First African American WWII Medal of Honor recipient dies in Idaho

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by KREM.com

NWCN.com

Posted on July 15, 2010 at 9:15 AM

ST. MARIES, Idaho -- The nation's first African American World War II veteran to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor has passed away.

Vernon Baker, 90, died Tuesday at his home near St. Maries, Idaho.

Baker enlisted in the Army in 1941, was shot and wounded once during World War II, and went on to give 30 years of military service to the United States.

In 1997, Baker received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor a war veteran can receive.  Baker accepted the award humbly and graciously.  Tears ran down his face.  But he always spoke softly about his experience during World War II.

In 1944, Baker was serving in Italy, leading 54 men into combat.  On April 5, his platoon was behind enemy lines.  They came under heavy attack.  Baker and his platoon fought back.  They took out the gunners and Baker then helped get his injured men to safety.
 
Baker was one of just seven black soldiers to get the medal of honor, and the last living recipient.  He fought when the military was still segregated which is a fact acknowledged 13 years ago.

Ever since the war, Baker lived in his St. Maries home.  He had been battling brain cancer before passing away.  Regarding his service, Baker told KREM 2 News, "The only thing I can tell you, I had a job to do, and I lost a lot of good men doing the job.  I had a job to do."

Over 1.2 million African-Americans served in World War II.  It was military historians who finally pushed for Baker and six of his fellow soldiers to get the recognition they deserved.

 

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