Remembering D-Day Survivor Dr. Harold Baumgarten

by
posted on January 2, 2017
baum_lede.jpg

His was a life that almost ended 26,501 days sooner than it did. Instead though, he was given 3,785 more weeks—871 more months to raise a family, do good work, inspire and give back. When Harold Baumgarten passed away on Dec. 25, 2016, it was at the end of a life that extended well into old age, reaching into its ninth decade. Born in the Bronx on March 2, 1925, he was drafted into the U.S. Army the day he turned 18 in 1943. His service placed him in the 1st Battalion of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division and, during his brief time in uniform, he brought honor on himself on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 by landing at a French village named Vierville-sur-Mer on a beach that we now know as Omaha. 

Harold Baumgarten was chosen by fate to represent us on that beach, and he did so by throwing his young body into the jaws of modern combat. As he waded toward the shore with the first wave on D-Day, he carried an M1 at port arms, but the rifle was hopelessly damaged when enemy fire struck it. A bullet penetrated the magazine and weakened the Garand to such a degree that it snapped in two when he fired a single shot shortly thereafter. That M1 stopped the bullet that would have otherwise ended Harold Baumgarten's life,

Taking up another weapon, he continued to move forward despite the fact that his company was being decimated by withering enemy automatic weapons and mortar fire. Thirty-two hours later, Baumgarten had been badly wounded five times and for him, the war was over.  

Following a long recovery, he earned an undergraduate degree and a Master's, and he began teaching high school biology, chemistry and physics. He went on to complete medical school and thereafter established a private practice that would last for the next 40 years. In retirement, Dr. Baumgarten turned back to his experiences during the Second World War and chronicled what he survived in his first book Eyewitness on Omaha Beach (2000). With a remarkable vividness, he made combat on D-Day personal through compelling first-hand descriptions of the intensity of the battle for the Dog Green Sector. He also gave identity to men whose deaths had been previously been swept into the broad generalizations inevitable to the history of big events.

Thanks to Dr. Baumgarten's visceral account in Eyewitness on Omaha Beach, posterity now knows about the final moments of Clarius Riggs, Robert Dittmar, and other 29ers who made the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day. Because of its sincerity and authenticity, the book attracted so much praise and attention that Harold Baumgarten's name quickly came to be well-known to an ever-broadening audience.

By the 60th anniversary of June 6 in 2004, the retired doctor from Jacksonville was sharing company with celebrities, heads of state and thousands of admirers during his yearly visits to Normandy. He expanded on his first book by releasing an autobiography titled D-Day Survivor in 2006, but his health began to fail him soon thereafter and the yearly pilgrimages to France had to come to an end. 

But thanks to an M1 Garand that acted as a shield, Harold Baumgarten lived well beyond D-Day. He was given the gift of a life stretching beyond Tuesday, June 6, 1944—26,501 days worth of life that was spent first recovering, then caring for others and memorializing the fallen. Although he may have only been an American rifleman for one day of combat, he was an American rifleman nevertheless and he will be missed.

Latest

Springfield Armory Sa 35 High Power F
Springfield Armory Sa 35 High Power F

Springfield Armory SA-35 High Power: Classic, Modern, American

It’s been several years since the venerable Browning Hi Power was imported by its original European manufacturer. Now the classic is being made by Springfield Armory right here in the United States—
at a surprisingly reasonable price.

Review: Mossberg Optics-Ready MC2sc 9 mm Pistol

This well thought out, trimmed down, new striker-fired 9 mm Mossberg handgun with a red-dot optic is an ideal daily carry option.

The Armed Citizen® Oct. 25, 2021

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

Review: Mossberg 590S Shockwave

This most recent version of the Mossberg 590 reliably feeds 1¾" mini shells for reduced levels of felt recoil and an increased on-board shell capacity.

Rifleman Q&A: Shotgun Proofmarks?

Read this 'Questions & Answers' column from the American Rifleman archives to learn about Belgian shotguns and their proofmarks.

Preview: Winnerwell Fastfold Titanium Camping Stove

Winnerwell, in partnership with Dwell Outdoors LLC for U.S. distribution, has upgraded its line of stainless steel tent stoves to include a design that is lightweight with increased durability provided by the company’s use of titanium.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.