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Interview with Charles S. Baldwin, March 31, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Charles S. Baldwin, March 31, 2003
March 31, 2003
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Baldwin, Charles S. Interviewer: Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview: 3/31/2003 Series: Military Chaplains Length 58 minutes

Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff member with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s library. We’re at High Point, North Carolina at the home of Pastor Charles S. Baldwin

Zarbock: Good morning sir. I’m going to ask you how did you get into the Ministry, where were you in Seminary and from there what series of events took place that you led you into the military.

Baldwin: Okay, well what led me into the Ministry I guess was a good bit of what led me into my denomination of the Lutheran Church. I had started my 5th grade at the First Lutheran School in Knoxville, and the pastor’s middle son was a classmate of mine.

Zarbock: About what year was this?

Baldwin: I graduated from there in ’51 in 8th grade, so this would have been about 1947-48, someplace along there. And it was right after the Second World War and as I was in Confirmation Class, I don’t know what humanly speaking actually led me into it, I enjoyed Pastor Frerking’s work and my classmate was thinking about going to school and so forth. As it turned out, I went to school one year before him, but he also ended up coming in a year later.

As my folks looked at it and tried to find out financially how they were going to handle it, it was a struggle. Every year they had to borrow some money in the fall to get me off to school. In those days, there wasn’t any tuition as such, but there was just the business of living away at school, which was expensive, and traveling back and forth.

Zarbock: And where was school?

Baldwin: This was a church preparatory school in Western Missouri near Kansas City, a place called Concordia, Missouri. It was a traditional Lutheran town. It was the church in town, a Lutheran church. There were three or four other churches that all together were smaller than half of it. How I went there ( I guess actually the closest prep school was in Fort Wayne, Indiana), but my folks thought maybe a smaller town would be better for a son to go away to school. Plus the fact that my pastor had graduated from there. So I ended up at St. Paul’s College at Concordia, Missouri.

I went on from there through five years there, two years at Fort Wayne, Indiana, ( to a short-lived experiment called the Senior College) and then from there to Seminary in St. Louis. The things are sort of intertwined. One curious thing while I was in prep school, (I guess it was my junior year in high school), the US Government or Congress or somebody was considering a program known as Uniform Military Training, UMT. I was very much threatened by the notion that somehow I was going to have to go into the military, didn't like the idea at all.

There were a couple of the prep schools that had some ROTC at that point, but ours had never had an ROTC program as such. So I thought I didn't want to do that. As a matter of fact, we had to fill out a Declaration of Intent for the Selection Service System each year that swore we were studying for the ministry and we would enter the ministry when we graduated from seminary and that gave us the status of 4E which was…we made a good deal of humor about the fact that that was just one step away from mentally and physically being incapable, 4F.

Anyway we had the status of 4E instead of 1 S which was for college students. Anyway the reason for mentioning that was as I went to seminary, my academic advisor by my choice (and it was a happy choice), was Arthur Carl Piepkorn. He had been on active duty as a chaplain in the Second World War. And toward the end of the time he was on active duty became Commandant of the Chaplain School as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was on active duty I think 11 years all together. Then he left active duty and stayed active in the Reserves until he retired after 30 years of service in the military. He died around 1970-71.

He was a curious man. He had sort of a photographic memory, a man with a tremendous sense of humor that a lot of people didn't know about. Even though he was a worldwide expert in liturgics, (the matters of worship,) his primary skill was as a systematician, a Professor of Doctrine despite the fact that his original Ph.D. was in Assyriology and Egyptology for which he had gone on a dig to Baghdad back in the 20’s when it was just coming out of the Ottoman Empire.

Anyway I was thinking maybe about staying at the seminary for my Master of Sacred Theology Degree, STM. I wasn’t sure I could make it financially because my parents said they would see me through seminary financially, but if I wanted to do anything after that, I was going to have to make it on my own. So he suggested that one way I might make it on my own was to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant Staff Specialist which was a way to get acquainted with the military chaplaincy.

Without any strings attached if you finished seminary and were ordained and didn’t make a transfer to the Chaplains Corps, the thing just died. You could ask for a discharge to make it tidy, but that wasn’t even necessary. So that would enable me to have at least 30 or 60 days active duty for each summer during that time and then some while I was working on my Master’s Degree. Then he also got me a fellowship and a couple of other things.

