Sunday, June 05, 2011

World War Two D-Day stories

Here's just one:

For Harold Baumgarten, a 19 year-old Army private from New York, the invasion started badly and quickly got worse.

Baumgarten had avoided seasickness on the boat trip across the English Channel at the start of the battle because he only had some Cadbury chocolate instead of the big breakfasts other soldiers devoured, he recalled in a telephone interview from his home in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

But soon seasickness was the least of his worries. A German machine gunner mowed down most of the men exiting Baumgarten's boat. There were 30 soldiers in the craft, and only two of them -- including Baumgarten -- survived.

Once on the sand, a shell exploded nearby and ripped off Baumgarten's cheek and left a hole in the roof of his mouth.

After being bandaged, he was rescuing another soldier when more shrapnel hit him in the head.

That night, Baumgarten was advancing along a road with some other soldiers when they came under fire from a German machine gunner, and he was hit in the jaw. At that point, he gave himself a pain-numbing shot of morphine.

"I took a morphine sleep," Baumgarten said. "I thought we lost the war, because after all I'm laying with six dead guys around me."

Baumgarten believes that during that night, some German soldiers searched for cigarettes on the bodies of his dead comrades. Baumgarten, who is Jewish, had drawn a Star of David on the back of his field jacket, as an act of defiance against Nazi Germany's brutality against European Jews.

He said he believes the Germans would have killed him, but they did not see his blood-stained Star of David.

"I thought I heard somebody say, 'Don't worry Yankee boy, you're going to be OK,'" Baumgarten said.

As it turns out, an Allied ambulance did come by and pick up Baumgarten. But the next day, as he lay on a stretcher on the beach, a German sniper's bullet hit him in the knee before he was transported back to England.

Over the years, Baumgarten underwent 23 operations to heal the wounds he suffered in Normandy. Baumgarten himself became a doctor, and practiced for 40 years.


McGurk said...

psst, I'm the guy who made the AS pshop you use on twitter that you found on AOSHQ. Feel free to use it. Makes me smile.


Dubya said...

You are a scholar and a gentleman, sir.

- RJ