John F. Baker Jr., a retired Army master sergeant, passed away January 20, 2012 due to a heart condition. He was 66 years old.
Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War for rescuing wounded soldiers from an ambush and leading a daring counter assault.
Baker was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 105 pounds. He made up for his diminutive stature by building up his physique.While in the Army during the Vietnam War, Baker's remarkable strength helped him save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
On Nov. 5, 1966, Baker's unit was reinforcing a group of American soldiers pinned down near Dau Tieng, close to the Cambodian border. About 3,000 Vietnamese had taken positions in the surrounding jungle, hiding in underground bunkers and roping themselves to tree branches.
As the U.S. soldiers advanced, the jungle erupted in enemy fire. Camouflaged machine guns spit bullets. Mortar rounds hit the ground. Snipers in the trees picked off Americans on the ground.
Baker ran toward the front with another soldier and helped destroy two enemy bunkers.
During the attack, the other soldier was mortally wounded. Baker killed four enemy snipers before carrying his comrade away from the ambush.
Returning to the battle, Baker was blown off his feet by an enemy grenade but recovered to make repeated trips through intense gunfire to evacuate wounded American soldiers much larger than him.
By the end of the two-hour conflict, Baker had recovered eight fallen U.S. soldiers, destroyed six bunkers and killed at least 10 enemy soldiers.
Baker spent the rest of his tour as a “tunnel rat.” Armed with a flashlight and pistol, he explored the booby trapped, spider and scorpion-infested tunnel network used by Viet Cong guerrillas.
Returning home in August 1967, Baker became a drill instructor. One day, President Lyndon B. Johnson called to invite him to the White House to be awarded the Medal of Honor, the military's highest decoration for valor.
Baker's selfless heroism, fighting spirit, and extraordinary courage were responsible for saving the lives of several of his comrades, and inflicting serious damage on the enemy.
After being awarded the Medal of Honor, Baker traveled the country as a recruiter. His repeated requests to be sent back to Vietnam for combat duty were denied. He retired from the military in 1989 and later worked at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospitalin Columbia, S.C.
John F. Baker’s heroic patriotism will not be forgotten.Because of him, more American soldiers were able to come home.