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Dan Baker was born in Marietta, Ohio in 1923. He attended Indiana University and was in the ROTC program. Despite being in officer training, Baker was drafted in 1943 and sent to Camp Hood, Texas. At Camp Hood, he trained for halftrack combat in North Africa. He wanted out of that outfit so he applied for the ASTP [Annotator's Note: Army Specialized Training Program] and was sent to Kansas University. The army canceled the program there and he was sent to Oklahoma with the 42nd Rainbow Division [Annotators Note: 42nd Infantry Division]. He took his basic training on 30 cal. water cooled machine guns in a heavy weapons platoon. Baker deployed overseas to Alsace Lorraine, near Strasburg. He was on guard duty on Christmas Eve [Annotators Note: 1944]. It was freezing and the weather was terrible. He encountered battle for the first time just after Christmas that lasted until March of 1945. They moved throughout Germany. He experienced tree bursts and shrapnel from German artillery while they marched through the forests of Alsace Lorraine. In March 1945, Baker was in a foxhole with the platoon sergeant as a runner when a captain told him to report to battalion headquarters. He was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant. He had no paperwork or insignia to prove he was an officer. He was sent back to his old platoon, he was not happy about it, but it was fine in the end. They crossed the Rhine River at Worms and were sent to Schweinfurt, Bavaria. Baker and his platoon were told to protect rail yards in the city. They were not far from the German lines.

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Dan Baker would send patrols out to the German lines. In one instance he sent three men out, but only two came back. The third man was wounded and the medic refused to go help him. Baker crawled out to the line to retrieve the man and got him back to their line safely. He received a Bronze Star for saving the last patrolman. From Schweinfurt, Germany they went to Nuremburg. They experienced heavy fire fights in the neighboring town of Furth. Baker was knocked unconscious for 30 minutes and his helmet was damaged. They moved out of Furth towards Munich where he saw a tank run over a German soldier. Baker was assigned to protect a landing strip near Munich when another soldier asked him if he knew anything about Dachau. Baker was told it was a concentration camp only a few miles north of Munich. Baker and some of his men went up to Dachau. He thought it was strange that there were water filled moats within the camp. Baker saw the prisoners in the camp. It was a horrible sight. They were given strict orders to keep away from the prisoners and not to give them food or cigarettes because they were so sick. Baker also saw ten open train cars filled with corpses. There is a lot of controversy about who actually took Dachau. When the war ended they were sent to Rosenheim to accept the surrender of the German First Army. He had no trouble with the German prisoners of war. They wanted to know what was going to happen to them. They were then sent into Austria for occupation duty to a resort town called Kaprun where they guarded a power plant.

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Dan Baker was later assigned to the Vienna area command under General Mark Clark, where there was a four power command. He was given the task of preparing all of the entertainment for the officer and enlisted clubs in Vienna. He was sent to Rome, Italy for wine with two duffel bags full of money. After occupation duty, he returned to the United States and went back to college. He earned two more degrees and taught broadcasting production at the University of Miami, University of Georgia, and Michigan State before moving to California and teaching for 30 years. One of his students was Steven Spielberg. Baker heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor while he was waiting tables at a cafe at Indiana University. On his way to work, he heard the news over a radio that some of the students and professors were listening to. He did not know what it meant until he heard Roosevelt's speech. When he was drafted, he had two weeks to leave school and return home. His training was tedious. He went through basic first before training on the machine guns. The training guns were left over from World War 1.

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Dan Baker thought he was going to be captured once during the Battle of the Bulge. He was sent to deliver a message, but got lost. He hid in a depression on the ground and began taking fire from a German sniper in the town. He thought he was going to die. When he deployed overseas, he left from New York City on the USS General Black [Annotators Note: USS General W. M. Black (APA-135)]. It took them two weeks to reach France. He was sick for the first four days aboard the ship. He hated being on ships. He was not able to go into the air force or navy because he had a problem with color vision. This was Baker's first time away from home. It was rough at first, but it helped being with other men from all over. He compared it to being at camp. He did not mind the food; he would take the left over K rations that other men would throw away. One of his sergeants tried to convince him to go AWOL [Annotators note: Absent Without Leave] with him, but Baker refused. The Battle of the Bulge was chaotic and disorganized. Baker felt that no one had a clue what they were doing. He did not think a dawn attack was smart because no matter how long you studied the maps, you could not see anything. He thought they were lost. He enjoyed reading maps. Baker remembers first entering into Germany. They had to pass through the Hardt Mountains [Annotators Note: in France] before crossing the Rhine River.

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Dan Baker crossed the Rhine River at Worms over a pontoon bridge. They waited on the German side for two weeks before they received orders to move. While they waited for orders, Baker took his men out on patrol. The Germans were switching the road signs around to confuse the Americans. They had to rely on their maps alone. Baker saw General Patton in his command car while he was out on patrol. Baker’s division commander, Harry Collins, loved the pomp and circumstance of the military. The men nicknamed him Hollywood Harry. After the war, in addition to being a professor, Baker did voice over work. Baker had several interactions with German civilians. They would stay in the civilians' homes for periods of time. In one house they took over the cellar. The house was heavily fortified because of World War 1. One woman refused to leave the cellar so they allowed her to stay. She had a small amount of butter left and it was destroyed by debris from a shelling. She was distraught. For Baker, the worst part of it was displacing the people from their homes. Baker made sure his men did not loot any of the homes. During the fighting that took place at Schweinfurt the Germans were dug in, but they were able to move through. Near Schweinfurt Baker’s men found an underground hospital for German soldiers.

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Dan Baker and his men moved towards Munich with greater ease because they did not have winter weather to contend with at that point [Annotators Note: during the spring of 1945]. Baker was constantly farmed out to various units as a machine gunner. The unit he was with moved into the village of Dachau before going to the concentration camp. The village was beautiful, but they could see part of the camp from the town. He tried to keep the prisoners in the camp calm for their own protection and tried to keep them from dying. Their mission was to maintain order. Baker had prisoners come up to him, but he could not touch them. He talked to some of the people who spoke English. One of his most vivid memories of the camp was the sound of the flies buzzing around the bodies. He could not believe what he was seeing. He had never experienced anything like it. He was horrified by the sight of the prisoners in the bunks. That experience made him a veteran soldier. Fighting in forests was completely different than fighting in towns. It was difficult to dig foxholes in the frozen earth and to keep warm [Annotator's Note: during the Battle of the Bulge].

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Dan Baker’s worst combat moment occurred during his first day in battle outside of Strasburg. A German sniper fired at him and he did not think he would survive. They found German soldiers in some of the houses they searched, which was an unnerving experience. He had it in his mind that he was going to be killed. He asked himself constantly if it worth it. Now he knows that it was. He has dealt with people who think the holocaust never occurred. He does not understand why people think that. He understands because he was there. He defends the survivors and victims whenever he has a chance. After seeing what happened at Dachau [Annotators Note: Dachau concentration camp], he is glad that people are willing to learn about the holocaust and visit the existing camps. He is glad there are reminders of it. He was willing to talk about the war when he came home, but he knew his family would not understand. Baker's children are sympathetic towards his time in the service. He does not have many pictures of himself from during the war. There were times when they looked horrible, sometimes going without baths for six weeks. He feels that younger people do not want to listen to the World War 2 veterans, but the museums are the best way of preserving the history of the war. He has no nightmares from the war because of his duty in Vienna.

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