This black World War II soldier waited 50 years to receive the Medal of Honor

Vernon Baker The army there was almost no career. He first attempted to enlist in April 1941 in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and recruiter told young Black that “we have no quotas for you.”

Luckily for the people from his future platoon, Baker didn’t accept the “no” answer and a few weeks later tried again with another recruiter and was accepted. However, that recruiter ignored Baker’s request to become quartermaster, and he was assigned to the infantry.

He later “volunteered” to train officers because the army needed black officers to lead isolated units into battle. Baker coped with this task and was appointed second lieutenant in the 92nd Infantry Division, one of the all-black divisions popularly known as Buffalo Soldiers.

In April 1945, Baker led his platoon of weapons in the storming of Aginolfi Castle in northern Italy as Allied troops moved to take the country into the German army. During the day’s battle Baker withdrew three enemy machine-gun positions, an observation post and a dugout. Baker killed nine enemies during the battle.

Baker’s company commander nominated him for the Cross of Merit, and the hero served for nearly three decades before leaving the army in 1968. He then worked at the Red Cross for 20 years.

During the Clinton administration, a study commissioned by the military found that systemic racism influenced the decision to award black servicemen with medals. A review of the files resulted in seven Honorary medals. Baker was the only living recipient, and President Clinton awarded him the Medal of Honor on January 13, 1997. Baker lived to be 90 and died in 2010.

Cover of AUSA’s graphic novel “Medal of Honor: Vernon Baker”. (courtesy of AUSA)

Baker’s story is told in the latest issue of Medal of Honor: Vernon Baker. United States Army Association a series of graphic novels. You can view or download a free copy at

In its current 2022 series, AUSA will also release graphic novels about Ranger Commander Ralph Phuket; Tom Custer, a Civil War soldier who first won the Medal of Honor twice; and Gary Gordon and Randy Sugarth, Delta operators who gave their lives in Black Hawk Down the incident.

Connected: This Native American received a Medal of Honor for deterring a Chinese attack in Korea

Connected: The first medal of honor was awarded to an army soldier who stole a Confederate train

Connected: This chief of intelligence of the Great Patriotic War received the Medal of Honor for the heroism of the First World War

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