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Baker, 93, grew up on a farm in Jefferson Twp., and said he never dreamed he would end up being a part of F Company at Iwo Jima.
In 1945, U.S. Marines invaded Iwo Jima and engaged enemy forces for nearly a month before the fighting ended and the Pacific island was considered secured. Nearly 7,000 Marines were killed and 20,000 wounded.
Iwo Jima was being used by the Japanese to launch air attacks on American bombers. After capturing it, the U.S. used the island as an emergency landing site for B-29s, which eventually made 2,900 emergency landings there that are estimated to have saved the lives of 24,000 airmen who would have otherwise had to crash at sea.
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Baker was a junior in high school in 1943 when he learned that upon turning 18 the next year, he and the rest of his male classmates would be drafted to serve in World War II. In 1944, he found himself on a bus from Cincinnati to Parris Island, S.C., for boot camp.
“You think that they’re probably the meanest men there was,” Baker not-so-fondly recalled of his drill instructors, as he shared his experience in a prior interview. “But after you complete your training, you realize that they have taught you everything you need to know to protect yourself and you think a lot of them.”
He graduated basic training as a .30-caliber machine gunner. Soon after, he was sent to Camp Tawana, Hawaii, where the 5th Division was being formed for the invasion of Iwo Jima. In December 1944, Baker and 256 other Marines departed for the South Pacific.
Baker and F Company landed on the black sands of Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945. For the next 36 days, the Marines fought the Japanese in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
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Baker and other Marines made their way atop Mount Suribachi that day when six of the Marines hoisted the American flag in victory. The famous photo was captured by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press and had lived on as an iconic reminder of the battle.
While fighting on Iwo Jima, 230 of the 257 men in Baker’s division lost their lives. After the war, he returned home and worked at Standard Register in Dayton for 40 years and was as married to his late wife, Lois, for 67 years. Baker has two sons and a daughter.
“You do what you have to do to survive,” Baker said of his service to his country. “I would do it again for the people, the country, and for everyone.”
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