Obituary, Florida Times-Union, December 28, 2016
Dr. Harold (Hal) Baumgarten, M.D., D-Day survivor, described by Tom Brokaw as One of the greatest of the greatest generation, died on Dec 25, 2016. He was born in New York, March 2, 1925 and became a permanent resident of Florida in 1947.
He landed in the first wave on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944 and was wounded five times in just 32 hours of devastating combat and always wondered why g-d had spared him that day. Thus, he devoted his life to paying back by completing his education to become a teacher and then a physician to help others in life.
He received his B.A. degree from NYU and his Masters degree from the University of Miami. He then taught biology, chemistry and physics at Palm Beach High School for over five years. When the University of Miami opened a medical school he applied to attend, was immediately accepted and then graduated medical school. He practiced medicine as a Board Certified Physician for over 40 years. He also worked part time as the Medical Director of Gulf Life Insurance.
When he retired from his private practice, Hal worked an additional six years at the local Veteran's Administration to help his fellow veterans. His mentor was Stephen Ambrose, famous author and historian and founder of the D-Day museum in New Orleans, who was instrumental in Dr. Baumgarten's life, encouraging him to tell, speak and write about his experiences of D-Day. He has written three books and given lectures all over the world (especially in Normandy, France) at private high schools, colleges, police academies, churches, the WWII museum and assorted business groups in the United States. He has been on Dutch, Australian, German and French TV and in many documentaries on the History, Military and CNN channels and various radio programs in the U.S.
For his military service he received the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, Combat Infantry Badge, ETO Medal with Battlestar and Arrowhead. From France he received the Croix de Guerre with Silver Palm and the Knight of the French Foreign Legion. He has been written up in many newspapers throughout the USA such as, Today, Time Magazine, USA Today and was on the cover of People Magazine. He appeared on Tom Brokaw's program on NBC several times and his story was used in the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Dr. Baumgarten assisted Tom Hanks in presenting Steven Speilberg his Kennedy Honors Award at the Kennedy Center, which included dinner at the White House, and was honored with numerous awards and plaques over his many years of sharing his first hand experiences with the world. He will be pictured in many museums forever, especially at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.
Hal was married to his sweetheart and the love of his life, Rita for 67 years and leaves behind his loving children, Karen (Leopold) Sher, Bonnie (Ken) Friedman and Hal (Brenda) Baumgarten; his six adoring grandchildren, Michael Zabrek, Rose (Jeremy) Soso, Samantha Sher, Matthew and Katy Rose Friedman, and Rachel Baumgarten; a great brother-in-law, Bert Snyder; his precious sister, Beatrice Yates; and many nieces and nephews. He was a legend of a man who was greatly loved and will be missed by all who knew him.
In lieu of flowers if you would like to make donations in his name his choices would be the WWII museum on Magazine Street in New Orleans, The Jacksonville Jewish Center or the Beth El Beaches Synogogue in Ponte Vedra. Graveside services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at the New Center Cemetery section of Evergreen Cemetery, which is located on 43rd and Liberty Streets HARDAGE-GIDDENS, THE OAKLAWN CHAPEL, 4801 San Jose Blvd is serving the family.
The following transcription was provided by contributor Ron Anthony - firstname.lastname@example.org:
In the 1994 summer runup to the fiftieth anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, personal accounts and stories were being widely published in syndication throughout the United States of America. The story of Harold “Hal” Baumgarten, as transcribed here, was one of those accounts to have been so widely published.
Harold Baumgarten's combat career in World War II started at 6:40 a.m. on Omaha Beach and lasted a bit more than a day.
What happened to him in 27 hours might seem darkly funny, except that this was real flesh and blood. Today [late May 1994] he is Dr. Harold Baumgarten, 69, of Jacksonville, Fla., and reconstructive surgery has left little hint of what he went through. Fifty years ago [in 1944], he was either the most or the least fortunate man to survive the invasion.
His boots had hardly touched the shore when a German machine gun swept the beach. The man to his left was hit; the man to his right was hit. Baumgarten's rifle, clutched to his chest, was shattered by the shell meant for him.
He ran on, right into the blast of an exploding artillery round. "It hit the left side of my face like a baseball bat. For a 19-year-old, this is a bad experience. If you're shot in the face, you think you've had it."
Baumgarten reached cover along a wall at the top of the beach, and a medic wrapped up his shattered jaw.
Two hours later, as he rested, he saw movement among the fallen soldiers on the beach --- a sergeant from his own company, still alive. Baumgarten rushed out to help him. "Right where I left the wall, a mortar shell hit. Three fragments hit the left side of my head through my helmet." His second wound was more bloody than serious, and he was still able to pull his sergeant to safety.
Baumgarten says he was offered a chance to be evacuated that morning, but sad, angry and still afraid that his facial wound might already be mortal, he decided to stay and fight.
"I couldn't say it was any special courage," he says. "You just get crying mad. You see these guys dying. …
"I told some officers before the landing, 'I don't know if I can kill somebody.' I was going to be a doctor. But you just get crying mad, and . . . ."
And so, with about a dozen other men, he set off to do just that ---engage the enemy and move toward his unit's intended first target, the inland town of Isigny.
By late afternoon, half his group was dead or injured, and Baumgarten was crawling with the survivors along a hedgerow. A mine armed with a small shell had been set there, and it blew a hole through Baumgarten's foot, his third wound in less than 12 hours.
He tried to bandage his foot, but artillery began to blast the road nearby, so he hobbled away with his fleeing comrades straight into a German ambush. They all were hit, Baumgarten by a grazing bullet that took off half his upper lip.
Eventually rescued, he was taken by ambulance to the evacuation site he had passed up before. And there, incredibly, a German sniper began firing on the wounded. Baumgarten was struck in the right knee, his fifth wound. "He could have shot me in the head," he [Baumgarten] says. "He could have shot me in the heart. I think he was just being nasty."
It was 10 a.m. June 7. Wounded in the jaw, head, lip, foot and knee, Baumgarten's war was over.
Transcriber's note: Hal Baumgarten was one of only two men of his landing craft's party of thirty soldiers to have survived that day.
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