This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on July 24, 2000, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History
Project. The interview is being recorded at the home of Dr. Walter Baum at 281
S. Broadleigh Road, Columbus, Ohio. My name is Dave Graham and I am interviewing
Dr. Baum and now we begin.

Interviewer: We’ll begin then with a little bit of family background where
you think it’s appropriate.

Baum: Well I suppose I could start with my grandparents. My maternal
grandparents came from what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to World War
I. My paternal grandparents I never knew. I think my paternal grandmother came
from Germany and my paternal grandfather I think, suspect, came from the
Ukraine.

Interviewer: Do you recall family names, last names particularly? Was it
always Baum or . . . .

Baum: Oh no. The Baum I think, I don’t know what my paternal grandfather’s
name was before he got here. But he settled in Philadelphia and adopted the name
of John Baum.

Interviewer: You know that it was an adopted, a name he took on then?

Baum: I’m pretty sure because I don’t think he was John Baum before he
got to this country. But what the name was I don’t know. My . . . .

Interviewer: Do you know about what time he arrived in Philadelphia?

Baum: Again, I think prior to World War I. But they were both dead before I
was born I believe. I did know a step-grandmother who lived in Philadelphia who
started a business there which is still there.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: What’s the name of it?

Baum: Baum’s.

Interviewer: Baum’s?

Baum: They sell, oh they sell things like wedding gowns and oh the needs for
people who are in ballet, that sort of thing.

Mixed conversation.

Baum: Yeah, it’s apparently well known in Philadelphia. Now my maternal
grandparents I knew quite well. My grandfather . . . .

Interviewer: What was the family name on that side of the family?

Baum: T-R-E-I-T-M-A-N, Treitman, T-R-E-I-T-M-A-N. That’s sort of an unusual
name. There aren’t, we, there are some other Treitmans that we knew lived in
Newark but that’s about all we know about with that name. And they had, my
grandfather came to this country alone leaving his wife behind, his pregnant
wife behind, so he could get organized here. And he initially, I think a horse
and wagon and was peddling you know, fruits and vegetables.

Interviewer: Here in Columbus?

Baum: No this was New York City.

Interviewer: Oh in New York City?

Baum: New York City.

Interviewer: Okay.

Baum: And then I guess the horse died so he went into the clothing industry
where he remained for the rest of his career and he apparently was a pretty good
worker and he brought his wife over with the baby. The baby was my mother.

Interviewer: Oh my.

Baum: Yeah. And then they had two sons and one son was in the AEF in France.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Baum: Yeah he apparently went down to the draft board and had one bad eye and
so they rejected him. So he went next door and volunteered and got into the
service. And my other uncle was an M.D. and he spent I think almost between four
and five years in the army during World War II.

Interviewer: II or I?

Baum: II. He was . . . .

Interviewer: You knew him?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: You had an uncle also a doctor?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Baum: Yeah. He never left the country, worked at various general hospitals,
spent a lot of time as a Chief of Cardiology at Kennedy General Hospital which
was in Memphis, Tennessee. And that’s where he worked when he was released
from service, in his work. He had one other tour of duty at Terre Haute,
Indiana, a plant that dealt with chemical warfare agents and then he was
released.

Interviewer: I have to ask, was he your role model that led you into this?

Baum: One of them. Many, many years ago my mother apparently did some
research, found 14 doctors in the family.

Interviewer: Okay.

Baum: So it’s sort of the family business and then I had a brother who was
a pre-med and then went into the ASTP Program and . . . .

Interviewer: Okay. That’s the Army Specialized Training Program.

Baum: Army Specialized Training Program.

Interviewer: Prior to being drafted, they would be in college?

Baum: Yeah they were put into uniform actually. They had been drafted I would
think, suspect, I wasn’t . . . .

Interviewer: Well yes, they were in the army.

Baum: They were in the army.

Interviewer: They were under the control of the army. What was his first
name?

Baum: John.

Interviewer: John?

Baum: Named after his grandfather. And John was 17 when he went in, took the
exams and he placed too high because they put him into engineering and he
completed two years of engineering under the ASTP Program and then he, when that
termi- nated, he drove a tank I think at Fort Benning. Again I don’t know. I
was over- seas.

Interviewer: Is he deceased or . . . .

Baum: No, no. He’s eight years younger than I am and he’s at the
University of Rochester. He followed an academic career in medicine.

Interviewer: Did he ever see overseas duty?

Baum: No.

Interviewer: Okay. Now he was from Columbus at the time . . . .

Baum: Now again, we’re talking New York City.

Interviewer: You were living in New York City at the time?

Baum: Yeah the family was in New York City.

Interviewer: Okay. Up until war time?

Baum: Yes and after.

Interviewer: And after?

Baum: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer: So you’re not an life-long forever resident of Columbus?

Baum: No.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay.

Baum: No after my active duty period, I took five years of residency training
and three of those years was at Ohio State and my family wanted me, of course,
to practice in the New York City area and I then discovered that there was life
beyond the Hudson. I decided to settle in Columbus. I first came here in 1947.

Interviewer: And we have that on a resume that I’ll include with the
archived tape, your background and the dates of college and residency training
and all that.

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Quite extensive background so we won’t need to cover that
orally. So then let’s orient the discussion toward wartime and how it affected
you . . . . so to speak.

Baum: Well prior to December 7th, the army and the other services were trying
to encourage medical students to take reserve commissions and most of us didn’t.
But then came December 8 when President Roosevelt addressed both houses of
Congress and asked for a declaration of war, which he got. So I volunteered for
a commission on December 8. It took then, of course, I knew that they would want
me to complete my medical schooling. I was a junior so I completed an
accelerated senior year in medical school, had nine months of internship, which
was mandatory, and I went on active duty in January of ’44.

Interviewer: Just in time for all the big action that was coming up in
Europe?

Baum: That’s right. And apparently the medical department recognized that,
they had something they called a School for Medical Officers in Texas and I
think there were 850 young doctors there and I suspect they were anticipating
leading a lot of young doctors to be battalion surgeons for whatever happened in
Europe and in the Pacific. They were right. So they gave us a rather rigorous
basic training.

Interviewer: Where was that in Texas?

Baum: Abilene, Texas.

Interviewer: Abilene? That’s way out in no man’s land?

Baum: In the middle of nowhere.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Baum: Camp Barkley it was called.

Interviewer: Camp Barkley?

Baum: Yeah. And from there I joined my, the unit that I became the battalion
surgeon for, which was the 556th Anti-Aircraft.

Interviewer: Uh huh. And those were 40 mm guns.

Baum: 40 mm, uh huh. Plus quadruple mount 50 caliber machine guns.

Interviewer: Okay, those also.

Baum: We had both and we were 100% mobile. Every gun was towed by a
two-and-a- half-ton truck or the truck towed the . . . . And that, so I joined
them at Fort Fisher where they were having, firing over the ocean. Fort Fisher
is near Wilming- ton, North Carolina, and they were firing at tow targets being
towed by planes over the ocean. And then from there we went to Fort Jackson in
Columbia, South Carolina, for final training and then we went to Boston to Camp
Miles Standish where we shipped from.

Interviewer: I must ask you, during this training did you have a chance to
participate in relig- ious observances here during training?

Baum: No, no.

Interviewer: Okay. How about your relationship with the other troops in terms
of your relig- ious affiliation and background? Were there any situations?

Baum: It wasn’t a consideration. It just was an irrelevancy I would say at
that level.

Interviewer: Was it known among the troops that you were Jewish?

Baum: Oh yeah, sure.

Interviewer: So it was no . . . .

Baum: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I do recall when we were in Normandie, the Yom Kippur
holiday occurred and I got permission to take a two-and-a-half-ton truck up to
Cherbourg because they were going to have religious services and I was just
amazed at the number of Jews in the outfit.

