WWII Cheyenne Medal of Honor recipient commemorated in graphic novel

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne native who received the World War II Medal of Honor has been commemorated in a new graphic novel released by the Association of the United States Army.

Cheyenne-born 1st Lt. Vernon Baker received the Medal of Honor in 1997, 50 years after earning a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions while serving in Italy during World War II.

“The heroic actions of Vernon Baker are quite a remarkable story,” Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins told the Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “How honored it is to have a graphic novel that showcases his life for current and future generations. Vernon’s earliest roots were established here in Cheyenne while living with his grandfather who worked for the We are proud of the legacy that Vernon has built and that Cheyenne is a small part of it.

“Vernon’s legacy lives on in Cheyenne at Buffalo Soldier Park named in his honor,” Collins continued. “He was aware that the city had given him this honor before his death and we are reassured of that. We thank the Association of the United States Army for putting this together; to honor Vernon and his fellow African Americans who fought in World War II and received the Distinguished Medal of Honor.

Baker’s story is the 13th featured in the “Medal of Honor” series, launched by the association in 2018. The graphic novel can be read online for free here.

Depiction of 1st Lt. Vernon Baker in the novel “Medal of Honor”

“It was an honor to work with such a talented team to help bring attention to this remarkable soldier,” said Joseph Craig, AUSA Book Program Director. “Baker had to wait more than half a century for his service in World War II to be fully recognized; we want to help ensure that the service will always be remembered.

Baker led his platoon in an assault on a German stronghold in the Italian mountains during World War II.

He was born in Cheyenne in December 1919 and orphaned at the age of 4. Baker was later raised by his grandparents and worked as a railroad porter during the Great Depression before trying to join the army.

While his first attempt was rebuffed, he persisted and was accepted into the infantry.

Baker was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 92nd Infantry Division, known as the Buffalo Soldiers, and led his soldiers into battle in the summer of 1944 in Naples, Italy. In April 1945, Baker and his soldiers were sent to storm Aghinolfi Castle, a German strongpoint in the Italian mountains.

As they headed for the castle, Baker came across a German observation post nestled on the edge of a hill.

“Crawling up and under the opening, he rammed his M-1 into the slot and emptied the clip, killing both occupants of the observation post,” according to his Medal of Honor citation.

Baker then killed two more enemy soldiers who were in a nearby well-camouflaged machine-gun nest.

Shortly after, a German soldier throws a grenade at the Americans. When it failed to explode, Baker shot the enemy soldier twice as he tried to flee.

Baker then used a grenade to blow up the concealed entrance to another dugout.

He “shot a German soldier who emerged after the explosion, threw another grenade into the dugout and entered firing his submachine gun, killing two other Germans,” according to his citation.

As Baker exited the draw, enemy machine gun and mortar fire began raining down on his soldiers.

When reinforcements failed to arrive, Baker volunteered to cover the soldiers’ withdrawal, destroying two more enemy machine gun positions in the process.

“In all, Lt. Baker counted nine dead enemy soldiers, the elimination of three machine gun positions, an observation post and a dugout,” the quote reads.

The following night he led a second assault through enemy minefields and heavy fire towards the castle.

He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.

In 1996, more than 50 years later, the military discovered that Baker and six other black soldiers had been denied the Medal of Honor for their actions during World War II, according to the National WWII Museum. .

Baker, the only one of the seven surviving soldiers, received the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House in 1997.

“I was a soldier and I had a job to do,” Baker said after receiving the award, according to The New York Times.

He died in July 2010 at the age of 90.

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