The short and long of it is that I decided that really the reason I wasn’t doing my STM was that I was tired of going to school. So I gave back the fellowship and graduated and was ordained and so forth.

Zarbock: What year was that?

Baldwin: I graduated in 1963, but I did become a Staff Specialist. I remember on Memorial Day 1960 after morning chapel, there were six of us and Doctor Piepkorn said, “I’ll say your name and a number and you just repeat after me.” When he said number, we didn't think about what he meant, not alert to the fact that he was a man of quick memory and I was the first of six being Baldwin, I held up my hand and he held up his and he said, “I, Charles Stanley Baldwin, 05501756, do solemnly swear……” (Laughter), He was waiting for me.

I remember when I was a child, I tried to fill out some of these contests where you add up all the numbers that are floating around on the page and I just saw numbers going everywhere and I don’t know to this day what number I said. Then everybody was chuckling, the whole student body there. We got through the thing and then the next was, “I, Thomas Edge, 05501757”. He said something. By the time he got to the third guy, he said, this is going sequentially. So he got the right number. I was the only one of the six that actually went on active duty, that ended up staying in the chaplaincy.

I went to Chaplain School that summer as a 2nd Lieutenant and that was at Fort Slocum, New York. It was an Army post that had served as, among other things, a hospital during the Civil War and as an early Air Base. It was an island in Long Island Sound off the coast of New Rochelle adjacent to Glenn Island which was named after Glenn Miller, where he got his start at Glenn Allen Casino. Went to school there.

The Bachelor Officers’ Quarters we stayed in had been hospital rooms in the Civil War and hadn’t been changed except for indoor plumbing, hadn’t been changed since.

Zarbock: How long was school?

Baldwin: That was nine weeks.

Zarbock: What was the nature of the curriculum?

Baldwin: How to put on a uniform, how and whom to salute, various things like that, about Army organization, a little bit of military history. We had about a week or two weeks at Fort Dix, New Jersey out in the field living in tents. We went through the infiltration course, you know, with them shooting over your heads and gas mask tests and did some physical things.

Zarbock: So really it was an orientation to the Army and little, if any, to do with chaplaincy?

Baldwin: Right, only in that just about the organization of the Army Chaplaincy and about some of the things we would run into in ministering an ecumenical or cross-cultural, although that word didn't exist yet then, in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious background and some of the peculiarities or little quirks. There was one of our instructors in Army Supply that had been a Chaplain in Korea and he was telling us that “you’re a chaplain, yes, you’re a minister, but you also have to take care of yourself.” He said that when he arrived in Korea, he came in with his unit.

He had a brand new jeep, a brand new trailer, a brand new folding field organ. The whole nine yards. A brand new tent and he and his Chaplain’s Assistant, green as he was, went into some place for processing and came out and here was this old rattle trap jeep, trailer, torn tent and everything else with his number painted on them. That in the time he went in and came out again, some enterprising Chaplain’s Assistant and his Chaplain had stolen his jeep, trailer, tent, organ and everything and that was the way he learned about supply economy.

Reminded me very much of one story from my career course at Fort Hamilton years later in which one of the guys on teaching on Military Tactics was an Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

He taught us about the difference between mechanized infantry armor and also the role of cavalry and the various differences of that through the story of Deborah from the Book of Judges. I’ve used that any number of times and also the role of the cavalry.

Her husband whom everybody else called Thunder, she (Deborah) called Lightning. She sent him like ,Jeb Stewart, out into the mountains running around looking for the first spring rain. He was supposed to tell her by signal to her with some kind of piece of armor or something or other that the rains had started. She had lightly armored chariots. Siceri, I think it was, had heavily armored chariots.

When the spring rain started, she attacked him and he became bogged in the mud and she whipped up on him in the battle.

Zarbock: You know this is somewhat incredible. We’ve got a Lutheran Chaplain being taught by a Jewish rabbi, military tactics circa 2000-4000 BC (laughter).

Baldwin: It was funny. So anyway that’s how I ended up in the chaplaincy through that.