Interviewer: Really, there were quite a . . . .

Baum: We filled that truck, you know, we had about 20 men.

Interviewer: All the men from your anti-aircraft . . . .

Baum: From my anti-aircraft battalion.

Interviewer: battalion?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: But they were not all medical personnel I assume?

Baum: No just from the battalion.

Interviewer: From the battalion?

Baum: Yeah I think there was in the medical detachment, I had Paul Jacobs
from Cleve- land. He was the only other Jew in the medical detachment.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Baum: But religion was simply not a, it was irrelevant under those
circumstances.

Interviewer: Do you recall anything about the services there on Yom Kippur?

Baum: Very moving.

Interviewer: You say it was in Cherbourg?

Baum: Yeah in a, probably what was an opera house, I think probably an opera
house.

Interviewer: They didn’t have a Temple in that town?

Baum: No, it was just, no I don’t know whether they did or didn’t. But
this was in an opera house and it was filled and the men were there with rifles
and helmets.

Interviewer: Did they have a rabbi or did they have . . . .

Baum: They had several rabbis. They had several rabbis. Where they came from
or who they were I don’t know. And so we were there for half a day and then we
came out and, you know, you’re supposed to fast on Yom Kippur.

Interviewer: Oh okay.

Baum: But there was a Red Cross place and the men said, “Could we go in
and get some donuts?”

Interviewer: Did they ask the rabbi?

Baum: There were, we didn’t have any access to the rabbi.

Interviewer: Oh I see.

Baum: So I made a special dispensation and we all had donuts and coffee.

Interviewer: Uh huh. I think that’s permitted during wartime, isn’t it?
Some dispensation?

Baum: I’m sure somebody could find a ruling that would cover it.

Interviewer: That’s interesting. Let’s raise the subject of what was your
degree of, I guess orientation? Were you Orthodox or . . . .

Baum: Conservadox I would say.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: We primarily attended a Conservative Temple in the Bronx.

Interviewer: Did you, you know, require kosher?

Baum: No we, well yes we did, you know, because we lived with my grandparents
and they kept a kosher house. And my grandfather was very well versed in the
religion and Hebrew was a language to him that he could use. It was a living
language.

Interviewer: Did you have some of that language when you went to Europe? Did
you know Yiddish or . . . .

Baum: I didn’t know Yiddish. My grandparents were not Yiddish speakers.

Interviewer: Oh I see.

Baum: They came from an area where the primary language was German so they
spoke German.

Interviewer: Oh.

Baum: And my mother spoke German to them. They, of course, they learned
English and did pretty well. And I learned, initially I learned German at home.

Interviewer: Oh so you did know some German?

Baum: Yes which made it easy. When I went to high school I took German.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: And when I went to college, I took German. I took the minimum. I took a
year of German in college. It was very helpful actually when I was over there.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: But I had a reasonable knowledge of German at that time

Interviewer: Well that’s good background. We’re a little bit off the
track there. Talked about, we brought up the subject of religious observance,
but getting back on the chron- ology, you completed your, I guess your training
in the U.S. to a certain point?

Baum: At Camp Barkley. Yeah it was . . . .

Interviewer: How did you get picked for the artillery battalion, the
anti-aircraft?

Baum: I have no idea.

Interviewer: They just — okay.

Baum: I have no idea. They had these 850 young doctors and they needed so
many for artillery and so many for infantry and so on. And you, it was, I
ultimately got a copy of my original orders. My original orders said “Camp
Barkley, Texas, and then the 556th Anti-aircraft”.

Interviewer: Hmmm.

Baum: So I was slated for, I was just an arbitrary decision on the part of
the Medical Department.

Interviewer: Uh huh. So you went overseas with that unit?

Baum: With the unit, yeah.

Interviewer: You prepared a little background from a speech you gave at the
unit reunion in September of last year.

Baum: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer: That’s pretty helpful. Just kind of curious. Did any other
doctors that you knew come with you into that unit? Were you alone? Were you . .
. .

Baum: . . . . called for one doctor.

Interviewer: Oh is that right?

Baum: Yeah. And I was it.

Interviewer: So you didn’t come in with any friends coming with you?

Baum: Oh no, no

Interviewer: You had to start from fresh?

Baum: Yes.

Interviewer: How were you received by the men?

Baum: Well just fine. We had about 25 men in the medical detachment. I had a
dental officer.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: And I had a medical administrative officer and myself.

Interviewer: And none of the men objected saying, “Hey I, you know, here’s
a Jewish doctor,” . . . .

Baum: Oh no.

Interviewer: None of that?

Baum: Oh no. Not at all. There was nothing of that.

Interviewer: Okay.

Baum: And we took care of a battalion of 800 men.

Interviewer: Of all faiths and . . . .

Baum: Yes, that’s right. And religion was not a consid—. We had a
chaplain.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: He was a Lutheran chaplain and very unhappy at being in an
anti-aircraft battalion.

Interviewer: Oh really?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Why is that?

Baum: Well this man was pretty well educated and he even, I’m not sure, but
he had an additional degree, either a Master’s or a Ph. D.. He thought, I
suspect he thought this assignment was beneath him.

Interviewer: Not big enough huh?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: A battalion is only what, 600 men or so?

Baum: That’s right. And it was in the field. It was not, you know, at some
general hospital or some facility like that.

Interviewer: In that case he might be afraid of a little bit of action too?

Baum: I don’t, well, I don’t know. I didn’t think that of him.

Interviewer: Oh yeah.

Baum: Yeah. But, but he, I don’t think he was very happy with the
assignment he pulled.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: But that was his problem.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Overall what do you think of the leadership of the
battalion? I mean, were there good leaders, bad leaders? The officers?

Baum: The officers were quite competent. The commanding officer was a
lieutenant colonel who had been in, I think, in the Connecticut National Guard.
At that time they had something called Seacoast Artillery.

Interviewer: Oh yeah.

Baum: And that’s what he was involved in. And they were these big
disappearing guns that were along the Atlantic Coast and I think probably the
Pacific Coast.

Interviewer: Coastal guns. Yeah that’s what they were trained to.

Baum: But anyhow, there was no need for Seacoast Artillery people so they
were retrained in anti-aircraft and a lot of them didn’t make the grade. But
he did and he commanded the unit.

Interviewer: And he went over with the unit when you did?

Baum: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Interviewer: Any events on the trip over on the troop ship. Do you recall the
name of the troop ship?

Baum: Yes I do. It was called the West Point.

Interviewer: The West Point?

Baum: It was, it had been the “United States Ship America” of the
U.S. Lines and it was being used as a transport and it was being operated by the
Navy.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: And I think would normally have carried something like 1200 passengers
at the most. We had 10,000 troops aboard.

Interviewer: How were your accommodations?

Baum: Well.

Interviewer: Comfortable? Pleasure trip?

Baum: No, no. I was in a cabin which would I suspect have been designed for
two people.

Interviewer: Private cabin?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Oh really?

Baum: I shared it with ten men.

Interviewer: Oh, oh. Ten men?

Baum: The bunks were one right above the other so, you know, and there must
have been ten men in that cabin designed for two. But you know, it was adequate.
At least we had a bunk to sleep in.

Interviewer: Any events on the way over of . . . .

Baum: No not particularly. It didn’t go in convoy. It was fast enough so it
did not go in convoy.

Interviewer: Sailed by itself then?

Baum: Yeah. We had no idea where we were going. We didn’t know whether we
were going to the Pacific or the Atlantic.

Interviewer: Is that right? You didn’t know either way?

