Vernon Joseph Baker (December 17, 1919 – July 13, 2010) was a United States Army first lieutenant who was an infantry company platoon leader during World War II and a paratrooper during the Korean War. In 1997, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration for valor, for his actions on April 5 – 6, 1945, near Viareggio, Italy.
Baker was born on December 17, 1919, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the youngest of three children. After his parents died in a car accident when he was four, he and his two sisters were raised by their paternal grandparents. Baker enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1941 from Cheyenne. He had attempted to enlist in April, but was turned away with the recruiter stating, “We don’t have any quotas for you people”. Baker tried again weeks later with a different recruiter and was accepted.
On April 5, 1945 his unit was ordered to assault a German occupied mountain stronghold. In doing so, Baker personally eliminated three enemy machine guns, an observation post, and a dugout. 19 of the 25 men in Baker’s platoon were killed. On the second day of the assault, Baker volunteered to lead a battalion advance that secured the mountain.
Significance of the numbers:
7️⃣7️⃣ Age when he received the Medal of Honor
5️⃣ Baker personally eliminated three enemy machine guns, an observation post, and a dugout
7️⃣ Baker is one of only 7 Black recipients of the Medal of Honor
1️⃣4️⃣ Total Military Awards he received
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