Vernon C. Baker (1944/06/10)
A fighter pilot from Watsonville finished his mission and life in Romania.
Vernon C. Baker was born on July 7, 1921, to Carl and Elizabeth Baker at Reedley, California, a small farming community between Fresno and Visalia. Later the Baker family, which also included another son, Lloyd, moved to Watsonville. Vernon attended Pajaro Valley elementary schools and graduated from Watsonville High School in 1940. Following high school, he attended Salinas Junior College where he took aeronautic courses.
During the prewar years, Baker entered the local business and fraternal community. Watsonville Stationary and Printing Company employed Baker for a short period, as did the Ralph Friend contracting firm. In his youth, Vernon Baker had been active in DeMolay, and he continued to evolve within the local Masonic lodge and ultimately became the "master."
In July 1942, Vernon Baker enlisted in the Army Air Force and was called to duty the following February. After completing cadet training at Santa Ana, Tulare and Marina, California, and Luke Field, Arizona, in December 1943, he was commissioned a second lieutenant. Pursuit pilot training and duty at Mills Field in Marysville and Santa Maria, California, completed his instructional period.
In April 1944, Lt. Baker was sent overseas and assigned to the 71st Fighter Squadron of the 15th Air Force based in Italy. The 71st had established themselves as the first P- 38 unit in combat. While flying a mission over Romania on June 10, 1944, Lt. Baker failed to return and was reported missing in action. In March 1945, his parents received confirmation of his death.
Second Lieutenant Vernon C. Baker is buried in Ardennes American Cemetery at Neupre, Belgium.
(CBR; ABMC; 1st Fighter Association, History of 71st Fighter Squadron, http://www.1stfighter.org/history/71sthistory.htm, (16 September 2008; WRP March 12, 1945 1:2, August 30, 1945 2:2; Photo-WHS)