Zarbock: And your rank is, you’re a 2nd Lieutenant?

Baldwin: I was a 2nd Lieutenant at that time and when I graduated from Seminary and was ordained. In the meantime, I had been promoted 1st Lieutenant, but if I had not been, I would have automatically then become 1st Lieutenant. I had already been time and grade and kept up my points and all that sort of thing enabling me to become a 1st Lieutenant.

Zarbock: What did your parents think about this occupational selection?

Baldwin: I don’t know. They didn't talk a lot about it. I think they were both proud as people who had a notion that this was a good thing to do. At that point, they were not aware that I would actually go on active duty. They knew I was a Reserve Chaplain. Of course when I went on active duty, I was called in September ’66 (coincidentally it was my birthday that year) and then went on active duty the first of March of ’67 which was right during the Tet Offensive.

Of course they weren’t helped a lot by the fact that the night before I caught my plane to Vietnam, a rocket had landed on the chapel at the air base and burned it down to the ground. That didn't go over too big with them, but we didn't talk about it.

Zarbock: That wasn’t Owen was it?

Baldwin: No, so I went off to Vietnam for my first tour there. Well I had already been on active duty at that point for a year, but I mean that kind of got compressed.

Zarbock: Where had you been stationed before you went to Vietnam?

Baldwin: At Fort Campbell, Kentucky which was funny because I debated about whether I was going to go Airborne or not and I decided not to. Running has always been a problem for me, and I found out later there were probably some physical reasons, but I had never been able to run well and I knew running was a big deal. I knew I wasn’t able to do push-ups well and I knew that push-ups were a big deal so I finally decided not to go to Jump School.

Of course not being airborne at Fort Campbell, I was frequently called “a leg”, you know, chaplain or not. The irony of that was my second tour at Vietnam, I was Division Artillery Chaplain of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam and I wear the 101st Air patch on my right shoulder. And some of my airborne buddies from Fort Campbell have “44th Mess Kit Repair Battalion” on their shoulder. They grind their teeth when they see me.

I say that I was in the 101st Airborne Division when it was truly airborne from the point of takeoff to point of landing. No helicopters, none of this getting halfway there and giving up on a perfectly good airplane.

Zarbock: Take me back to your first tour of Vietnam. Did you fly in commercially or did you go in on a military aircraft? Take me sequentially.

Baldwin: I think it was on Capital Airways which was not Capital Airlines. It must have been a…I think it was probably a contractor or something that did just contract flights. It was a civilian type airliner, but it was all military people. We flew out of Travis Air Force Base, flew out of there on a commercial airliner. It was all soldiers. We were already in our fatigues and stuff on the plane.

I was assigned to a Construction Engineer Battalion. The 20th Brigade had the southern part of what was then Vietnam as far as their area of coverage. Our Battalion was one of four Battalions. Two Construction and two Combat in that group. I remember there were some people at the repo depot, there were people coming and people going and people who had…

Zarbock: I’m sorry chaplain, I know what a repo depot is?

Baldwin: Replacement Battalion, some of the people said, “Chaplain Baldwin, where are you going” and I said, “554 Engineering Battalion in Cu Chi. What do you mean by that?” “Well you’ll find out!” So I went from the Replacement Depot to the Brigade Headquarters and spent one day and night with the Brigade Chaplain. He said, “Chaplain, where are you going” and I told him Cu Chi. It was in Hau Nghia Province which was northwest of what is now Ho Chi Minh City near Tay Ninh which was the headquarters of the Cao Dai religion. A religion homegrown in Vietnam.

Then the same thing happened when I went to the Group Headquarters. By this time I had a notion why they were saying this. Cu Chi at the tail end of the Tet offensive had a lot of activity and I knew that one of the things they had a lot was 120mm rockets. I started asking people,”Well how will I know we’re under a rocket attack?” and they said “you’ll know!”

So anyway, the first night in Cu Chi nothing happened. The second night I was sound asleep and there was a sound that I had never heard in my life, that there was no doubt in my mind that that was a rocket attack. It was kind of like same angel with a gigantic door in a hallway slamming this door. It was

a slamming sound and there was no doubt in my mind. I didn't have to wait for a siren or anything else.

