Farewell to Another “Final” World War II Hero

Vernon Baker passed away Tuesday. He was 90. (It seems young.) Baker was a member of the all-black 92nd Infantry Division. He was the last living black soldier to have received the Medal of Honor

As war raged in 1944 Italy, then-Lt. Baker and his platoon were behind German lines, On April 5-6 near Viareggio, the unit came under heavy fire. Baker took out three machine gun nests killing a number of enemy soldiers. He covered his men as they evacuated the wounded.

The next night he and his platoon did it again, moving through enemy minefields under more heavy fire. It has been reported Baker and his men killed 26 of the enemy and destroyed four dugouts, two observation posts and six machine gun positions. Baker reportedly killed nine of the enemy himself and took out more than one machine gun nest.

Vernon Baker received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. Only nine other black soldiers were similarly honored during the war. He also received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

No African Americans received the Medal of Honor during World War II. In 1993, a records review suggested 10 deserved the medal. Seven were chosen to receive the nation’s highest military award.

When President Bill Clinton awarded Baker his Blue Max  in 1997, Baker was the only one of the seven living. That same year his memoir, “Lasting Memoir,” was published.

Born in Wyoming in 1919, Baker lived most his life in Idaho. He died after a long battle with brain cancer. It is reported an Arlington National Cemetery burial is planned.

So closes another chapter.

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