Baum: No, had no idea where we were headed and I guess they must have gone
pretty south toward the equator in the area of the Azores and it got pretty warm
and so we began to wonder just where we would end up. But then they went up
north and it got cold. And we got to Liverpool finally and we debarked and they
marched us to a train, put us on the train and we took off.

Interviewer: As I understand it, you did not even spend a day in England then
or a night, that is?

Baum: I don’t think so.

Interviewer: Straight off to . . . .

Baum: We went to Southampton and we thought that when we got off the train at
South- ampton we might be able to catch our breath and get our gear but they put
us on another ship, a British ship of some kind, and we went across the channel
and landed on Utah Beach. Now the Beach was secured at that time. I think, I
think it was, if I remember a date, and I’m not sure, I think it was as late
as September 7 that we got to Utah Beach. Now the Beach was secured but just the
mechanics of going down the side of the ship on one of those rope ladders and
getting into one of those boats, this landing craft, was quite an experience.

Interviewer: Something like, was the boat like you saw, did you see
“Private Ryan,” the movie, “Private Ryan”?

Baum: Yeah same boat.

Interviewer: L.C.V.B.

Baum: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer: You go the same . . . .

Baum: What was it, Higgins?

Interviewer: Higgins boat, yeah.

Baum: It was probably a Higgins boat.

Interviewer: 30- or 40,000,000.

Baum: Yeah. . . . bottom, then they’d lower the front and out you went.

Interviewer: Out you went. Okay. What do you recall about those first few
days in France?

Baum: Well they, we started marching to, somebody knew where we were supposed
to go. And then some trucks came by and picked us up and they dumped us in a cow
pasture near the village of Montebourg and there we sat. We had no, our personal
gear was not with us, only what we were wearing and what was in our knapsack. We
had no blankets, no sleeping bags, no tents, no food.

Interviewer: Is that right? You were totally exposed to the elements.

Baum: Yeah and just, just dumped in the field.

Interviewer: For how long was this?

Baum: A matter of weeks.

Interviewer: Without . . . .

Baum: Well we got, we finally, well we got food. What we got were C rations.
They had two cans for each meal. And we lived on that for three weeks.

Interviewer: Did the weapons arrive, the . . . .

Baum: We had no weapons at that time.

Interviewer: the artillery?

Baum: No, did not have our trucks or our artillery. They finally arrived.
Again I don’t have an exact date any more. And then, that was the time when
the front was moving pretty fast and the supply lines were being outrun.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Baum: And that was when they started the Red Ball Express. So our drivers
became part of the Red Ball Express with, again a period of weeks I suspect. And
then when that got settled down, our guns came in and we took off across
northern France . . . .

Interviewer: Let me just ask you. How did you occupy your time during this
period from early September through October when you didn’t have your things?

Baum: Well that’s an interesting question. The answer is I don’t know. I
just don’t, I just don’t . . . .

Interviewer: Nothing special.

Baum: No, I went around to the various batteries and would make a daily trip,
like a sick call trip.

Interviewer: There were no combat events then? Would there be any casualties
or anything?

Baum: No, no, no. The Beach was secured and there was no combat.

Interviewer: No bombing or anything? Nothing happened?

Baum: No not really. But then we went across at northern France and that’s
when we went to Valkenberg.

Interviewer: Valkenberg, Holland.

Baum: Yeah and we were, we were in Valkenberg a total of six weeks and I
expect we arrived there some time in October.

Interviewer: . . . . October. Was there any combat in the Valkenberg area?

Baum: Occasional planes coming over but that was about all.

Interviewer: Some German planes?

Baum: Yeah German planes.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: And then we were there for the festivities of December 16th, which was
the first day of the Bulge.

Interviewer: What do you recall on that day in particular?

Baum: I can recall it very clearly. We didn’t know the Bulge had started.
It had started at 2 or 3 in the morning. We did not know that and I got in my
jeep to make my usual calls. I would call on the . . . . of various battery
C.P.s, command posts, and take care of any medical problems that arose. And you
may recall the picture of that old archway with the tank coming through.

Interviewer: Yes, uh huh.

Baum: Well I went through that archway in a jeep with my driver and out of
the shadows came an M.P. and pointed his M1 in my ribs and he asked me for the
password which we happened to know.

Interviewer: Right at that spot?

Baum: Right, just beyond. You know you go through that archway, and I think
there’s a barber shop there now. But anyhow, and then he began questioning,
you know, “What kind of cigarettes do you smoke?” “Camels”.
“What’s their slogan?” “They satisfy.” “Any
others?” “Well sometimes Lucky Strike.” “What’s their
slogan?” “Well Lucky Strike green has gone to war.” They changed
to a white package. And some more of that interrogation. Then he said, “Who
won the World Series?” And I didn’t have the slightest idea. I didn’t
follow baseball. that’s when he put the gun into my ribs a little more and my
driver knew the answer and so that took care of that.

Interviewer: You weren’t a baseball fan then, huh?

Baum: No. In any event, then he let us go by. But the reason for all this
interrogation was that some of the German troops who spoke excellent English and
were wearing American uniforms were infiltrating our forces and they were trying
to find those guys.

Interviewer: How did you feel having that gun so close to you?

Baum: Well I didn’t care for it. I thought it was not very pleasant. But,
and we didn’t know the reason at that time. Well when we knew the reason, why
then it was just fine, you know.

Interviewer: You understood?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: It was necessary?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Well that’s an interesting event.

Baum: So that’s how we became aware of the Bulge.

Interviewer: What happened next in terms of the Bulge? Was your unit involved
in any way?

Baum: Yes, Valkenberg was pretty far north of the actual Bulge line so, and
that’s where my aid station remained. But we had, our guns were spread out
over a wide area, some of them into Belgium. And some of those guns were overrun
and we lost guns and men, yeah. Again, I don’t know numbers but I know this
happened. But the rest of us who were inValkenberg were just, we stood our
ground. Now an interesting thing, General Simpson of the Ninth Army was a pretty
fine gentleman and an excellent military officer. And he got a number of
infantry divisions that were in Ninth Army and sent them south into the north
flank of the Bulge. One of them had been the division that was covering our
area. I think it was the 30th Infantry Division. And they went south so between
the German forces on the other side, I do have them, I didn’t find the outfits
and the names — they were well-known names. It was the Fifteenth German Army.

Interviewer: Those were opposing your forces?

Baum: Yeah they were opposing us on the line at that point. It was the 556th
Anti- Aircraft. That was all that was left.

Interviewer: Oh.

Baum: So we were the front and our guns were taken out of their usual
positions and taken down to the roads so they would act as road blocks in case
there was any German aggression in that area.

Interviewer: Did you know you were the front at that time?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: You did know this?

Baum: Yeah we did.

Interviewer: You were left there holding that front?

Baum: That’s right. And the people in Valkenberg were very appreciative
that we stayed because we were the U. S. Army at the moment. An anti-aircraft
battalion.

Interviewer: . . . .

Baum: Yeah. Nothing ever happened there. Oh we did have raids. New Year’s
Eve there was a huge raid. One of the last major raids that the Germans were
able to put on.

Interviewer: It’s the, what they called, the Germans called it
“Operation Bodenplat” which was an all-out offensive by their Air
Corps to do as much damage as they could. It was almost a suicide mission.

Baum: That’s right.

Interviewer: Did you see some of that action?

Baum: Oh yeah. And then as the planes went over, I went out on the road and I
picked up some casualties.

Interviewer: Of your men?

Baum: Not my men, no. Mainly civilian and took them into a hospital, an evac
hospital. It was in Valkenberg. 9lst Evac. It was in Valkenberg. Very fine unit.
And I took some casualties into that. But that was mainly civilians.

Interviewer: Did you treat them yourself in any way?

Baum: Oh yes. Emergency care. Sure.

Interviewer: Did you have ambulances for that purpose?

