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WP: Vernon J. Baker, African American Medal of Honor recipient, dies at 90


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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/14/AR2010071405693.html

First Lt. Vernon J. Baker, 90, an Army infantryman who, more than 50 years after the end of World War II, became the only surviving African American to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the war, died July 13 at his home near St. Maries, Idaho.
He shined shoes, swept out a barbershop and worked as a railroad porter before graduating from high school. When he attempted to enlist in the Army, he was told by a recruiter that there was no place for "you people." He tried again and was accepted into the infantry in June 1941.
He and his 25 men were ordered to lead an assault on Castle Aghinolfi, a heavily guarded mountain fortress on the western end of the Gothic Line, a series of fortified bunkers considered to be the one of the last lines of German defense toward the end of the war.

Two hours after starting their mission on April 5, Lt. Baker and his men came within 300 yards of the castle. While attempting to find a suitable place for a machine gun, Lt. Baker observed two rifle barrels hanging out of a concealed slit in some rocky earth.

After stealthily crawling to the opening, he popped up and emptied the clip of his M-1 rifle into the observation post, killing two sentries.

While searching for more camouflaged emplacements, Lt. Baker spotted a machine-gun nest occupied by two soldiers distracted by their breakfast. He shot and killed them both.

A German soldier then hurled a grenade that landed at Lt. Baker's feet. Undeterred, he fired two fatal rounds at the fleeing German, while the grenade by Lt. Baker's boots failed to explode.

He found the door to another bunker and blasted it open with a grenade. A wounded German soldier stumbled out in confusion, and Lt. Baker shot him. After tossing in a second grenade, he raided the bunker with a submachine gun blazing, killing two more Germans.

On the way back to his men, Lt. Baker saw that his platoon's position had come under heavy machine gun and mortar fire. He watched in despair as 19 of his men were cut down by bullets or wounded by shrapnel.

Even though he'd been shot in the hand, Lt. Baker led the evacuation of his remaining men, helping to eliminate two machine-gun nests and four more German troops.

In the midst of the retreat, Lt. Baker's platoon came across German soldiers wearing helmets painted with red crosses carrying litters covered with blankets.

His shellshocked men urged him to let them fire, but Lt. Baker refused. When the platoon came within 50 yards of the supposed medics, the Germans dropped their stretchers and picked up machine guns.

"Hit the ****s!" Lt. Baker instructed his men, according to his 1997 memoir "Lasting Valor." "Our riflemen cut loose with a vengeance. . . . The enemy platoon dissolved."

Thank you, Sir.

R.I.P.

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What an amazing story. I find it amazing the will to serve- for a country that did nothing for them, and also made it clear they weren't welcome. The combat story is just amazing

RIP

Agreed. When I hear people today complaining about how bad they have it, it's enough to make you laugh.

Loved the line about the cougar.

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True test of a mans character if I've ever seen one.

" We want you to fight for us, we want you to die for us, and if you're lucky enough to live, when you come back, you will be opressed, not by the Germans, but by the very people that you fought tooth and nail for."

Those are tough circumstances for anyone to operate under, yet this man did it with honor and valor. Now THAT'S an American.

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What an amazing story. I find it amazing the will to serve- for a country that did nothing for them, and also made it clear they weren't welcome. The combat story is just amazing

RIP

Not only that but this as well....

"I'm not a hero," Lt. Baker later said. "I'm just a soldier that did a good job. I think the real heroes are the men I left behind on that hill that day."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/14/AR2010071405693_2.html

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True test of a mans character if I've ever seen one.

" We want you to fight for us, we want you to die for us, and if you're lucky enough to live, when you come back, you will be opressed, not by the Germans, but by the very people that you fought tooth and nail for."

Those are tough circumstances for anyone to operate under, yet this man did it with honor and valor. Now THAT'S an American.

Exactly right.

His generation did more, with less, than any generation since.

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