After his induction into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes in 1997, Baker chats with former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis J. Reimer and former Sergeant Major of the Army Gene C. McKinney. DoD photo
Segregated in Service, Medal of Honor Recipient’s Actions Saved Lives of All Races
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Vernon Joseph Baker (December 17, 1919 – July 13, 2010) was a United States Army officer who received the Medal of Honor, the highest military award given by the United States Government for his valorous actions during World War II. He was awarded the medal for his actions on April 5–6, 1945 near Viareggio, Italy. Baker was the only living black American 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. He died in 2010 at the age of 90.
Vernon Baker Army First Lieutenant
370th Infantry Regiment, 92d Infantry Division (Colored)
near Viareggio, Italy April 5, 1945 and April 6, 1945
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