Had to just roll out from under our bed and roll under the bed. We had an inch thick piece of plywood on the bed. The Commander who was just leaving that unit at that point had taken that Battalion to Vietnam, had become alcoholic or was alcoholic before he went there, but in addition he was a capable engineer, but a nut in a negative sense of the word. Even though it was an Engineering Battalion, when the Tet offensive started some of his engineers started building some very nice and very secure bunkers. Hadn’t put the sandbags on them yet, it was just the concrete.

In one of his evening visits with Black Label Johnny Walker at the Officer’s Club he made a statement that, there was some rocket attack or something, in fact I was in the Club when he said that, he said just sit down. Everybody sat down. He had threatened to shoot any officer he saw go to a bunker. What it was was that around all of the borders were sandbag revetments. You know, you put your bed up next to the corner, next to the wall and you can roll under your bed then and had little blocks to raise it up to make kind of a mini-bunker in your room.

The next Commander allowed us to put the sandbags on the bunkers and actually use them. By then, most of the people that were still there were used to rolling under their beds and normally didn't go out to the bunkers.

Zarbock: What was the nature of your every day chaplain activities?

Baldwin: Well a lot of visitation, had of course religious services and Bible studies and this and that. Our Battalion was primarily construction engineers and they had direct support to the 25th Infantry Division, was not assigned to the Division, but in direct support of them and in general support to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam folks in the Hau Nghia Province.

So we built a lot of buildings, airfields, roads and things like that. I just went to visit the engineers at the job sites counseling with them, a lot of administrative type counseling, hearing people’s problems that related to concern for hardship discharge, compassionate reassignments and compassionate leaves and this and that you know, some more specific religious counseling. A lot of it was just personal sort of counseling type of thing. Visiting people, wounded soldiers in the hospital.

Zarbock: If a request was made for a compassionate transfer or discharge or something along that line, what would be your duties?

Baldwin: Well technically as a chaplain, I had no responsibility in it, but frequently was called on to add the touch of humanity to the thing. In many cases I listened to the person and helped them to see that, you know, to know the system enough to realize mistakes that were made, things that were overlooked. In many cases, I just helped them understand that their problem, as serious as it was to them, was not the kind that was going to get the attention and just to help them deal with the reality, a reality check. You know, you’re not going to go home.

On my second tour in Vietnam, there was one fellow whose mother had written, I was counseling with him and his mother had written this letter almost like Klinger on MASH, all these horrendous things. She wrote him about to help him out with his reassignment or discharge whatever it was. At the end of the letter, “Love, Mom, PS I hope this is what you needed to get out of the Army”(laughter). No, that’s not helpful.

So the nature of our work, we worked mostly during the daytime. The day belonged to us, the nights to Charlie. We did some work at night. One of my things that I remember, my Assistant and I had gone out to a night job site. It was a section of road that was used so much during the day that it just wasn’t practical to try to work on it during the daytime.

He and I were visiting with the troops there at the jobsite talking with them, commiserating with them and all that sort of thing. It came around midnight and we decided to have our supper. We backed the jeep off the road into a rubber plantation and we sat down and started eating, busy talking. I liked to talk and he liked to talk. We were busy talking and all of a sudden in the pause of the conversation, it was very quiet.

We didn't hear any of the road working equipment and we looked and they had moved about a half mile up the road (laughter). There we were sitting across from this village in the middle of the night in a rubber plantation. I thought, “ What in the world am I doing here?” It made sense then, but let’s go up the road where the troops are so we drove up the road and visited with them.

Sometimes when they were like building new defensive positions for the infantry or various things like that, bunkers for artillery, small artillery, I would go and spend the night with them. At one time, our Battalion had around 1400-1500 people assigned. We had our own Headquarters Company, Company A which was our direct general support company, maintenance and so forth. Then we had three line companies of construction engineers. Then we had a company of combat engineers from another battalion attached to us.

Then we had a concrete mixing and paving unit and an asphalt laying company attached and a rock quarry, a rock crushing unit attached. Then, a Heavy Combat Support Engineering Company at a place called Nuy Ba Dinh,. The Black Virgin Mountain which was interesting. I remember drilling some of the holes in the rocks you know, just to see what it was like, to put the explosives assaulting this mountain to take some of the rock away. That was in Cu Chi. My second tour I was…

Zarbock: When did you come back to the States after the first tour?

