It's Never Too Late To Honor a Fallen Hero

Military scholar Col. Charles D. Allen (Army, Ret.) on how the late Vernon Baker and other black Medal of Honor winners finally got the recognition they deserved.

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Vernon Baker and President Clinton. (U.S. Government Printing Office)

by Col. Charles D. Allen

An evening TV news broadcast caught my attention this week and since then I have followed the reports of the death of Vernon Baker. Mr. Baker, an African American who served in World War II in the segregated units of the U.S. Army, died after 90 years of very full life. He enlisted in the Army prior to the start of WWII and was commissioned through its officer candidate school in January 1943.

In 1945, he was assigned to the C Company, 370th Regiment in the 92nd Infantry "Buffalo Soldiers" Division, which was the only all-black infantry division (black enlisted soldiers with mainly white officers) to fight in Europe during WWII.

On April 5-6, 1945, Lieutenant Baker's actions in combat against enemy forces at Viareggio, Italy earned him a combat citation of the Distinguished Service Cross. Baker continued to serve his nation in uniform until 1965 when he retired as First Sergeant.