Baum: No I had, I had at that time a jeep and a two-and-a-half-ton truck.

Interviewer: So you really didn’t have the proper ambulance on that?

Baum: Well I had had a litter rack put on my jeep, an improvised litter rack
that I got put on at some facility . . . .

Interviewer: That you had to do yourself?

Baum: Well we didn’t, they put, did it, they welded it on and so I could
carry two litters on a jeep, yeah. That was all I had for evacuation.

Interviewer: You had a driver? That’s typical.

Baum: Yes. Officers were not permitted to drive during World War II.

Interviewer: Is that right? You weren’t permitted?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: So you had your assigned driver?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Do you recall his name?

Baum: Claire Thompson.

Interviewer: I thought you might. Have you ever seen him since the war?

Baum: No. I‘ve tried.

Interviewer: Did you have a kind of a special relationship with him, I mean?

Baum: Well I had a good relationship with all my men. He just happened to be
the one who was assigned as my driver. Others drove me too.

Interviewer: Did he carry a weapon?

Baum: Medics did not carry weapons in World War II.

Interviewer: Okay.

Baum: We were signatories to the Geneva Convention.

Interviewer: So neither one of you had weapons?

Baum: No, no weapons. We were supposed to be protected by the Red Cross which
we wore . . . . on the arm or on the helmet.

Interviewer: Did the two of you have any close calls in terms of shelling or
German infantry . . . . .

Baum: Well I can recall one occasion we were driving through Aachen returning
to Valkenberg where the aid station was, going down a street which was heavily
damaged, had apartment houses on both sides. It seemed to be totally deserted.
And a sniper who must have been in one of those apartment houses took some shots
at us but he missed.

Interviewer: Wow.

Baum: Yeah

Interviewer: So you saw Aachen?

Baum: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Valkenberg isn’t very far out of Aachen. Yeah.

Interviewer: So was that about the closest call that you, that you had?

Baum: Oh no. I had a number of others.

Interviewer: Any others that you recall in particular . . . .

Baum: Well for the Rhine River crossing, we had two batteries go up and dig
in right at the side of the river. And when the engineers came along and built
their temporary bridges, Bailey bridges and pontoon bridges, and one battery
went to the other side. And having prepared everything, the infantry came and
went across the bridges. But it was engineers and anti-aircraft initially. And
apparently there was a German artillery observer on the other side of the river
where our battery was and he apparently was, had one 88 that he was directing
and periodically he’d put a shell into the area where the battery was and they
were sort of shook up. And I went down there just for psychologic reasons and to
be helpful and I remember that Patton had said that when he got to the Rhine
River, he was going to pee in the river. And I had to go so I went down to the
river. I also had a little dog, a little black and white and tan dog on a leash.
And went down to the river and took care of things and then as I was walking
back the dog dashed off. He heard something and I didn’t. It was an 88 shell
that came over and knocked me to the ground and fortunately, went into a dike
for control of the river and I just got covered with mud and that was all.

Interviewer: Wow.

Baum: And finally the dog did come back and we both went back to the aid
station.

Interviewer: That’s . . . .

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: You never know.

Baum: Yeah. Oh and I think the day before, some medical service corps officer
had visited me from another aid station and he was just making the rounds on his
own just to see if he could help us out with supplies. And he showed me his
family and his child, pictures. And after that episode I looked for his aid
station and went to it and asked for Lieutenant So-and-so, I don’t remember
his name any more. Well he was in the back with the rest of the bodies. He had
been killed. Yeah.

Interviewer: I think you’ve got him listed in your story here. He’s
buried over in Europe.

Baum: No that’s Lieutenant St. Johns. He was the officer of the 556th who .
. . .

Interviewer: Oh okay.

Baum: who was killed. And he’s buried, he’s buried in Margraten U. S.
Military Cemetery. Yeah.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well it says that you experienced that attack of all
those aircraft and then the month of March I guess is when you, is that when you
first saw, your unit saw more combat? I mean, let’s see, they had combat and
there were casualties during the Bulge?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Some units overrun?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: You didn’t witness that?

Baum: No.

Interviewer: You did witness the aircraft, the German aircraft attack?

Baum: Yes, yes. Uh huh.

Interviewer: What was the next combat event then?

Baum: The next was crossing the Roer River.

Interviewer: The Roer?

Baum: And R-O-E-R, Roer.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: And that, and the Germans had, there were some dams upstream and they
had opened the valves and flooded the river so that it was about two miles wide.

Interviewer: Did you see that flooding?

Baum: Yeah I was there and we had to wait maybe two weeks for the river to go
down and then we crossed the Roer River and we were now in Germany.

Interviewer: Do you recall where you crossed it, what village or anything?

Baum: No I don’t. But I do recall I think that after we crossed there was a
village called Immendorf and I think we set our aid station up in this village
of Immendorf and I discovered a classmate of mine who was with the 102nd
Infantry and he was in Puffendorf up the road. So I went up and visited him. At
that time my quarters were the remains of the little railroad station. It had a
dirt floor and I suspect some Germans had used it because it was used, set up
for quarters and I do recall I got a Christmas package there and there I was in
this underground room with a dirt floor and . . . .

Interviewer: This was at Immendorf?

Baum: Immendorf, yeah.

Interviewer: Ah hah, after you crossed the river?

Baum: Yeah. And one of the gifts that I pulled out was a lovely set of
slippers, you know, which was . . . .

Interviewer: This was Christmas?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: What did you think of slippers for Christmas?

Baum: Well they meant well.

Interviewer: What would you rather have had?

Baum: Oh I don’t know. Salami.

Interviewer: Something to eat?

Baum: In any event . . . .

Interviewer: Who sent those to you? Do you recall?

Baum: I think my uncle who was fighting the war in Memphis, Tennessee.

Interviewer: Wow. So you got letters from home . . . .

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Even your uncle would write you, huh?

Baum: Yeah my uncle and my mother.

Interviewer: Mother? Any girlfriends?

Baum: None.

Interviewer: You didn’t have any of those . . . .

Baum: I did not at that time. I didn’t because, you know, I was preoccupied
with going to medical school and going right into the Army.

Interviewer: All right. Back to Immendorf which is kind of interesting. You
said you visited a friend there in the 102nd?

Baum: Yeah he was in Puffendorf. And 20 years later I took my wife back on a
trip to Europe. We got a Karman Ghia and drove around. I can recall looking for
Immendorf and Puffendorf and I couldn’t find them. I don’t think they were
ever rebuilt. I had a friend who showed me a map and I think we found Immendorf
on the map but I don’t know whether it actually, it was a tiny village . . . .

Interviewer: Do you recall what the village looked like during the war?

Baum: No.

Interviewer: You say you were underground though?

Baum: I was, yeah, yeah. The room, it was the basement of a little railroad
station.

Interviewer: Oh I see, of Immendorf?

Baum: Of Immendorf.

Interviewer: Was there combat at the time or was it a quiet front then?

Baum: Oh there was activity. Yeah there was activity.

Interviewer: How about your anti-aircraft unit? You had the 40 mm and the 50
caliber. Did you ever see those actually firing in combat?

Baum: Oh yes. Yes indeed. Yeah.

Interviewer: Which do you recall? The 50 . . . .

Baum: Both.

Interviewer: The 50 calibers were quite impressive. You had four barrels
mounted.

Baum: Yeah and they could fire at the rate of 850 shells a minute.

Interviewer: What was that like?

Baum: Noisy.

Interviewer: Did you ever see them hit anything?

Baum: Yes, uh huh, yeah. I can show you later, made a sign and show the
number of planes we shot down with each battery.

Interviewer: Oh really? Okay. That’s interesting.

