In 1966, the Vietnam War was raging on. American troops were fighting against the Viet Cong, who were primarily South Vietnamese rebels at this time. They were fearless and dedicated troops.At the time, the North had yet to commit its own troops to the war but they were supporting Vietnamese troops in the South.
John Baker Jr. was with the Alpha Co., 27th infantry. He was an assistant machine gunner.John Baker Jr’s infantry was called to help another unit.On November 5th, 1966, Baker’s unit was called to help another unit that was in trouble. Some 300 Viet Cong troops had them surrounded and they were taking a beating.
Baker’s unit consisted of 257 men. They were transported to the area via helicopter and dropped in heavy jungle terrain. There, in the central highlands, the unit began to move to the surrounded unit.
Unfortunately for Baker and the rest of the infantry, they made contact with the Viet Cong before they found the unit they were there to rescue. It was more than just the troops who had the other unit surrounded, however. They estimated there to be some 3000 Viet Cong troops all hidden via camouflage and cement bunkers.
There was only one thing Baker and the other troops could do and that was to fight their way out of the situation.
They began taking fire from all directions. People were dying all around Baker. He would later say that in situations like this, a soldier’s training kicks in, a next level of energy hits you and you just begin to act.
Baker focused his fire on the cement bunkers that had been putting his men under heavy fire.
He took those out and then carried some wounded men back to the medics.
At some point during the fighting, Baker caught some shrapnel from a grenade. Despite his wound, Baker kept fighting on. He continued to take out Viet Cong bunkers and drag wounded men back to the medics. Baker took out another 4 bunkers and dragged another 6 wounded troops back to safety even while wounded.
In total, Baker took out 6 enemy bunkers, saved 8 troops from his infantry, and killed 10 Viet Cong troops including several of whom were snipers.
Baker had returned home from Vietnam in 1968 but was still serving in the Army at the time. He got a call from President Lyndon B. Johnson. The call was to tell Baker he was invited to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor in recognition of his efforts on November 5th, 1966.
Baker was only 5ft 2″ in height. The other soldier who received the Medal of Honor at the White House that day was 6ft 7″ tall. The President referred to the two as “Mutt and Jeff.”
Baker continued to serve in the Army until 1989 before retiring. He continued to help fellow soldiers by working with the Veterans Administration up until he died. In January of 2012, Baker passed away at the age of 66.
“Five-foot-two John Baker was a giant,” said Army Col. Drew Meyerowich at Baker’s funeral. “Once you got to know him, you realized he’s exactly the giant we expect to see on the battlefield. He was larger than life.”