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Samuel Earl Baker
Birth: Sep. 16, 1921
Sacramento County
California, USA
Death: Dec. 10, 2009
Williamson County
Texas, USA

Lieutenant Colonel Samuel E. Baker, USAF Retired of Georgetown, passed away peacefully on December 10, 2009. Sam was born September 16, 1921, in Sacramento, California. He graduated from high school in l936 at the age of 16. Several years later Sam met a fast talking recruiting officer who offered him 70 cents per day or $21 per month for room and board, and a promise to travel away from Sacramento. Sam enlisted in the Army and was inducted in September 1939. He served as a glider pilot during the invasion of Europe on D-Day; June, 6, 1944. His glider was shot down by German ground fire and broke up in the crash, killing 15 of 30 troops on board. After two months of hospitalization in England, Sam retrieved his flight suit, got dressed and slipped out of the hospital and returned to his squadron. After being shot down over Normandy on D-Day; Sam was never wounded again.

Postwar, Sam was sent to Atkinson Field in British Guyana as a maintenance officer and subsequent to that an assignment in Trinidad. In 1950 he went to B-29 school, received a commission and became a flight engineer: He later transitioned to B-36's, and by 1958 he was a B-52 navigator-stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin.

Still at Bergstrom in l965, he had been promoted. to Lieutenant Colonel and was in command of an Air-to-Ground Missile Squadron when he met and married Darline Pelham, an Air Force nurse assigned to the base hospital. After two tours in Vietnam, Sam returned to the U.S. to become the Air To-Ground Missile Squadron Commander at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Lieutenant Colonel Baker retired from there in 1974, and was then tree to follow Darline the remainder of her career, golfing, fishing and hunting along the way. During his 35 years of service, Sam Was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star with clusters and numerous other medals. He belonged to many organizations including, the Masonic Lodge of Texas, Scottish Rite, Ben Hur Shrine and the American Legion, with lifetime membership in the Retired Officers Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Purple Heart Service Foundation.

Sam is survived by his wife and best friend, Darline Baker; his son, Jim Baker and wife Judy; of Georgetown; his daughter, Leslie Baker-Crofts and husband Franklin "Sandy" Crofts, of Marble Falls; grandchildren, Julie Gattis and husband, Carl Jr., James Earl Baker, Wayne Siegmund and his wife, Rhonda, Lisa Hughes and husband, Keith, and James Siegmund; eight great-grand-children and one great-great grandson; and sister, Effie Erwin, of McEwen, Tennessee.

Samuel Baker entered military service before WWII and served 35 years continuous active duty before his retirement in 1974. The early part of his story is in his own words. "It all started in September 1921 when I was born in the Sacramento County Hospital in Sacramento, California. I went to North Sacramento Grammar School in North Sacramento and graduated in 1934 as class Salutatorian. I entered Grant Union High School in Del Paso Heights. In my senior year, I was elected class president, but due to my poor attendance record was asked to resign. This was a rude awakening and one I sorely needed at the time. It gave me the incentive to get back to work and accumulate enough credits to graduate (Sam graduated in December 1937 as a 16 year-old). The depression was still gripping the country at that time and jobs were hard to find, so for the next couple of years I worked during the summers as a lifeguard, or in the logging camps of Northern California. Another part time job that I had during the summers was as a flunky in the box factory in Sacramento where my father worked. Several years out of school and still with no worthwhile employment in sight, two of my best friends, Raymond Robertson and Orlin Flores, mentioned joining the service. This was about the time Hitler had marched into Poland.

I met a fast talking Recruiting Officer who had been in the Army for 24 years, and he was making $54 per month. His offer to me of 70 cents a day, which equated to $21 per month, or $252 per year, was in addition to room and board, and a promise of travel away from Sacramento. (Sam enlisted and was inducted September 30, 1939.). I was ordered to Chanute Army Air Field at Rantoul, Illinois, and trained as an airplane mechanic. After graduation, I was assigned to aircraft instrument repair and promoted to Corporal. I did well and within just a couple of years had made Staff Sergeant. Then I was transferred to Keesler Army Air Field in Biloxi, Mississippi, and became an instructor in aircraft instruments. After Pearl Harbor happened, I was eager to get into the fray and volunteered for glider training. Very quickly, I was sent to Goodland, Kansas, to begin training by learning to do dead-stick landings in Piper Cubs. "

Sam completed Basic Glider Training and then was schooled in Cargo Gliders. Gliders were new to the U.S. Air Forces and a great deal of experimentation and innovation was going on at all levels. Sam was ready and willing to try anything and he crashed more than his share of times while gaining experience. Upon graduation from the CG-4A "Waco" Glider course, he received his glider pilot wings, his appointment as a Flight Officer, and was ordered overseas to England.

