Segment 14


At the end of the war Baker was a 2nd Lt. but in May of 1945 he became a 1st Lt. His commission expired in June 1947 when he returned from overseas. When his commission expired his rank reverted to Master Sergeant. That was fine with Baker because that gave him options. He wanted to be a photographer because he had 'liberated' a camera in Italy from a German officer. He went to photography school at Lowry Air Force Base, then Lowry Field, in Denver, Colorado. After he graduated from that he decided he wanted to go airborne. The army was still segregated and they assigned him to run a photo lab in a hobby shop at Lowry Air Force Base. One day he saw on a bulletin board that they were looking for Negro troops to volunteer for the airborne. He put in his papers to do that. When he went in to get his orders the squadron commander asked if he was sure he wanted to join the airborne. The commander said that he wouldn't sign the order until he got an answer to whether Baker would be his Sergeant Major in the Air Force or not. Baker said thank you, but no, he wanted to go into the airborne because it paid an extra $50 a month. This happened in December 1946. Baker went to Fort Benning, Georgia to the airborne school and graduated in May 1947. He first joined the 82nd Airborne Division but in November 1950 when he came back on active duty as a 1st Lt. he joined the 11th Airborne Division. He was a reserve officer. Baker went inactive again in 1953 and went to Fort Ord, California where he was the signal corps photo lab chief and where he stayed for 14 years. Baker had 165 airborne jumps but never had an injury from it. The only injury Baker ever had was being shot early in his military career in Italy. Before Baker left the army he did his last tour of duty in Germany in 1967. He was volunteered to go there. Baker had been at Fort Ord so long that he called the army personnel office in St. Louis and asked what his status was as far as going overseas. The man there couldn't find his records. About three months later he received orders to go to Germany. He was assigned to Headquarters Company, 8th Airborne Infantry Brigade there. Baker was in his late forties but was still jumping out of airplanes. He made his last jump there at 48 years old. He put in for retirement then because drugs were beginning to be a problem and Vietnam was tearing families apart and many men were going AWOL. There were so many drugs Baker carried his pistol to wake the troops. He told his late, first wife Fern he wanted to retire and she said it was about time. At that point he had been in for 27 years and 8 months. He wanted to make 30 but things were not good over there.


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