After enlisting in the Army in June of 1941, Vernon Baker was assigned to the 270th Regiment of the 92nd Infantry Division — the first black unit to head into combat during WWII.
After completing Officer Candidate School, Baker was commissioned to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Soon after, he landed in Naples, Italy, and had to fight his way north through the enemies’ front to the central portion of the country.
His unit was then ordered to attack a German stronghold in the mountains of Viareggio. Several allied battalions before them were unsuccessful in taking the enemy region, but Baker was up to the task.
The mountain-top consisted of three hills, “X, Y, and Z.” Baker and his troops began taking the heavily fortified area one hill at a time.
Facing fierce opposition, Baker often came in close enemy contact and managed to survive each deadly encounter as it presented itself.
“Somebody was sitting on my shoulder,” Baker says.
Full of adrenaline from taking the first hill, Baker was handed a submachine gun from a superior officer and instructed to proceed on to the next area.
Patroling nearly on his own, Baker spotted a small German firing position built into the side of the mountain. Armed with a few grenades, he chucked one and landed a perfect strike.
After it detonated and the smoke cleared, a German soldier stuck his head to look around. Baker quickly engaged the troop, killing him on the spot.
Baker continued to maneuver his way around the mountain and spotted two more firing position — tossing grenades inside each one — killing the enemy troops inside.
After learning the company commander was egressing for resupply, Baker knew he was on his own to lead his remaining troops. Carefully moving through the dangerous terrain, Baker and his men managed to secure the area after several intense firefights.
The next morning, Baker and his men moved through the dangerous terrain and secured the area after several hours of allied bombardment.
52-year later, Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and courage from former President Bill Clinton.
1st Lt. Vernon Baker became the only living African-American serviceman from WWII to receive the Medal of Honor.
Check out Medal of Honor Book’s video below to listen to Vernon extraordinary story from the legend himself.
(Medal of Honor Book, YouTube)