John F. Baker, Jr., American Medal of Honor recipient, died he was 66
(October 30, 1945 – January 20, 2012)
Baker was born in Davenport, Iowa, and attended Moline High School from 1963 to 1966. At 5’ 1”, he was a gymnast before joining the army. He became a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam, a soldier who entered Viet Cong
tunnels searching out the enemy and destroying their caches of war
material. Baker made the military his career, retiring in 1989. He then
began working as a computer analyst at a Veterans Hospital in South Carolina. In addition to serving as the Vice-President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, he served as a member on the Nation’s Monuments and Cemeteries Committee.
In 2008, the I-280 Bridge, connecting Davenport, Iowa with Rock Island, Illinois, was renamed the Sergeant John F. Baker, Jr. Bridge in his honor.
Baker suffered from heart problems in the last years of his life and began using oxygen in 2010. He died aged 66 on January 20, 2012, after collapsing at his Northeast Richland home.
Baker entered the U.S. Army in Moline, Illinois, serving as a private in A Company, 2nd Battalion of the 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division. In Vietnam, he took part in Operation Attleboro
which began in September 1966. On November 5, 1966, Baker and his unit
were called to assist another squad who were taking enemy fire. En
route, A Company began to take fire and lost their lead soldier.
Together with two other soldiers, Baker took over the head of the column
and assisted in destroying two enemy positions. They were moving to
take two others when a hand grenade knocked Baker off of his feet.
With the two other soldiers wounded, Baker “single handedly” destroyed another bunker
before recovering his comrades. Despite taking further fire from enemy
bunkers and snipers, he continually fell back to replenish ammunition
and take back several wounded. For these actions, he was awarded the
Medal of Honor along with Captain Robert F. Foley, who also received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle. When awarding the medal, President Lyndon B Johnson stated:
battlefield is the scarred and the lonely landscape of man’s greatest
failure. But is a place where heroes walk. Today we come here to the
East Room of the White House to honor two soldiers, two soldiers who—in
the same battle and at the same time—met the surpassing tests of their
lives with acts of courage far beyond the call of duty. Captain Foley
and Sergeant Baker fought in the same company. Now, together, they join
the noblest company of them all. They fought because their Nation
believed that only by honoring its commitments, and only by denying
aggression its conquest, could the conditions of peace be created in
Southeast Asia and the world.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Sergeant (then Pfc.), U.S. Army, Company A, 2d
Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date:
Republic of Vietnam, November 5, 1966. Entered service at: Moline, Ill.
Born: October 30, 1945, Davenport, Iowa.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of
his life above and beyond the call of duty. En route to assist another
unit that was engaged with the enemy, Company A came under intense enemy
fire and the lead man was killed instantly. Sgt. Baker immediately
moved to the head of the column and together with another soldier
knocked out 2 enemy bunkers. When his comrade was mortally wounded, Sgt.
Baker, spotting 4 Viet Cong snipers, killed all of them, evacuated the
fallen soldier and returned to lead repeated assaults against the enemy
positions, killing several more Viet Cong. Moving to attack 2 additional
enemy bunkers, he and another soldier drew intense enemy fire and Sgt.
Baker was blown from his feet by an enemy grenade. He quickly recovered
and single-handedly destroyed 1 bunker before the other soldier was
wounded. Seizing his fallen comrade’s machine gun, Sgt. Baker charged
through the deadly fusillade to silence the other bunker. He evacuated
his comrade, replenished his ammunition and returned to the forefront to
brave the enemy fire and continue the fight. When the forward element
was ordered to withdraw, he carried 1 wounded man to the rear. As he
returned to evacuate another soldier, he was taken under fire by
snipers, but raced beyond the friendly troops to attack and kill the
snipers. After evacuating the wounded man, he returned to cover the
deployment of the unit. His ammunition now exhausted, he dragged 2 more
of his fallen comrades to the rear. Sgt. Baker’s selfless heroism,
indomitable fighting spirit, and extraordinary gallantry were directly
responsible for saving the lives of several of his comrades, and
inflicting serious damage on the enemy. His acts were in keeping with
the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon
himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
To see more of who died in 2011 click here