Vernon J. Baker


About the Author

Orphaned at age four, Vernon J. Baker was raised in Wyoming by his grandparents, in a town with just a dozen other black families. During adolescence, he spent two years at Father Flanagan’s Boys Home in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated from high school in Iowa, worked as a railroad porter. He fought to join a segregated army, and was sent to Italy with one of the few all-black regiments to see combat in World War II.

Mr. Baker fought in Italy, earning a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Distinguished Service Cross. He was one of the most highly decorated black soldiers in the Mediterranean Theater. On January 13, 1997, fifty-two years after Mr. Baker’s World War II military service, President Clinton presented him with the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor, the Medal of Honor.

Mr. Baker stayed with the Army, lived through its desegregation, and became one of the first blacks to command an all white company. He joined the Airborne along the way and made his last jump at age forty-eight.

After retiring from the Army, he spent nearly twenty years working for the Read Cross. Today, he lives in Northern Idaho with his wife. Heidy.

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