Dr. Harold Baumgarten - US Army Veteran - WWII
Fate and a world at war thrust Dr. BAUMGARTEN on to a path that would alter and illuminate his life for the next 73 years. He was inducted into the U.S. Army at the age of 18 on 26 June 1943, landed in the first wave on Dog Green Sector of Omaha Beach with Company B, 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division at 0630 on 6 June 1944. He was wounded five times within 32 hours of landing. After having received initial treatment for his wounds, he was returned to the United States and was Honorably Discharged on 8 February 1945.
Dr. BAUMGARTEN recovered from many restorative operations and always wondered why God has spared him that day on Omaha Beach. Thus, he devoted his life to “paying back’ by completing his education to become a teacher and then a physician and applying his skills as a physician to help the afflicted.
Dr. BAUMGARTEN led a life of public service driven by a moral compass of personal integrity and unqualified love for his fellow man as evidenced by his many international accolades. Clearly, Dr. BAUMGARTEN’S life is a testament to patriotism and civic involvement that attest to his contributions to the welfare of veterans of all wars and the enlightenment of the public at large about the sacrifices made to keep this great country safe and free.
In 2009 Tom Brokaw donated $400,000 to establish the Baumgarten-Gibbons endowed fund for the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at Florida State University. On his last program on TV, Brokaw said that of all of his interviews the one with Dr. BAUMGARTEN was one of the top three. He personally inscribed in his book, The Greatest Generation presented to Hal, “Dr. Harold (Hal) Baumgarten, M.D., D-Day survivor, “One of the greatest of the greatest generation”.
Education and Training Accomplishments
Dr. BAUMGARTEN’S formal training and education includes:
- Reserve Officer Training Course at New York University
- Basic and Advanced Infantry training at the United States Army
- Bachelor of Arts Degree from New York University;
- Masters Degree and Doctor of Medicine from the University of Miami.
Professional or Employment History:
- Upon earning his Masters Degree, he worked for the United States Postal Service then taught Biology, Chemistry and Physics at Palm Beach High School for over five years. He also coached football and baseball at the high school level.
- Dr. BAUMGARTEN earned his medical degree in June 1960. In 1963 he became a Board Certified Charter Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
- Dr. BAUMGARTEN practiced medicine as a Board Certified Physician in private practice for over 40 years in Florida. He also worked part-time as the Medical Director of Gulf Life Insurance in Jacksonville, FL.
- Dr. BAUMGARTEN worked an additional six years at the local Veterans Administration Hospital to help his fellow veterans.
- Following retirement, in his private practice, he routinely kept his fees well below his local colleagues in consideration of those less fortunate than he.
Dr. BAUMGARTEN’S post-war lifetime associations include:
- American Legion,
- Veterans of Foreign Wars,
- Disabled Veterans Association,
- Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA,
- 29th Division Association.
Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans
Dr. BAUMGARTEN’S capstone lifetime contributions to overall welfare of his fellow man and contributions to civic and veterans organizations can best be summarized by stating that he followed the advice of his mentor, Stephen Ambrose, founder of The D- Day Museum in New Orleans, to speak and write about his experiences of D-Day. He has written three books and given lectures all over the world at National events and cemeteries, high schools, colleges, police academies, churches, The (National) 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.
“It would be an understatement to say that Hal Baumgarten was a vital resource to this national Museum, charged by Congress with exploring the full American experience in World War II. He spoke as the featured veteran at the Grand Opening of our museum on June 6, 2000, presented at many of our conferences, and accompanied our tours to Normandy, where he spoke with power and passion on Omaha Beach about the sacrifices of his comrades. Hall’s (sic) D-Day experience changed him forever and he helped to give our Museum life and greater purpose. It bears noting that Hal made a point, during interviews, of giving the full names and home towns of fellow soldiers who died during the invasion, to help ensure they would never be forgotten.” Please, see National World War II Museum letter dated 27 January 2017.
