Airman Baum still has relatives in area

World War II hero remembered.
Tom Jackson
Nov 18, 2013
Sandusky war hero Paul Baum was shot down and killed during a World War II bombing raid and buried in France, but he wasn’t forgotten.

Many of his relatives still live in Ohio, and they didn’t forget Baum, a Sandusky High graduate known as a good football and baseball player.

Over in France, retired French Air Force Chief Warrant Officer Christian Lavaufre had done research on Baum and his final mission, and he wanted to put up a memorial to Baum.

And in Columbus, Ohio, a family practice physician who collects historical memorabilia as a hobby, Dr. Steve Altic, bought Paul Baum’s personal items that had been shipped home after Baum’s death. Altic tried to find Baum’s relatives for years, without success.

None of these folks knew each other, but they came together after the Sandusky Register published a story about Baum on May 27, 2012.

The article in the Register’s Sunday edition explained that Levaufre needed help, as he’d been unable to find Baum’s relatives. An American friend, Steve Talbott, of Bay Village, contacted the Register for help.

At the Register’s request, researchers at the Sandusky Library tried to find Baum’s relatives, but had no luck.    As it turned out, many of Baum’s relatives still live in Sandusky. One of Baum’s sisters took the name Stein when she married, and her three children all live here: Bill Stein and his wife, Chris; Ed Stein and his wife, Sally, and Marlene Ahlers and her husband, Scott Ahlers, who live in the Vine Street home where Baum grew up.

Many of them called the newspaper after the story came out. Paula Baum Wilhelm, the daughter of Baum’s brother, John Baum, called and said she was named after Uncle Paul.

Baum was a bombardier who rode in the nose of a B-24 “Liberator” heavy bomber.

He died on March 27, 1944, when the plane was hit repeatedly by antiaircraft fire while bombing a German air base.

The crippled bomber ditched in the Atlantic ocean off the French coast.

His widow, Verona, was living at Marblehead when he died, according to the Sandusky Register’s account at the time. Baum is remembered on a plaque at Adams Junior High, the former Sandusky High building.

Karen Martens, the daughter of another sister of Baum’s, grew up in Sandusky and Bellevue but now lives in Columbus. She’s a retired nursing professor at Capital University.

Martens was at a Memorial Day cookout when Sally Stein phoned her to tell her about the article.

Martens initiated a correspondence with Lefauvre. She and her husband, a retired attorney, had taken a bicycle trip in Tuscany, Italy.

This year, the couple decided to go to southwest France and visit LeFauvre. They went, returning about two weeks ago.

The Frenchman took the couple to an airfield in Mont de Marsan, site of the Luftwaffe air base Baum had been trying to bomb.

“Christian showed me where the artillery on the ground would have been located, shooting at the plane,” Martens said.

Martens attended a memorial event in Baum’s honor and met a man who was the son of one of the fishermen who rescued survivors from the crashed B-24.

A French newspaper covered her visit and ran a photo of Martens and her husband placing a wreath at the ceremony.

Altic found the Sandusky Register’s article about Baum on the Internet, soon after it appeared, and contacted Lefauvre, who put him in touch with Martens. It turned out they lived only a few miles away from each other in Columbus.

“Meeting Karen has added so much to understanding Paul and his family better. Christian’s knowledge about the final days and fate of this American bombardier hero encouraged me further,” Altic said in an email to the Register.