A World War II veteran who was a member of the first African-American unit to enter combat in the conflict has passed away at age 90.
Ret. 1st Lt. Vernon Baker received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1997 from former President Bill Clinton for his service to the nation during WWII. This is the highest award given for courage. There are only 89 recipients of this award alive today. He also received the Distinguished Service Cross for his contributions.
Baker was honored by President Clinton for a critical battle that took place in Italy in April 1945, near the end of the war. During the conflict, Baker, who was the only African-American officer in his company, successfully launched a two-day attack to take over a German stronghold in the Italian mountains. Under intense enemy fire, Baker and his team did not waiver until the difficult mission was complete.
Baker, a native of Cheyenne, Wyo., would serve in the Army for a total of 27 years. He retired from service in 1968. In the early 1990s, a review of individual war records for African-Americans resulted in Baker receiving the high honor from President Clinton. Before that time, no Black service members were honored for their courage during World War II. Ret. 1st Lt. Baker joined an elite group of seven African-American veterans to receive the Medal of Honor.
Mr. Baker succumbed at his home in St. Maries, Idaho. He is survived by his wife, Heidy.