Baum: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer: Yeah, okay. Any other combat events you, the unit suffered some
deaths here? How close were you to those events when Johns was killed and Baker
was . . . .

Baum: Well Lieutenant St. Johns was evacuated to a hospital and I can recall,
and he did not go to my aid station. Well we didn’t ’cause we were so spread
out, the batteries. I had medics. I had three medics in each battery and they
would use the closest aid station to wherever they happened to be. So he was
evacuated to another aid station but I became aware of it and went back to see
him in the hospital. And he was quite conscious but what he told me made me
realize he had a major problem. I think he had his spine transected ’cause he
couldn’t, he had no feeling in his lower legs.

Interviewer: That’s what he told you?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: How did it happen? Did he tell you that?

Baum: Shrapnel from a bomb that was dropped.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Baum: An overhead, a plane and . . . .

Interviewer: A bomb again?

Baum: Yeah. So I can recall going, driving back and the colonel was going in
the opposite direction to visit him so we stopped to chat and I told him I
thought St. Johns had a major injury. Well he went back to talk to St. Johns.
St. Johns was conscious and could talk with him. He didn’t tell the colonel
about his other problems. And so the colonel came back and said, ” Baum
doesn’t know what he’s talking about”, you know. “St. Johns isn’t
all that bad.. I went back and talked to him. He’s just fine.” Well he
died that night.

Interviewer: He died that night?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Had you known him for a long time or . . . .

Baum: I knew him, well ever since I joined the battalion, yeah.

Interviewer: Ever since you joined? Uh huh. Of the casualties that you
treated, what was the most serious injury? Do you recall any particular serious
injuries, life-threatening or perhaps killed?

Baum: I don’t recall specifically. I saw a fair number of people who were
wounded.

Interviewer: What types of injuries?

Baum: Most of them were small-arms fire and shrapnel from artillery shells.
Those were the major things.

Interviewer: Yeah. Now you were the first treatment for them?

Baum: Well the very first treatment would be the battery aid man, the battery
medic.

Interviewer: Okay.

Baum: And I would go out to the batteries and I would sometimes see them at
that level or they would be evacuated to the aid station and I would look after
them at the aid station.

Interviewer: Were you a captain or a major at the time?

Baum: Captain.

Interviewer: Captain?

Baum: That called for a captain, yeah.

Interviewer: And you were the official surgeon, or . . . .

Baum: Well the title “Battalion Surgeon” simply means the ranking
medical officer . . . .

Interviewer: Oh okay.

Baum: who is in command.

Interviewer: It doesn’t mean we had an operation tent . . . .

Baum: No.

Interviewer: tent facility with nurses and things?

Baum: No. Just like, you know, you talk about the Surgeon General of the . .
. .

Interviewer: Oh okay.

Baum: The title “Surgeon” is given to the senior medical officer
who is on the staff or the commanding officer, whoever he may be, and who
commands whatever medical troops are present.

Interviewer: That’s interesting.

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Were you capable, trained, of doing some surgery if necessary?

Baum: Yes, yeah.

Interviewer: Did you remove shell fragments and bullets?

Baum: Oh I wouldn’t do that.

Interviewer: You wouldn’t?

Baum: That’s not in my level, no. I wouldn’t do anything like amputations
but we stopped hemorrhage, we gave morphine. That sort of thing.

Interviewer: Morphine, that’s an interesting subject. That was, how did you
find that? Was that an effective treatment, useful, or what?

Baum: Well it would depend upon the illness.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Baum: Yeah. It was pretty helpful and during the war they had someting called
“a morphine syrette” which was like a little tube that might be used
for toothpaste with the needle attached and you simply took the top off and
injected the needle and you had to give a quarter or 15 or 30 milligrams,
quarter . . . .

Interviewer: What good did that act on the function? This is Side 2 or Side B
of our intereview with Dr. Walter Baum. The other side ran out without notice
that the end was coming up so we’re going to start over again here with the
Ruhr River crossing. Time period being March of 1944.

Baum: . . . . casualties from bullets and shrapnel was illness and exposure
to cold.

Interviewer: Frostbites?

Baum: Yeah, oh yeah. We had . . . .

Interviewer: What did they call that, “frozen feet”?

Baum: They had, well, they, we were calling it “trench foot” which
was a World War I designation so the Army changed the designation to
“ground injury cold type” or something like that so therefore, the
incidents of trench foot went down to zero.

Interviewer: Hmmm, you cured that, huh?

Baum: That’s right.

Interviewer: The Army. What did you think about the Army ways and means?

Baum: Well . . . .

Interviewer: It’s interesting, you know.

Baum: I’d adapted reasonably well to that because I stayed in the reserve
after World War II.

Interviewer: Oh yeah?

Baum: And I was 18 years at Fort Hayes.

Interviewer: Was that a daily job or was that . . . .

Baum: Oh no, no.

Interviewer: weekends or something?

Baum: Yeah either weekends or one night a week.

Interviewer: I see.

Baum: Yeah. And I retired from that in 1968 and my unit is still up on
Yearling Road, the unit I, I was the first commander of that unit and . . . .

Interviewer: What’s the name of that unit?

Baum: 307th Medical Group.

Interviewer: Hmmm.

Baum: But I . . . .

Interviewer: You were the first commander?

Baum: Yeah. Prior to that I commanded a general hospital which was in
Columbus.

Interviewer: Was the hospital actually in existence or was it a reserve . . .
.

Baum: Reserve unit, yeah.

Interviewer: . . . . hospital?

Baum: No. Actually it was a 1,000-bed general hospital and then after I left
it was, they were put on a different T. O. and E. and it was a 2,000-bed
hospital.

Interviewer: That’s enormous isn’t it?

Baum: Yeah. And that hospital still exists but it’s now in Texas. It was
transferred to Beaumont General Hospital.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: In Texas and it still exists as far as I know.

Interviewer: Well that was some of the post-war . . . .

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: . . . . Well we’re talking about the death of . . . .

Baum: You want me to put this . . . . on?

Interviewer: Yeah that would be fine.

Baum: I’ve lost a tape on mine so I thought.

Interviewer: Well you want to stick it on? Here we go. Okay there . . . . on
your lapel . . . . Okay. Now the death of Lieutenant St. Johns and then PFC
Baker . . . .

Baum: Baker I didn’t take care of.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: He didn’t come through my aid station and he may have been killed
immediately. I don’t know.

Interviewer: This bombing and German air activity makes me think about the
buzz bombs and the V-2 and the jet aircraft. Did you see any of those
super-secret weapons?

Baum: Yeah. When we were in Valkenberg the V-2s went over every night.

Interviewer: Oh is that right?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Now actually the V-1 was the smaller one.

Baum: That’s . . . . (mixed voices) Yeah.

Interviewer: You heard that? Did you see those?

Baum: Not too many. We mainly saw V-2s.

Interviewer: That’s the big ones?

Baum: The big ones, yeah. And I think they were headed for Liege and maybe
Antwerp. I’m not sure.

Interviewer: Those were supersonic though. Those could . . . .

Baum: Yeah I know but . . . .

Interviewer: enter the atmosphere.

Baum: but we could see them. They had an orange tail, a bright orange tail.
Yeah we saw them just about every night going over Valkenberg.

Interviewer: Come to think about it, weren’t your units supposed to shoot
at those or perhaps they were not supposed to, I don’t know?

Baum: It was pointless.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: They were too far up. They were beyond our range.

Interviewer: Oh I see.

Baum: Now there were also, in addition to the 40 mm, there were some 90 mm
aircraft guns but they couldn’t hit them either.

Interviewer: Were there 90s in your unit?

Baum: We had no 90s. We were a 40 mm battalion.

Interviewer: The 90s . . . .

Baum: But there were 90s in the area. But they couldn’t do anything to the
V-2s.