Baldwin: That was in March of ’69 I guess.

Zarbock: Where were you stationed?

Baldwin: At Fort Dix, New Jersey. We had to fill out what was called a “Dream Sheet” our preference sheet. At that time I thought, I decided I was going to stay on active duty. Before I went on active duty, I was in the closest thing our denomination ever had to a monastery. I was working in a communal ministry in the inner city in Washington, DC. My being there was dependent on my not being married.

Zarbock: But are you still in the military?

Baldwin: I’m retired now. I went on active duty. When I came back from Vietnam, I decided I was going to stay on active duty. So I decided it was time to get married. If I ever was going to get married, I probably should get married. Okay, where am I going to see a lot of Lutheran girls? So, I said, okay, the eastern seaboard might be a good place to find some Lutheran girls.

So I put down a number of places in the 1st Army Area as my first, second and third choice. Then I made some other choices around the country. Then I got Fort Dix, New Jersey. Now Fort Dix, New Jersey, ( it was not as though I hadn’t heard of it). I had been there as a Reservist. I didn't particularly want to go there. Somehow they had the notion that any place the 1st Army would be for my first choice, then any place of my 2nd Army of choice.

After that you name all of the Posts in order and then the Army Areas, is what I learned. That helped later on. Anyway I went to Fort Dix, New Jersey. In the meantime while I was there, a cousin of hers (pointing to his wife) just died a few weeks ago, a good bit older than her. He was in his 80’s. While I was young, he had been making a case for her to be…for me to become interested in her. I was not interested in her…

Zarbock: Now “ her” being your current wife?

Baldwin: Yes and only wife. So anyway while I was in Vietnam the first time, I said to them I’m going to stay in the Army for a while and if I’m ever going to get married, it’s probably a good time. Just among other things, why don’t I meet this cousin of yours when I come home. I came home, I met her. We had a couple of dates before I left Knoxville. She was working on her Master’s Degree in Knoxville at the time at UT and was attending my home church.

(She coincidentally was at my Ordination when she was in high school, but we did not meet. Our parents knew each other, but I’m several years older than her and I’d been in her home when she was three years old, but I didn't remember her. Our parents knew each other and this fellow who was our matchmaker was a very close friend of my parents and so forth and so on.)

My first Sunday at church, as she tells it that I came in, I was in my uniform. I sat down and she saw me come in. My parents sat about two rows behind this other couple. So we came in and sat down. We barely had set down when Peggy scribbles something on a bulletin, reaches it over her shoulders back to my mother, you know, let’s get these two kids together. The rest is history.

We corresponded. She visited me once when I was at Fort Dix. She was going for a field work thing of some kind in New York City in the garment district. Then we kept on corresponding. She was at the airport when I took off for my second tour to Vietnam.

Zarbock: Did you ask for a second tour?

Baldwin: Well what it was, she was working on her Master’s Degree and at that time my contemporaries were going back on a mandatory 14 month turnaround. If I had waited until it came my turn to go back, it would have been probably right after we got married. I didn't want to interrupt her Master’s degree in case anything happened to me.

She got into Home Economics partly because it was like, “well if I get married, I’ll make a better wife. If I don’t get married, I’ll have a job.”(laughter). So I didn't want her to quit her Master’s Degree and she was on a two year Assistantship to get it so I had the notion, we were kind of hinting around and I had the notion we maybe were going to get engaged. I volunteered for my second year in Vietnam to get it over earlier.

It would have financially made more sense for us to get married and for me to then go because I would have gotten a larger tax benefit, but I as a chaplain had seen too many GI’s that had married and gone off to Vietnam and the strain that that put even on mature people so I thought I don’t want to do that. I didn't want to come back as maybe be an invalid and start out our marriage life together as a wounded soldier. I went on and volunteered for that in September.

I came home on my leave going to Vietnam and gave her a ring and we got engaged and I went on to Vietnam.

Zarbock: What was your rank at that time?

