Saturday, September 25, 2010
In Case You Missed It
A member of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard" holds a flag of the Medal of Honor during the funeral of medal recipient Vernon J. Baker at Arlington National Cemetery September 23, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. Baker, the only surviving African-American soldier from WWII to be presented with the Medal of Honor, passed away of brain cancer on July 13, 2010. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Vernon Joseph Baker (December 17, 1919 – July 13, 2010) was a United States Army officer who received the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in World War II. He was awarded the medal for his actions on April 5–6, 1945 near Viareggio, Italy, when he and his platoon killed 26 enemy soldiers and destroyed six machine gun nests, two observer posts and four dugouts. He was the only living black World War II veteran of the seven belatedly awarded the medal of honor when it was bestowed upon him by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
Baker's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism in action on 5 and 6 April 1945, near Viareggio, Italy.
Then Second Lieutenant Baker demonstrated outstanding courage and leadership in destroying enemy installations, personnel and equipment during his company's attack against a strongly entrenched enemy in mountainous terrain.
When his company was stopped by the concentration of fire from several machine gun emplacements, he crawled to one position and destroyed it, killing three Germans. Continuing forward, he attacked an enemy observation post and killed two occupants. With the aid of one of his men, Lieutenant Baker attacked two more machine gun nests, killing or wounding the four enemy soldiers occupying these positions.
He then covered the evacuation of the wounded personnel of his company by occupying an exposed position and drawing the enemy's fire. On the following night Lieutenant Baker voluntarily led a battalion advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire toward the division objective. Second Lieutenant Baker's fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.