Interviewer: Just trying to touch again on the use of your 40 mms, did, do
you know if any of those actually engaged attacking German armor or vehicles
during the Bulge or any other ground activity?

Baum: So far as I know our battalion did not.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: We were poised to do it. The guns were placed on the roads and would
have been, the attempt would have been to use them that way but they didn’t
have, didn’t have to.

Interviewer: That kind of fire power on ground targets can be devastating,
including the 50 caliber.

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: The quad 50s can be devastating on ground troops. They’re very
effective in that role also. Well crossing of the Ruhr, encirclement of the Ruhr
Valley and the Ruhr pocket, I suppose at this time you may have seen some
captured German troops. Is that true?

Baum: Yes uh huh. Yeah we did see some.

Interviewer: Did your unit personally take any captives?

Baum: Very few. And then we just promptly turned them over to the camps or
wherever they were supposed to go.

Interviewer: Did you have any encounter with German prisoners?

Baum: Yeah. When we were at the Rhine River crossing, a German pilot in a
fighter plane tried to bomb out the bridges across the Rhine and he was shot
down and fished out of the river and apparently in the process of landing, he
fractured his ankle. So they knew I spoke German, so they got me to talk to him
and first I took care of his fracture, put a splint on his ankle, and then in
German spoke to him. And all we wanted to know was what kind of a plane was he
flying so we could put in a claim and get credit for shooting it down.

Interviewer: Oh your unit shot him down?

Baum: Yeah we shot him down. And he was a youngster and he just stood up and
gave name, rank and serial number.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Baum: So that, we just sent him off to the . . . .

Interviewer: Were you actually the one interrogating him?

Baum: Yes I was the only one who could speak German.

Interviewer: So you interrogated a German pilot?

Baum: Yeah and he was sent off to the Prisoner of War Enclosure.

Interviewer: Did he have any souvenir items on him that might be of interest
like a pistol or . . . . .

Baum: I didn’t. I was not interested.

Interviewer: weapons or anything like that? But he did answer name, rank and
. . . .

Baum: Name, rank and serial number which is correct. Then he refused to tell
us what kind of a plane he was flying. We had a pretty good idea anyhow of what
it was.

Interviewer: Oh yeah?

Baum: It probably was a, you know a ME 109 or FW 109.

Interviewer: . . . .

Baum: . . . . or a Messerschmidt.

Interviewer: 190 or a Messerschmidt.

Baum: Or a 109.

Interviewer: It wasn’t one of those new jet planes, huh?

Baum: No but while still in Valkenberg, I was out again going to the
batteries and a 262 came by. It was one of the first German jets.

Interviewer: Twin engine jet?

Baum: Yeah and we hadn’t been warned about it, didn’t even know they
existed. And what they had to do, when he swooped down low, there was strafing.
And cut off his engine because they had so little distance they could go so they
would cut the engine and then start it up again. It was painted black, there
were no insignia and it swooped down and was strafing around . . . .

Interviewer: You saw this?

Baum: Yeah. And as a matter of fact, he hit a little girl in the leg and I
picked her up and took her to the 91st Evac Hospital.

Interviewer: You did, yourself?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Was she badly injured?

Baum: Well it was a leg wound and so it was not life-threatening but it
needed attention.

Interviewer: Oh I see.

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Wow. But your unit didn’t shoot that one . . . .

Baum: No.

Interviewer: Do you recall when you crossed the Rhine, where that was? Any
village or town or anything . . . .

Baum: Yes I . . . .

Interviewer: . . . .

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: . . . .

Baum: Oh . . . .

Interviewer: It wasn’t Remagen? It wasn’t the famous . . . .

Baum: No we would know if it had been Remag. . . . Oh I’m blocking on the
name at the moment. I do know it. Rhineburg I think it was.

Interviewer: Oh yeah?

Baum: And then the rest of the battalion was back at Lintfort which was a
bigger town or village and Lintfort is where they took Churchill and Eisenhower
and other VIPs and they went up into a church steeple so they could see the
crossing of the Rhine.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Did you ever see any of those name personalities,
Patton, General Patton? Anybody like that?

Baum: No, no I didn’t, no. Very occasionally we would pass a vehicle which
had a red plate on it with some stars. I saluted the vehicle but I didn’t know

who was in it.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay.

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Did you have a senior officer to whom you had to report on
occasion or?

Baum: Well I reported directly to the battalion commander.

Interviewer: The battalion commander? Not a senior medical officer?

Baum: I was it.

Interviewer: You were it?

Baum: There was only one medical officer.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Nobody looking over your shoulder?

Baum: No. I reported to the . . . .

Interviewer: The battalion commander. Are we now on track then, crossing the
Rhine and then the industrial area I take it would have been the Ruhr?

Baum: The Ruhr Valley which was the heavy armament, that production area for
the Germans.

Interviewer: Large cities by the name of Dusseldorf and Dortmund and Anthem
and all those.

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Bochum. Anything you recall of those cities?

Baum: Well we didn’t see much of them because we encircled the north flank
of the Ruhr Valley and that was the Ninth Army. The First Army was to the south.
Some units were detailed to go in and handle the 450,000 German prisoners that
we took.

Interviewer: But not your unit?

Baum: No we kept going.

Interviewer: You kept going? Okay.

Baum: We kept going to the Elbe River.

Interviewer: Any major towns or villages on the way to the Elb that you
recall?

Baum: No, well we went through Hanover and there was a little suburb of
Hanover we stayed overnight, Lehrte, L-E-H-R-T-E. And then we passed a place
where they made cameras, you know, the two-lens cameras the . . . .

Interviewer: Leica? Could it be Leica?

Baum: No, no, it wasn’t Leica. Oh they made Rolliflex and Rollicords.

Interviewer: . . . .

Baum: But unfortunately . . . .

Interviewer: Did you get a camera?

Baum: Not at that time, no.

Interviewer: Okay.

Baum: No. And then we went on and the Ninth Army was supposed to advance to
Berlin and the division that was closest was the Second Armored. They were
within 60 miles of Berlin and had the decision been made for us to take Berlin,
then the Second Armored would have spearheaded that and we would have gone along
with them. But the Allied Command decided to let the Russians take Berlin.

Interviewer: The Russians take it?

Baum: Which didn’t distress us at all.

Interviewer: Now it’s about this time or in this area that you came upon a
place called Gardelegen.

Baum: Yes.

Interviewer: What do you recall about that?

Baum: Well there were approximately 1400 young men who were slave laborers
who had been working in the Hartz Mountains in underground facilities and they
were manufacturing V-2s. But as the armies, as the Russians got closer and we
got closer, these 1400 were on the road with some S.S. guards and trying to find
a place to hide. In any event, I guess the guards finally decided that they
could hear the shelling from both directions so they took these 1400 young men
out to a barn made of brick outside of Gardelegen. They poured gasoline on the
straw, put half of them in the building and set fire to them. And then when they
were all dead, the second half had already built a trench. They pulled the
bodies out, dumped them in the trench and they were put in the building, set on
fire and we came up and they were still smoking.

Interviewer: What do you recall about your first contact with that event?

Baum: Well it was kind of overwhelming.

Interviewer: I mean did, what did you first see? I mean, you didn’t know
what had transpired . . . . Was it reported to you?

Baum: We saw the bodies. We saw the bodies.

Interviewer: You came upon the bodies?

Baum: Yeah we saw the bodies.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Were they still smoking?

Baum: Still smoking. Yeah.

Interviewer: In this barn area?

Baum: Yeah, uh hum. Yeah that was . . . .

Interviewer: Were you aware that there were concentration camps for Jews at
that time? These were slave laborers which could have been Jews.