Baldwin: I was a Major at that time. When she was visiting me in Fort Dix, during the time that I got promoted to Major, and she was at the ceremony at which the Hospital Commander, who was my boss , pinned the Major leaves on me. My first kiss from her was at the direction of my Commander (laughter). He said to her, “Well aren’t you going to kiss him?”. She gave me a kiss. We weren’t even engaged at that point.

Zarbock: Remember the old joke about if the Army wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one.

Baldwin: I got one issued by the Church, but I got my first kiss by the command of my boss.

Zarbock: So off you go to Vietnam again. The same method of transportation, commercial aircraft?

Baldwin: Yes, basically the same thing. I just didn't go to Oakland this time. I’d made the mistake of going to Oakland and had a long bus ride to Travis. I went to San Francisco which was closer to Travis. Anyway went off to Vietnam and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as Division Artillery Chaplain. Another “dirty boot” assignment. Did a lot of flying on helicopters. It was a time when they were trying to decide whether staff personnel could get Air Medals or not.

So I got one Air Medal. At that point I had spent, I think, 100 hours in the air. I probably had enough to make four Air Medals, but they decided at that point that staff people shouldn’t get Air Medals.

Most of my first tour was by jeep, occasionally by helicopter, once on one of those little things like you see on MASH, those three-seaters. I was going to go to one of the job sites that day with the Commander and as it ended up, there was a guy having to go…there was a man who had been on leave and was going back to the unit and we thought we were going to go out on a Hughey which would be plenty of room for myself and the Commander, the Sergeant Major and this solder, the five of us.

They brought this little helicopter that had room for the pilot and two passengers. Well I started to turn around and leave. I figured well the Commander was going to go with this other soldier. He said, “No, chaplain, you go ahead. Tell me how they’re doing with the construction and let me know how the work is going at the job site. The Sergeant Major and I will drive someplace else.”

So I went to do an “engineering inspection” and went with the soldier out to the site where his unit was out in the field. A number of flights on Caribou’s, the Air Force plane that kind of takes off almost straight up. I always got kind of woozy on those. They kind of bounced around as they came in.

Once we were going out on a Hughey (and it was B Model which was the smallest one), Hughes Aircraft, the traditional Vietnam era helicopter. It had so many soldiers on it, it couldn’t get airborne right away and the guy was torquing the thing up and went bouncing down the runway. Just before we ran out of the runway, he got airborne and we took off.

Zarbock: I’ve got to ask, were you praying at the time?

Baldwin: Well I don’t remember exactly. I just know I was uncomfortable. I figured he’d get off okay. My second tour I spent most of my time in helicopters and I was at that time a little overweight. The Catholic Chaplain, a good friend, was working with me at the time in the Division Artillery and the two of us traveled around together a lot. and They sometimes referred to us as the “ heavy artillery “.

Once there, there were the two of us and a soldier trying to get off of an airbase that was out in the flats, in the sand flats along the ocean. The hotter it is, the harder it is for the helicopter to get torqued to lift up and it was hot and humid and so forth and he had to kind of fly around in a circle a bit before he could get us up off the ground.

One of my fondest experiences comes from that era indirectly. Late in the 70’s, I was the Deputy Corps Chaplain of the 7th Corps in Stutgardt, Germany and there was a major logistical exercise that was matching to play a particular scenario. It was between active duty people from Europe and Reserve and National Guard from the United States and so forth at Fort Pickett, Virginia, where I had been a number of times as a reservist so I knew the post quite well.

I had been in a hospital unit, a Reserve Hospital Unit. But anyway,I was at Fort Pickett in one of the PX’s there and this guy came up to me, obviously a reservist or guardsman with his hair, really long hair at a time that that…some of them had to wear wig to hold up their hair when they were doing active duty. He was doing some musical thing so he was able to wear it long, but he had to put a wig on during the day time.

He said, “Chaplain Baldwin?” and I said “Yes”, we were both in civilian clothes. I’m going through my mind trying to think who he was and he said, “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I just wanted to tell you. You always used to come out to Fire Base Tomahaw. And I didn't come to church very much, maybe once or twice while you were there, but I always appreciated you and Father Foley coming out there. No matter what the weather, no matter what the tactical situation, you came out every week for services and it was just so encouraging to me that when I came back from Vietnam I was so happy that I was baptized, I joined the church. I’m a Deacon in my church and I just wanted to say how important it was for me that you did that and showed that faith”.

