Segment 15


Baker got out of the army on the 28th of August, 1968, 35 years before the interview. He was 83 years old during this interview. Baker is surprised at the renewed interest in WWII history. He doesn't understand it. He is not contacted too frequently by people interested in his story but that's comforting to him because sometimes he gets upset discussing it. Baker likes to talk to people. The interviewer tells Baker he is recording this interview to use at the National D-Day Museum for an exhibit on African American Medal of Honor recipients and that it will be seen by thousands of people. Baker thinks it is important for people to hear his story because the black soldier's story was very much ignored and he feels they contributed a lot to winning the war. The men he served with were wonderful soldiers. It was like they became brothers. During that time of segregation, most of the men were from the south and their schooling was very limited. He became their parents and wrote and read letters for them. He didn't know that that existed because he didn't go to segregated schools growing up in Wyoming in Iowa. It was surprising to him that there were so many adult black men who couldn't read or write at that time. Out of D Company, 25th Infantry 98% of the black soldiers could not read or write. That's why he was beat up as he described earlier. On April 6th, 1945 Baker led the elements of the 473rd Infantry Regiment, a white regiment. It wasn't a real regiment because it was a conglomeration of service soldiers who had been picked up and formed in to the 473rd. He didn't realize that until later. Their combat forces had been so depleted they picked up service soldiers and made a combat unit out of them. It is a good thing they saw no combat. When Baker heard it was V-E Day he was on the way to North Italy to Genoa and Milan. Baker had gotten a hold of a German semi automatic weapon when his first sergeant came up and said 'brace yourself - the war is over.' It was in May 1945. They packed up and didn't complete their walk to Milan but returned to Viareggio. [Annotator's Note: Video stops abruptly but Baker's last sentence of the interview - coming from the last words recorded here are "... in the Southwest part of Italy and that was it."


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