Segment 1

Annotation

[Annotator's Note: video begins with 19 seconds of silence then begins abruptly with Baker in mid-sentence.] Baker and others discuss the noise the microphone can pick up. Baker was born and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was born there on 17 December 1919. Just before his fourth birthday his mother and father were killed in an automobile accident. He was born Vernon Joseph Caldera, his father was from New Mexico. After his parent’s death, he became the ward of his grandparents with the last name of Baker. All his life he was known as Baker until things got complicated when he joined the Army and they asked for his birth certificate. He had to get affidavits from relatives to prove who he was. He became a 2nd Lt. in OCS on 11 January 1943. He was never officially a Baker until he had to get a passport after the war. There was no military background in his family. Outside of Cheyenne there was Fort D. A. Russell, now Warren Air Force Base and he used to see soldiers come into town and get drunk. His grandfather told him to stay away from those soldiers. He had a bad opinion of soldiers growing up. Baker was living with his sister and didn't have a job. He had worked as a busboy, and then was a railroad porter - he hated it because he came in contact with racist people. He quit when his grandpa, who had given him the job, died. At that time Fort D. A. Russell was being built up so he got a job on a segregated construction crew. He says it was difficult because white southerners were their bosses. He worked at night. The racist bosses called his construction site "the nigger barracks" and he didn't like that so he quit. After that he got a job driving a truck for a dry cleaning business and went to both the white and black sections of town. He felt that was demeaning. His sister suggested he join the Army. He went to the recruiting station and had an interaction with a racist sergeant so he left but he couldn't find a job for another three months. In June of 1941 he decided he was going to go back and join the army. He was worried he would punch the sergeant if he was still there but instead he had a pleasant experience. When asked what branch of the service he wanted to go in he said Quartermaster - but he wrote down infantry instead.

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