Baum: Yeah, well they were working in caves in the Hartz Mountains.

Interviewer: Did you know there were concentration camps?

Baum: I was aware of their existence. I knew the policies regarding the Jews.
But I didn’t know the specific names of concentration camps nor their
locations. I finally got to see an awful lot of people who had been in
concentration camps but I didn’t actually go into a camp. I would have but I
just didn’t know that I was near some of them or didn’t know it at the time.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Only for Gardelegen that you . . . .

Baum: Yeah but Gardelegen was just the name of the village where this
atrocity occurred.

Interviewer: And you were an eye-witness to it, huh?

Baum: Yeah. They had the option of just letting them free, go free. But they
instead chose to kill them.

Interviewer: Was there anyone there left to be treated for anything?

Baum: No, no.

Interviewer: Did you treat at any time any slave laborer or camp survivors?

Baum: Yes, oh yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Our last post, we got to a place called
Salswedel. I think that was the last German city that we went into. And right
nearby had been something that had been sort of a military school and we had
several thousand, there were several thousand women there who had been in places
like Ravens- bruck and some of the others where they’d concentrated the women
and I don’t know how they got to this area in Salswedel but there they were.
And there were about, I don’t know, 14 different nationalities among them.
Some Jewish people but all sorts of people. And they didn’t have any food and
there was no American personnel there to handle this thing. So our first matter
was to get food and so I visited the mayor. He didn’t have any food he said.
Then my men came in and I got some of the men with weapons, carbines and that
sort of thing. So they happened to remember then where there was some food. So
it turned out there was a barn, a storage area, full of food. They had bread and
potatoes primarily. So we acquired some of that, took it back. We had, there was
a kitchen there and we had people who could cook so they made potato soup, baked
the bread and we had a meal and I tasted it and it was very good actually. And
it turned out that, I think it was the 84th Infantry Division, was supposed to
have been in this area and it was their responsibility to take care of these
women but they hadn’t gotten around to it. I know how I became involved, well
there was a medical officer who with, probably with the Second Armored, who had
been trying to do something for these women but he had to move on and we moved
into town and he spotted me and said, “Hey it’s your baby”.

Interviewer: Oh my. How many women?

Baum: Oh two or three thousand.

Interviewer: Oh my gosh.

Baum: So he had to take off and I did what I could for several days and then
as a matter of fact, we got them organized, got them into buildings, got food
for them and then General Gillem, who was a corps commander, came by with his
staff and they wanted to know who the hell was taking care of these people. It
was Walter Baum. So I had to report to him and tell him what was going on and he
said, “The 84th Division is supposed to be doing this,” but it was
days before the 84th Division sent any troops up to handle this thing.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Now this mixture of women, were any of them identified as Jews?
Did they have that yellow Star of David sewn on their clothing or . . . .

Baum: No by that time when they were out of the camps, they got rid of the
stars and they also acquired clothing but one didn’t ask how. And there were
several of them who got to be reasonably well dressed all of a sudden. And there
were a lot of, I know there was some, a lot of, there were some Hungarian women
and among them were a fair number of Jews and they had been taken into this
concen- tration camp situation rather late in the war. So they were in
reasonably good shape, I mean so far as body weight was concerned.

Interviewer: Did you see any newsreel or photographers or Army personnel
taking records or filming?

Baum: No not at this, I’m sure they appeared later.

Interviewer: Yeah . . . . large amount.

Baum: Yeah but at that time, no, I didn’t see any.

Interviewer: Were there any British in the area?

Baum: That was just north of us, yeah.

Interviewer: But they weren’t involved with that particular . . . .

Baum: No that was in our area. That was U. S. area.

Interviewer: The U.S.?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Uh huh. What eventually happened with that group of people?

Baum: Well eventually the 84th Division people took over and I then was
relieved and so I don’t know what happened ultimately. We were as I say, in
Salswedel and then we were moved to the town of Holtzminden. And Holtzminden is
in the Hartz Mountains and we became a military government at Holtzminden and
then we were just inundated with displaced persons.

Interviewer: Oh yeah?

Baum: And we, and we took care of them. We set up an aid station and if they
needed medical care we took care of them.

Interviewer: Hmmm. Well what do you think about some of these comments from
so-called historians who say there was no Holocaust?

Baum: They’re liars. Such as David Irving who sued Deborah Lipstadt.

Interviewer: That’s a fairly current controversy isn’t it?

Baum: It’s no longer a controversy. He lost.

Interviewer: He lost that issue as they say?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: As they say.

Baum: She is an American historian. She’s down at Emory University in
Atlanta. She wrote a book exposing him. He there- fore sued her and her
publisher for libel. And this was just, was in the British courts. It’s almost
a couple of months now. And he was found to have no case.

Interviewer: So you followed the outcome, huh?

Baum: Yes.

Interviewer: Have you ever been contacted by Steven Spielberg’s
organization. They’re making tapes under something called “The Shoah
Project” or the “Shoah Foundation”.

Baum: No.

Interviewer: Where, I believe that may be focused at this point on camp
survivors.

Baum: Survivors, yeah.

Interviewer: That sort of thing.

Baum: No. I’ve done a video for the Ohio Historical Society.

Interviewer: Oh really?

Baum: You know there’s an exhibit they have now called “Kilroy Was
Here”. . . .

Interviewer: Okay.

Baum: And it has to do with the decade of the 1940s. So the first third has
to do with coping with the Depression, the middle third is World War II, and
then the final third is the post-war adjustments. It’s a good exhibit.

Interviewer: What did you contribute on the video?

Baum: Well something like what we did just this afternoon.

Interviewer: . . . .

Baum: Yeah. And then they interviewed a number of other people too and in the
exhibit, they have about half a dozen video screens and they’ve done a
wonderful job of editing and they take a subject and have the comments of some
of the other people and you can just press a button and see it on video screen.

Interviewer: Can we press a button and see you?

Baum: Yes. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Good.

Baum: And that’s currently, that’s currently at the Ohio Historical
Society Museum.

Interviewer: There was an article in a local newspaper about you and your
participation in that. Well let’s see, where do we stand now? Salswedel,
Holtzminden, your, the Ruhr, well the thing the war ended. Do you recall then?

Baum: Yeah we were in Saltswedel. We found a case of wine and celebrated.

Interviewer: You did?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Anything unusual? People firing weapons? Anything . . . .

Baum: No I think the civilian population was behind shades, you know, and we
just roamed the streets and it was a town with a lot of railroads going through
it so we had enough wine and we put the gates down at every railroad crossing
and the next morning the M.P.s were looking for us. We didn’t know anything
about it.

Interviewer: All the gates were down?

Baum: Yes.

Interviewer: . . . .

Baum: Snarl the traffic.

Interviewer: Close down the town, huh?

Baum: Yeah, yeah. . . . .

Interviewer: That’s how you celebrated?

Baum: Yeah that was how we celebrated in Salswedel. Yeah.

Interviewer: Now did you think you would be heading toward the Pacific
theater of the war?

Baum: Yes. Yes indeed. In fact when we left Holtzminden we went to Antwerp,
Belgium, and our job there was to set up a camp, a tent camp, for redeployment.
It was called “Camp Top Hat” and this was going to be a redeployment
site for shipping men to the Pacific. Then the war ended and so they got
redeployed to home.

Interviewer: So you were still there in Europe when the war ended in the
Pacific? Okay.

Baum: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer: Let me ask you, any contact with German civilians or soldiers?
You mentioned at one time you treated a pilot.

Baum: That’s right.

Interviewer: Did you treat any other German casualties?

Baum: I treated, there was one place I can recall, we were there for a while
and the village was full of D.P.’s and they were in the barns and all over.
And I went out looking after them and they had everything, you know, TB and
malnutrition and all sorts of horrible things. And then I was . . . . We set up
an aid station and we took care of a great many people, civilians, there,
including Germans.

