baldwin and the patrol left and started out through a pine thicket. You didn't make any noise and as you put your leg up, the guy behind you would touch your boot with his rifle. Then you would move your other. If a twig broke then you just stayed still. You didn't sneeze or give yourself away; you didn't strike a match. The patrol got so close to them without knowing it that 1 came out of a pill box and you could see his silhouette walking as close as 25 to 30 feet of them. They didn't know that and if they had gone on any further and had been spotted, they could have all been killed. They knew then exactly where they were, but didn't know how many. They stayed there a while and could hear the Germans talking. Baldwin and the men then got out of there and got back to their lines and reported their findings and were able to get their apple pies. But had something happened then, there was no way that they could have gotten out of there. They would probably all have been killed.

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