Zarbock: It’s one of those influences…

Baldwin: Yeah, you never know. I had another experience while I was at my first tour in Germany working at Headquarters United States 7th Army at the support element there. There was a young soldier that I was doing some counseling with and I had done my Master’s in Counseling. Long Island University was a traditionally Freudian school so I picked up some Freudian things that I didn't use very much.

I was counseling with this guy who was having all kinds of problems. We would start to get someplace and he’d ask if I minded if he had a cigarette so he’d light up. All of a sudden we’re off chasing something you know. One day he was sitting there and he said to me, “Chaplain, mind if I have a cigarette”. I said that he shouldn’t light a cigarette. You know the Freudian thing about compensating by eating or smoking and so forth?

So he asked why not? I told him, I said, “Every time we start to get someplace, you start smoking, we lose the conversation and I said “Why do you need to smoke?” and he said, “Because he told me to”. I asked him “Who?” He said, “The fella sitting on your bookcase.” (Laughter) I thought okay now we’re getting someplace. He was actively hallucinating. We started to get some breakthrough, found out what he was. He was on a variety of drugs and so forth and so on.

He was supposed to show up for an appointment one day and he didn't. The MP’s came to me and asked if I had seen so and so and I said, “No.” They said ,well they couldn’t find him. He wasn’t in the barracks where he was supposed to be. I said there were some guys he went and stayed with sometimes that lived off base, had an apartment off base. He might be there. They found him and he had OD’d, but he didn't die. They took him to the hospital and he was somehow apparently “ boarded out” of the Army.

In the meantime through all of this I had been corresponding with his father. I won’t mention more about his father because that would just be going down the confidentiality, but I had corresponded and talked on the phone and so forth. A number of years later, I get this letter, didn't even think about the name at the time, and he said this is so and so, don’t know whether you remember me but I’m in Seminary. Then later on I wrote and thanked him for telling me and that I was happy his life got together.

A few years later he wrote and said he was on active duty as a chaplain (laughter). As far as I know, he’s still in the Army as a Chaplain. It’s interesting some of the things that happen.

Zarbock: As a chaplain, am I correct, you had to represent all faith groups? You had to be available.

Baldwin: Yes, you had to provide ministry, enabling ministry directly for whomever I could and indirectly through other people for those that I couldn’t.

Zarbock: What would you do in the event of a Jewish soldier or a Catholic soldier if you were the Chaplain at Point X and suddenly this Jewish soldier shows up and says he needed to talk to you or needed direction? Did this ever happen?

Baldwin: Oh yeah, just counsel with them. Insofar as religiously if possible, there was one of my Professors at Chaplain School, one of the Retired Chaplains from the Second World War had had an experience when he was in the beginning of the Air Force and was in the Army Air Corps in Europe during the Second World War and his Commander was Jewish. He was a pastor of my own denomination. He said, his Commander told him, he said, “Chaplain Graebner, none of my rabbis can preach and I know you Lutherans can preach so I want you to get my rabbis from England here and teach them how to preach”.

So he ran a Homiletics Course for the Air Corps Jewish rabbis. One place, I have tried to find where I saw blanks in the ministry and tried to support that. One area, I had a Chaplain’s Assistant in Heidelberg that was an Ordained Elder in the Church of God in Christ which is a historically black denomination, an Apostle Holiness background. As I moved from there to Darmstadt, I noticed there was no what we called gospel services there. The only Pentecostal thing was kind of off the map as far as supporting some of the soldiers.

I found an Air Force Sergeant who was a Minister in the Church of God in Christ and helped him to start a gospel service there. When we left there, they gave us an appreciation service in which they brought gifts and so forth. My civilian boss who is a retired Navy Chaplain just coincidentally happened to show up on that Base that evening and he finds the service going on in the chapel. He wants to go in. He sees this shouting and falling out kind of service and so he wanted to kind of get out, “Oh Chaplain, come on in” and they grabbed him and brought him on in.