Interviewer: Is that so?

Baum: And I can recall at one point there were two ladies who were patiently
sitting there to be attended to and they were obviously German. I said,
“You know, I’m a Jew. Do you want to be treated by a Jew?” And they
acted like they didn’t know what a Jew was so I took care of them. But at this
point I . . . .

Interviewer: . . . . instinct, huh?

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Did you encounter any of the S.S. troopers, those arrogant, you
know, storm trooper types . . . .

Baum: No.

Interviewer: that we’ve heard so much of? How about town officials that
probably were Nazis, did you ever encounter them?

Baum: No I had no contact with them. I had no contact with them.

Interviewer: The Nazis?

Baum: I had no occasion to do business with them.

Interviewer: Thinking back while you were in Holland, from my own personal
experience I know of events there and quite often the local civilian population
would get some of the Army equipment and not know how to use it and this would
cause serious accidents. I know of one incident where a young man; this is just
to see if you had any of these types of events, some of them rather tragic,
where a young man of about 14 found a cooking stove and he didn’t now that it
was for kerosene only and they would put gasoline into this and it exploded and
he was horribly burned but was saved by American doctors. Did you ever have any
events like that?

Baum: No.

Interviewer: . . . . Or civilian children would find weapons that would
explode or hand grenades. A terrible . . . .

Baum: No I didn’t have any personal experience. I was aware that sort of
thing was happening but I, no I had no actual experience . . . .

Interviewer: None of that stuff came your way? How about explosions from
mines or anything like that where quite often vehicles would run over German
mines?

Baum: Again, we knew it happened but fortunately it didn’t happen to us.

Interviewer: Yeah. Didn’t encounter any of those incidents either? Now I
think you did say you did treat weather-related injuries, frostbite?

Baum: Frostbite, yes. Lots of it.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Baum: Now also I can recall those, oh we were still in Valkenberg and it had
gotten quite cold and one man came into the aid station and he obviously was
just suffering from tremendous exposure to cold because they had to live right
at their gun site and I took him back to a hospital hoping to get him admitted
for a few days just so he could warm up and recoup and they wouldn’t accept
him. So I went back to my own aid station and the battalion headquarters was
there and I decided I would confine him to quarters. Didn’t know whether I was
authorized to or not. Anyhow we kept him with us. He had hot meals for a few
days. He warmed up and went back to his gun.

Interviewer: Makes me think of cases of combat fatigue, so called combat
fatigue. Did you ever have any of that?

Baum: No. This was the closest to combat fatigue and it wasn’t combat
fatigue. It was exposure. And I see this man every year at our reunions.. Yeah.

Interviewer: Oh when the unit has a reunion?

Baum: Yeah, uh huh.

Interviewer: Oh that’s interesting.

Baum: And he has a son who went to medical school.

Interviewer: Ah. So suffering from the weather?

Baum: Yeah. Yeah. They shouldn’t have a lot of exposure to inclement
weather.

Interviewer: We were touching on specific topics of interest. Was there
anything that you recall that you wanted to particularly share for the tape? I
do notice in your speech you made reference to a Christmas gift.

Baum: Oh yeah.

Interviewer: What was that?

Baum: Well it was just like a paperweight. I’ve got it inside.

Interviewer: Oh something that you have as a souvenir?

Baum: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer: What is it?

Baum: Well it, I think some Colonel who commanded a unit had these made and
gave each of his staff officers these as a Christmas gift.

Interviewer: Oh okay and what is it? What’s it look like?

Baum: Well I can bring it in and show it to you?

Interviewer: Yeah let me see it. We’ll stop right now.

Baum: Okay.

(Pause)

Interviewer: . . . . quite a number of artifacts or items from the war? Gold
belt buckles? That’s what the German soldier wore.

Baum: Yeah.

Indistinct conversation.

Interviewer: I’m sure that would be of interest to historians.

Baum: Possibly.

Interviewer: Yeah what the Germans had for their medical supplies.

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Pretty interesting . . . .

Baum: They, they dropped it from a plane and when we were doing the Rhine
crossing, it got onto the wrong side of the river.

Interviewer: Uh huh. This is a tin container of various . . . .

Baum: It was in a great big cannister . . . .

Interviewer: Oh yeah?

Baum: About the size of a bomb and there was much more stuff in it, you know,
bandages and all sorts of things. And, you know, I just kept a few items.

Interviewer: Well you kept this tin container with various fluids in very
small bottles and a, what do you call that, a syringe?

Baum: Hypodermic.

Interviewer: A hypodermic needle too to inject these items. Isn’t that
something? . . . . 55 years . . . . Well what do you stress or do you have a
particular view in your history that you share with the Ohio Historical Society?
Is there any particular theme that you have . . . .

Baum: No.

Interviewer: to . . . .

Baum: No. In that video I did?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Baum: About the same.

Interviewer: About the same . . . .

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: topics that we’ve . . . .

Baum: Yeah . . . . Ohio News Network. They’ve used me twice on that.

Interviewer: Oh really? On the radio . . . .

Baum: TV.

Interviewer: TV? Oh okay. Are you a member, well you are a member of the
Jewish . . . .

Baum: Yeah I think I am.

Interviewer: War Veterans? Yeah, Jewish War Veterans. Listed here on your
membership.

Baum: Yeah.

Interviewer: Okay. Yeah. All right.

Baum: I just retired in March of ’99.

Interviewer: Retired from what?

Baum: Medical practice.

Interviewer: Actual practice? Last year?

Baum: Well I was actually working as a Medical Director for an insurance
company until March of ‘99. Then the company was moved to Phoenix so I thought
that would be a good chance to retire. And then I had my 80th birthday that
March and then I started with the Ohio Historical Society. . . . . starting in
March . . . .

Mixed conversation.

Interviewer: Well as the ending then to our oral history, how about touching
then on how you met your wife, your entry back into civilian life as you did.
How did you meet your wife after the war?

Baum: Actually I met her, my aunt and uncle were having a birthday party for
my mother and I went to the birthday party and, well she and her sister and her
parents were also at the party. I met her under those circumstances.

Interviewer: Was this in New York City or?

Baum: Yeah . . . .

Interviewer: How did you come to Columbus then?

Baum: Came to Columbus as a resident in Pathology at Ohio State, 1947.

Interviewer: Uh huh. And have a family here?

Baum: Two daughters.

Interviewer: Are they living locally or are they . . . .

Baum: No. The closest one is in Shaker Heights and she’s a developmental
psychologist and the other daughter lives in Palo Alto, California. And her
husband is with Agilent Technologies.

Interviewer: That’s computer . . . .

Baum: Yeah it’s a spin-off of Hewlett-Packard. He was with Hewlett-Packard
for 25 years, heading up their legal department. And then they decided to spin
off the oldest part of Hewlett-Packard into a separate entity which is called
Agilent Technologies and he’s second in command of Agilent Technologies.

Interviewer: And what is his last name?

Baum: Nordland.

Interviewer: I see. So he’s a pretty big executive in that?

Baum: Yeah. . . .

Interviewer: Okay. Anything else to contribute that we haven’t touched on?
Anything from the “Kilroy” Ohio side of things. You do attend
reunions. You see the men that you served with. That’s interesting. And I’m
sure there’s always some new topics coming up.

Baum: Yeah of course now everybody’s concerned about families and children
and grand- children. They swap stories about that. How everybody’s doing, you
know.

Interviewer: Well I think we’ve come to the end of our oral history with a
complete review of your mementos and your post-war career and family. I think we’ll
end it at this point and I’ll turn the recorder off.

* * *

Transcribed from audiotape by Honey Abramson