Sgt. John F. Baker Jr., right, and Capt. Robert F. Foley receiving the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Caisson precession at Fort Jackson, South Carolina for Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Master Sgt. John F. Baker, Jr.
Read his Medal of Honor Citation HERE
John F. Baker Jr., Who Saved 8 G.I.'s in 1966, Dies at 66
New York Times, January 30, 2012
By Richard Goldstein
John F. Baker Jr., who joined the Army after being deemed too short for the Marines and went on to receive the Medal of Honor for saving eight fellow soldiers during the Vietnam War while under heavy fire, died on Jan. 20 in Columbia, S.C. He was 66. The cause was a heart ailment, said his wife, Donnell.
Mr. Baker, 5 feet 2 inches and 105 pounds, had tried to join the Marine Corps out of high school but was turned down. "I always wanted to be a Marine," he recalled in a 2008 interview for the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago. "They said, 'No, you're an inch too short.'"
The Army took him, and he was serving as private in South Vietnam in the 25th Infantry Division in early November 1966 when his company sought to rescue the remnants of another company that had been trapped by the Viet Cong in a jungle near the Cambodian border.
The enemy soldiers - more than 3,000 - were hiding in trees, in bunkers and in tunnels when Private Baker's company of 200 men arrived. As he told it, the Viet Cong were yelling, "Come on, G.I., come and get us."
As the company began its rescue effort, the lead man in Private Bakerís column was killed. Moving forward, Private Baker took part in knocking out two enemy bunkers, killed four Viet Cong snipers and then led repeated assaults, killing more Viet Cong. During his forays, he grabbed wounded soldiers and took them to safety. At one point he was knocked off his feet by a grenade.
In addition to saving the lives of eight comrades, he was credited with knocking out six Viet Cong machine-gun bunkers, killing 10 enemy soldiers.
He recalled in the Pritzker interview that "my uniform was solid blood" from his comradesí wounds and that he was "shaking like a leaf" thinking of the casualties in his company during the extrication of the trapped soldiers.
He was promoted to sergeant, and President Lyndon B. Johnson presented him with the Medal of Honor, the nationís highest award for valor, on May 1, 1968. His company commander, Capt. Robert F. Foley, a 6-foot-7-inch former basketball player at West Point, also received the Medal of Honor from Johnson that day for heroism in the firefight.
"When he put the medal on me, he said, 'This is Mutt and Jeff,'" Mr. Baker remembered.
John Franklin Baker Jr. was born in Davenport, Iowa, on Oct. 30, 1945, and grew up in Moline, Ill. He retired from the military as a master sergeant in 1989 and worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Baker is survived by a son, John Baker III, from a previous marriage that ended in divorce; two brothers, William and Charles; four sisters, Marilyn Edwards, Eleanor Gring, Mary Anne McCallum and Gloria Helfrich; and two grandchildren.
In his later years, Mr. Baker volunteered to help ease the transition out of combat for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, including those hospitalized in Germany.
His former company commander, who retired as a lieutenant general, spoke on Friday at a memorial service for Mr. Baker at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina.
"He wasn't just someone you wanted beside you in combat," General Foley was quoted as saying by the Columbia newspaper The State. "He reached out to others all his life."
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