As he sat there watching these people here shouting and clapping and the tambourines and everything and his eyes focused, he was Elva and myself sitting in front of the church with this pile of gifts in front of us (laughter). He never quit telling that story about his experience.

Zarbock: It is sort of funny.

Baldwin: Well in a lot of ways I felt more comfortable with that than some of my Baptist colleagues. I kind of thought later, why is that?. I guess that was too close to where they had been, that they were trying to be away from that particular style of worship in the military and more sophisticated and so forth than their shouting relatives out in the country. It was no threat to me so I was comfortable.

Zarbock: Pastor, in your military career was there any time in which you were ordered or strongly suggested that you take some action or activity that you felt was in violation of your personal ethic or religious beliefs?

Baldwin: Well the one Commander I had with the Engineering Unit and one I had for a short while in the Division Artillery in Vietnam, I feared it might get to that. I have no recollection, because of the nature of those two people..the one was also heavy on the bottle and he said one night…well he went back to the States on emergency leave and ended up getting reassigned. So I was released from him. But he said, “I killed Germans for my country, I’ve killed gooks for my country and if I were told tomorrow to go kill Canadians or people in New York for my country, I would do so without hesitation”. I thought, okay, this is going to be a long period. He got moved and I didn't.

There were some things I guess, probably where it got into trouble more was in the area when I was a bean counter, budgeter, administrator. I was an Adjunct Member of the Inspector General’s Team and inspected the chapel programs in a number of communities in Germany. I was told by someone who would readily deny attribution if I ever mentioned his name who happened to be on one of the Boards in which I was considered full Colonel that my necessity to call a spade a spade in terms of some of those inspections, especially as it reflected on some Roman Catholic Chaplains who were lacking integrity hurt me.

I didn't know it at the time, probably would have done the same thing because I felt it was what needed to be said. It’s probably not time to go into some of those. That was probably more where that sort of thing came to hurt me in a way that…I just never had a lot of Commanders that were really practicing religion themselves, but fortunately most of them were people with great compassion.

One man who was kind of a crazy guy, but he was Roman Catholic and he wanted a Protestant Chaplain because he felt he could get more out of them than a Catholic Chaplain. In fact his nephew I think was a Bishop or a Monsignor or something. I had a good relationship with him despite the fact that he was kind of a martinet with the troops. I had another Catholic Commander who at one point with great pain lost my slot in trying to keep a Race Relations Officer on his staff.

He said, “You’re one of my most important officers in this Command. This guy isn’t worth the money to blow him away, but he can hurt me and you can’t. I’m going to let your slot go and keep his because I know the Chief of Chaplains will not let him go without some kind of coverage”. As it turned out I stayed in the Unit for a while in a different capacity covering the same Unit through the community rather than the Unit.

Zarbock: Is God revealed in the military…let me rephrase that. How is God revealed through the military?

Baldwin: I’m not sure I understand the question.

Zarbock: Well what contributes to the sense of closeness to God in the military? Is it the loneliness? Is it the fright of combat? Is the monotony and the sameness, sense of powerlessness…

Baldwin: I guess some of the sense of powerlessness, some of the sense of loneliness and alienation. The old expression associated with Second World War days, (I never experienced this): “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I saw atheists in foxholes or bunkers or what have you. To a great degree, I guess it’s the same sort of thing that of any person of that same age and same kind of educational, cultural background.

It’s just that they’re off on their own and I guess if they seek God or if they are open to God’s leaning, it’s just a matter that they’re not trapped by the same kinds of things that they might be if they were in their own home environment or something. I’m not quite sure I know exactly how to answer that.

For me, it was my ministry. Two things that came out of my two tours in Vietnam, I became convinced that, you know, I always felt that war was obscene, but I became more convinced that a limited war was even more obscene – that if any nations come to the point of war, better to get it over as quickly as possible. The less people are hurt by getting it over as quickly as possible and as humanely and as efficiently as possible.

In the midst of that, you know, they say what is a minister doing there. I always said “I’m not a pacifist, but even if I were I suppose I could be a Chaplain because you minister to people who are in jail, people who are in the hospital. That doesn’t mean you condone illness or crime, but the people are still there to minister to”. I attempted to do that.

Zarbock: Thank you, the Lord be with you.

Baldwin: Thank you.

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