1st Lieutenant Vernon J. Baker
In 1866, following the American Civil War, Congress created six all African American Army units which later merged into four (9th and 10th Cavalry - 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments). Composted of former slaves, freemen, and black Civil War veterans, these units helped settle the west by escorting and protecting settlers, cattle drives, and railroad crews and tracks during westward expansion. The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments also conducted campaigns against American Indian tribes on the western frontier. They fought in over 175 engagements. Their combat prowess, bravery, tenaciousness, and appearance on the battlefield, inspired the Indians to call them "Buffalo Soldiers" symbolizing their respect for the soldier's bravery and valor. Through the years, Buffalo Soldiers have continued to wear this name with pride.
The last segregated black regiment to see combat was deactivated in 1951. "Buffalo Soldier" has become a generic term for all African American Army soldiers and their bravery has earned them an honored place in U.S. history.
left side 1st Lieutenant Vernon J. Baker
Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming on December 17, 1919 Vernon Baker would become the last of only nine World War II African Americans to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant after completing Officer Candidate School, Baker served in an all black company that was part of the 370th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry. On April 5-6, 1945, near Castle Aghinolfi in northern Italy, Baker, with the assistance of his men, showed extraordinary heroism by destroying two enemy positions. He then covered the evacuation of his company's wounded by drawing enemy fire to his exposed position. The following night he voluntarily led a battalion sized assault against the enemy through minefields and heavy fire. In the end, Baker and his unit would kill 26 Germans, destroy 6 machine gun nests, 2 observation posts and 4 dugouts in this predawn battle. Baker earned a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and the Distinguished Service Cross while becoming one of the most highly decorated African American soldiers serving in the Mediterranean Theater.
On January 13, 1997, 52 years after his World War II military service, President Bill Clinton presented Vernon Baker with the Metal of Honor, the Nation's highest decoration for battlefield valor. Baker was literally the last WWII Buffalo Soldier to be so recognized.