Moline Memories - MHS 66 Friends

Saturday, January 21, 2012

John Baker, Medal of Honor Recipient: Rest in Peace

Julio Morales has left a new comment on your post "John Baker, Medal of Honor Recipient: Rest in Peac...":

John and I went through the Army Recruiting Course at Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN during the fall of 1972. We were the first group of recruiters sent to the field to recruit for the Volunteer Army... We had rough time trying to recruit young men, however, when the draft and the Vietnam conflict ended during the spring of 73, recruiting was easier... Today, I was thinking about whatever happened to John and found out he died in 1910. Rest in Peace brother. My deepest sympathy to his wife and family. 1SG (Ret) Julio Morales, USA (1959-1991) 

John Baker was a good friend to members of our class, MHS 66.

John Baker, the Quad-Cities' only recipient of the congressional Medal of Honor, died Friday at his home in Columbia, S.C., friends said Saturday.

Ray Hamilton of Port Byron, a member of Vietnam Veterans of America/Quad-Cities Chapter 299, said he learned of Mr. Baker's death Saturday morning. He said funeral arrangements are pending.

The nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor was given to Mr. Baker, who grew up in Moline, for actions in Vietnam on Nov. 5, 1966, in which he saved the lives of several of his fellow soldiers.

Mr. Hamilton said he helped spearhead efforts by the Quad-Cities chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America to rename the Interstate 280 bridge across the Mississippi River for Mr. Baker. He said he first introduced the idea at a meeting in May of 2007.

"I said there's nothing to recognize Baker ever existed," Mr. Hamilton said. "We thought, 'Hey, the 280 bridge is not named. Let's go for it.' "

The bridge was dedicated in Mr. Baker's honor in 2010.

In a news release, U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, called Mr. Baker a friend and role model.

"His exemplary acts serve as an embodiment of what the brave American spirit can accomplish," Rep Schilling said. "Sgt. Baker led an exceptional life, and he leaves behind an incredible legacy of courage and leadership. He will be sorely missed."

Bill Albracht was president of VVA Chapter 299 when Mr. Hamilton suggested renaming the bridge for Mr. Baker. He said that before the bridge was renamed, Mr. Baker's feelings about the Quad-Cities had been damaged.

"He was kind of feeling like this wasn't his home anymore," Mr. Albracht said. "We wanted to restore his reputation."

Mr. Baker was a humble man who said that while he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the medal was not actually for him.

"He always said the medal wasn't his. He was just a keeper," Mr. Albracht said. "It belonged to all servicemen, to all veterans."

Mr. Albracht said he last spoke to Mr. Baker in October.

"I didn't think about him every day, but now that he's gone, I'll remember him until the day I die," he said.

Mr. Hamilton said Mr. Baker never bragged about his service in Vietnam.

"He said, 'The instinct to survive is trememdous,' " Mr. Hamilton said. "He said, 'That's all I did. I just tried to survive.' "


Congressional Medal of Honor Society


Rank: Sergeant
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company A, 2d Battalion
Division: 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division
Born: 30 October 1945, Davenport, Iowa
Departed: No
Entered Service At: Moline, Ill.
G.O. Number:
Date of Issue:  
Accredited To:
Place / Date: Republic of Vietnam, 5 November 1966


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. En route to assist another unit that was engaged with the enemy, Company A came under intense enemy fire and the lead man was killed instantly. Sgt. Baker immediately moved to the head of the column and together with another soldier knocked out 2 enemy bunkers. When his comrade was mortally wounded, Sgt. Baker, spotting 4 Viet Cong snipers, killed all of them, evacuated the fallen soldier and returned to lead repeated assaults against the enemy positions, killing several more Viet Cong. Moving to attack 2 additional enemy bunkers, he and another soldier drew intense enemy fire and Sgt. Baker was blown from his feet by an enemy grenade. He quickly recovered and single-handedly destroyed 1 bunker before the other soldier was wounded. Seizing his fallen comrade's machine gun, Sgt. Baker charged through the deadly fusillade to silence the other bunker. He evacuated his comrade, replenished his ammunition and returned to the forefront to brave the enemy fire and continue the fight. When the forward element was ordered to withdraw, he carried 1 wounded man to the rear. As he returned to evacuate another soldier, he was taken under fire by snipers, but raced beyond the friendly troops to attack and kill the snipers. After evacuating the wounded man, he returned to cover the deployment of the unit. His ammunition now exhausted, he dragged 2 more of his fallen comrades to the rear. Sgt. Baker's selfless heroism, indomitable fighting spirit, and extraordinary gallantry were directly responsible for saving the lives of several of his comrades, and inflicting serious damage on the enemy. His acts were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.


John Baker was born in Davenport, Iowa and attended Moline High School from 1963 to 1966. At 5’ 1”, he was a gymnast before joining the army. He became a "tunnel rat" in Vietnam, a soldier who entered Viet Cong tunnels searching out the enemy and destroying their caches of war material. Baker made the military his career, retiring in 1989. He then began working as a computer analyst at a Veterans Hospital in South Carolina. In addition to serving as the Vice-President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, he serves as a member on the Nation's Monuments and Cemeteries Committee.
In 2008, the I-280 Bridge, connecting Davenport, Iowa with Rock Island, Illinois, was renamed the Sergeant John F. Baker, Jr., Bridge in his honor.[1]

Baker entered the U.S. Army in Moline, Illinois, serving as a private in A Company, 2nd Battalion of the 27th Infantry25th Division. In Vietnam, Baker took part in Operation Attleboro which began in September 1966. On November 5, 1966, Baker and his unit were called to assist another squad who were taking enemy fire. En route, A Company began to take fire and lost their lead soldier. Together with two other soldiers, Baker took over the head of the column and assisted in destroying two enemy positions. They were moving to take two others when a hand grenade knocked Baker off of his feet.

Baker in uniform
With the two other soldiers wounded, Baker "single handedly" destroyed another bunker before recovering his comrades. Despite taking further fire from enemy bunkers and snipers, Baker continually fell back to replenish ammunition and take back several wounded. For these actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor along with Captain Robert F. Foley, who also received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle. When awarded the citation, President Lyndon B Johnson stated:
The battlefield is the scarred and the lonely landscape of man’s greatest failure. But is a place where heroes walk. Today we come here to the East Room of the White House to honor two soldiers, two soldiers who—in the same battle and at the same time—met the surpassing tests of their lives with acts of courage far beyond the call of duty. Captain Foley and Sergeant Baker fought in the same company. Now, together, they join the noblest company of them all. They fought because their Nation believed that only by honoring its commitments, and only by denying aggression its conquest, could the conditions of peace be created in Southeast Asia and the world.[2]