Dr. BAUMGARTEN has been written up in many newspapers throughout the country, such as “Yank Magazine”, the “New York Daily Mirror”, “ People Magazine”, “Time Magazine”, ” U.S. News and World Report”, “ U.S.A. Today”, the “Richmond Times- Dispatch”, “ U.S. Army News”, Italy’s “ La Stampa”, the “Florida Times-Union”, the “Beaches Leader”, “Mature Matters Magazine”, the Encyclopedia Britannica and over 40 books.
He appeared on Tom Brokaw’s program on NBC several times and his story was illustrated in the first 20 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan”. Dr. Baumgarten assisted Tom Hanks in presenting Steven Spielberg 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.
Civic Activities and Contributions:
Dr. BAUMGARTEN devoted his entire adult life to ensuring that the lessons he learned in war and peace were passed along to future generations. He did this on the national, state and local level by making himself available to speak to schools, civic and professional organizations not only about his personal experiences on Omaha Beach, but also the value of “Friendship, Training and Discipline” as cited by Jacksonville Sheriff (now U.S. Representative) John Rutherford.
One of Dr. BAUMGARTEN’S books, D-DAY Survivor, An Autobiography refers to speaking engagements that range all the way from business clubs, Rotary Clubs, Meninaks club, churches (including his own synagogue), libraries, dinner clubs, schools, police departments, and even on various cruise ships in South America, France and the Caribbean He was a keynote speaker at the memorial service for Dr. Stephen Ambrose, the dedication of the National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA and the National World War II Memorial, New Orleans, LA. He returned to Normandy for many reunions and observances of D-Day. His personal account contributed indirectly as actor Charles Duming dramatically related his D-Day story, quoting from his book Eyewitness on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944 on National Public Television as part of the national Memorial Day program on May 29, 1994. This and a steady stream of personal and professional awards and recognitions demonstrate his devotion to and love for his country and his unqualified love for his fellow man.
On a local civic level, Dr. BAUMGARTEN performed services as a physician to low- income residents of Jacksonville at no charge, he participated in countless mass casualty drills and training sessions with the local government agencies, i.e., Jacksonville Sheriff Office, Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Dept, and their academies. Any honorarium presented to him was donated to the National World War II Museum.
Awards or Honors:
For his military service Dr. BAUMGARTEN received the Purple Heart Medal, Two Bronze Star Medals, Combat Infantry Badge, European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal with the Normandy bronze campaign star and Arrowhead for the Normandy campaign and the World War II Victory Medal. France presented the Croix de Guerre with Silver Palm and The French Legion of Honor (Chevalier).
Dr. BAUMGARTEN’S widow, Rita Baumgarten recounts…’’Harold also taught (voluntarily) a few classes up at the Police Academy, and one of the officers present was from Los Angeles, CA… Then he got a phone call from the LAPD to be their guest speaker at their annual banquet. Just another one of his numerous philanthropic deeds. Did I mention that he also taught Sunday School in West Palm Beach, without any pay. There just are too many deeds that he performed in his lifetime to mention…because the list is too long. He even has awards from the, the Police Dep’t, and also many “ambassador of good will” plaques from the 29th Division. He also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, representing the 29th Division in May of 2015. His awards could literally wallpaper a room…and fill a trunk, If any of his speaking engagements wanted to pay him, he always said make that check out to the D- Day museum…as a donation.” She said his final request was that the letters T.A.P.S. be on his tombstone. Those letters represent Teacher, Author, Physician, Soldier.
Dr. BAUMGARTEN points out in his book that the 2002 annual meeting of Florida’s West Post #2 of the 29th Division Association, a group of his warrior peers presented him with a plaque with the following inscription: “Presented to Dr Harold “Hal” Baumgarten A & B Company, 116th Infantry Regiment, and survivor of the first assault wave at Omaha Beach. God has a plan for everybody. You survived those five wounds received on June 6, 1944, to tell the story of liberation for those who remained forever young on that bloody beach. Through your book and your tireless speaking engagements you have preserved a first-hand account of history for thousands and in so doing, you have brought Honor and Glory to the 29th Infantry Division. Thank you for a job well done.”