b. 01/01/1907 Chicago, Illinois. d. 01/08/1943 over Ploiesti, Romania.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 01/08/1943 Ploiesti, Romania.
Baker joined the Army Air Corps from Akron, Ohio in 1929, and earned his wings and a commission in 1931.
On August 1, 1943, the 93d Bomb Group, one of three from the Eighth Air Force sent to the Ninth Air Force especially for this mission, took to the air at Benghazi, Libya. Piloting Hell's Wench, a B-24 Liberator (Serial 42-40994), Baker led the 93rd as the second formation in the five-group mission of 177 aircraft. Co-piloting the aircraft was a volunteer and former member of the 93d, Major John L. Jerstad.
En route the aircraft carrying the mission navigator crashed at sea. As a result, when the force reached the target area, the lead group turned at the wrong point and flew towards Bucharest. Baker attempted to warn the mission commander of this error, but when that failed, led the remainder of the force to the correct turning point.
Although Hell's Wench was in flames and had been seriously damaged by German anti-aircraft guns, Baker maintained formation and bombed his target. Subsequently, Baker broke formation to avoid a mid-air collision with bombers from the lead group, now arriving in the target area from the opposite direction. He attempted to gain altitude so that his crew could escape by parachute, but despite his efforts, Hell's Wench crashed and exploded, killing Baker and the other nine airmen aboard.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy on August 1, 1943. On this date he led his command, the 93d Heavy Bombardment Group, on a daring low-level attack against enemy oil refineries and installations at Ploesti, Rumania. Approaching the target, his aircraft was hit by a large caliber antiaircraft shell, seriously damaged and set on fire. Ignoring the fact he was flying over terrain suitable for safe landing, he refused to jeopardize the mission by breaking up the lead formation and continued unswervingly to lead his group to the target upon which he dropped his bombs with devastating effect. Only then did he leave formation, but his valiant attempts to gain sufficient altitude for the crew to escape by parachute were unavailing and his aircraft crashed in flames after his successful efforts to avoid other planes in formation.
BODY NEVER RECOVERED. REMEMBERED ON THE MEMORIAL AT THE FLORENCE AMERICAN CEMETERY, FLORENCE, ITALY.