Glider pilot, FO Baker was assigned to the 93rd Troop Carrier Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group, IX Troop Carrier Command, Ninth Air Force at Upottery, England. The troop carriers supported the training of the Airborne forces and prepared for their part in the invasion of Europe. Sam did some cross-training in piloting the "Borsa" glider, a British glider larger than the American "Waco," and capable of carrying heavier loads and larger equipment.

On June 6, 1944, the 439th Troop Carrier Group dropped elements of the 101 S Airborne Division by parachute into Normandy during the night before the D-Day invasion landing. Then, the troop carriers returned, inserting reinforcements for the paratroopers by glider, and Sam Baker was part of that. Sam was piloting a Borsa glider loaded with 30 troops plus some heavy equipment. Bis C-47 tow plane had gone off course and it released the tow over Normandy without having reached the designated Landing Zone. Sam's glider was shot down by German ground fire and broken up in the crash, killing 15 of the 30 troops. Pilot and TROOP CARRIERS co-pilot were thrown forward through the front of the glider, and into dense vegetation.

Initially, troops recovering the bodies and clearing the wreckage did not find Flight Officer Baker, unconscious and apart from the others, concealed from view in the brush. Later, realizing the pilot was unaccounted for, they made a more thorough search and found him (the co-pilot was also grievously wounded and died years later in a VA Hospital in Syracuse, NY, never having recovered). Sam was taken to the beach and evacuated by ship back to a hospital in England. He was in-and-out of consciousness then and for an extended time afterward. He was in a British Hospital because, having been recovered from a Horsa glider wreckage, initially he was believed to have been a British aviator. Eventually, after about two months Sam had recovered sufficiently to know he wanted to leave. He located where his flight suit had been stowed, retrieved it, got dressed, slipped out of the hospital, and found his way back to his base at Upottery.

In September 1944, the 439th Group moved across the channel to France, first at Juvincourt, and then moved again on November 4th to Chateaudun where they remained until the war was over. During the Battle of the Bulge, gliders from Sam's 93rd Troop Carrier Squadron were used to take in supplies to the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne and some of them were lost. But, after being shot down over Normandy on D-Day, Sam was never again wounded. However, that is not to say his flying was without mishap. Sam says that if the Germans had only known him at the time, the Luftwaffe would have made him an Ace, because he had destroyed more than enough of their enemy's aircraft to qualify.

Postwar, Warrant Officer Baker was sent to an assignment at Atkinson Field in British Guyana in 1945 as a Maintenance Officer. Subsequent to that he had an assignment on Trinidad. In 1950 he went to B-29 school, received a commission and became a Flight Engineer. He later transitioned to B-36's, also as Flight Engineer. By 1958, he was a B-52 Navigator stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, Texas.

Still at Bergstrom in 1965, he had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was in command of an Air-to-Ground Missile Squadron, when he met and married Darline Pelham, an Air Force Nurse assigned at the base hospital. In 1967, Sam was sent to Vietnam as a squadron commander at the air base at Tuy Hoa. About the time he was due to return home, Darline also received orders to Vietnam, so Sam extended for another year. He took a Logistics Officer job at Tan Son Nhut Air Base and they were together in Saigon for a year. In 1969, Sam returned to the U.S. to become the Air-to-Ground Missile Squadron Commander at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Lieutenant Colonel Baker retired from there in 1974 and then was free to be the "house husband" and follow Darline for the remainder of her career. After her assignments to Goose Bay, Labrador, and Rome, New York, in 1982 Darline retired from Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi, also in the grade of Lieutenant Colonel. They continued to live in retirement in their home in Ocean Springs; outside Biloxi. Hurricane Katrina damaged their property, but otherwise massively wiped out much of that whole area in 2005, whereupon they moved to Central Texas to be near a son and a daughter of Sam that were living in the area. He has recently transferred his membership in the Military Order of the Purple Heart from Chapter 682 in Gautier, Mississippi to here, and this month Texas Capital Chapter 1919 proudly salutes Patriot Samuel E. Baker.
Family links: 
  Winfield Elmer Baker (1884 - 1954)
  Leola Maude Weller Baker (1884 - 1962)
  Mildred Aileen Baker Borge (1917 - 1991)*
  Samuel Earl Baker (1921 - 2009)
  Effie Margaret Baker Erwin (1925 - 2014)**
*Calculated relationship
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Last Duty Station
Riverside National Cemetery
Riverside County
California, USA
Created by: P2-ABQ
Record added: Dec 20, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 45647075
Samuel Earl Baker
Added by: P2-ABQ
Samuel Earl Baker
Added by: P2-ABQ
Samuel Earl Baker
Added by: P2-ABQ
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