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1LT John P. Baker

1LT John P. Baker

Death 15 Oct 1944
Anstey, East Hertfordshire District, Hertfordshire, England
Burial East Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York, USA
Plot J, 0, 14631
Memorial ID 315019 · View Source
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**NOTE - I am currently working on this bio and the below information is only notes at this time - Thanks!

John P. Baker
603rd Navigator 10/15/44 Cologne, Germany

Crashed on take-off from Nuthampstead Air Base in Anstey Church moat. 10/15/44 Cologne, Germany

Second Lieutenant William Meyran was the normal pilot for his crew but on this mission some of his crew had been ordered to remain behind and other crew personnel were placed onboard to include First Lieutenant Charles L. Khouri who would be serving as the Aircraft Commander (AC) on this mission as well as working as the co-pilot. He was on this mission to evaluate Meyran's performance and suitability to be promoted to the AC position.

It was Lt. Meyran's 25th birthday that very day. He was an only child from Los Angeles and was set to inherit a great deal of money from his grandfather's estate on the occasion of his 25th birthday. Meyran had passed the word to the crew that when the mission was over they would be having a celebratory party to commemorate his birthday and his inheritance.

The crew had been assigned to an unnamed B-17, Sn#42-97746, for a bombing mission over Cologne, Germany. John was assigned that day as the "Mickey" Operator. The Mickey was a special radar navigational device that protruded from the belly of the aircraft in place of a belly gun turret. It was used to make precise navigational vectors to allow precision bombing of special targets. Normally, when the "Mickey" plane dropped their bombs, all of the other planes released their bomb loads as well, making those planes' navigator's jobs a lot easier. Just after lifting off the runway, power was lost to all four engines and the bomber hit the top of the old moated medieval castle mound and exploded with the majority of the bomber landing in the moat. All of the crew were killed.

The following personnel were killed in the crash of this aircraft:
Aircraft Commander - 1LT. Charles L. Khouri
Pilot - 2LT. William Meyran
Navigator - 2LT. William J. Vanderlick
MIC Navigator - 2LT. John P. Baker
Bombardier - 2LT. Carlton C. Moore, Jr.
Engineer Top Turrett Gunner - T/Sgt. William S. Tull
Radio Operator/Right Waist Gunner - T/Sgt. George E. Barton
Tail Gunner - S/Sgt. Melvin P. Brown
Ball Turrett Gunner - Sgt. Charles R. Kennedy
Left Waist Gunner - Sgt. Victor C. Petrauskas

Below is a letter written by Mr Allison Stafford, who had a 37 year career with the American Red Cross. During World War II, he was a Staff Sergeant in the 603rd Bomb Squadron and friends with many of the flight crews. He was also a witness to the crash that killed John Baker and his crew mates. Upon returning to the United States after the war, Stafford was moved to write a letter to Baker's parents who were then living in Bridgeport, Connecticut, expressing his sorrow at the loss of their son and his friend. The letter was written from Stafford's home in Red Creek, New York, and was mailed on 10/26/1945. Stafford's letter, written over 60 years ago, is printed in its entirety as follows:

"Red Creek New York 26 October 1945

My Dear Mr. and Mrs. Baker:

I find it difficult to go on with this letter - chiefly because we have never had an introduction and I doubt seriously if John had mentioned me in any of his letters to you before his untimely death.
I wanted so very much to write to you about John and the fatal accident, however, censorship regulations would not allow me to correspond with you until now.
John had only been with our Squadron a short time. However, I met him the very day he reported to our organization and there was something about his character and manly make-up that caught my personal attention. From that point on John and I became excel¬lent friends, though we never actually went places together since I was an enlisted man and he an officer. Then, too, I was so very busy that I seldom was able to leave the Base.
I shall always remember that misty, Sunday morning on the 15th day of October, for I was standing out in front of the office where I worked; it was just 0623 hours British War Double Time when I turned my eyes toward the field and carefully followed the mighty ship as it sped down the runway for the take¬off.
It was purely coincidental that I should have even been up at such an early hour, however, it was my morning to arise early to relieve the charge of quarters at the office and it was only coincidental that I had stepped out from the washroom and in front of the office just in time to see the first ship of the scheduled mission speed down the runway for the take-off.
It was further coincidental that I should have stopped as I heard the plane speeding down the runway, and to watch it, but such was the circumstance. My eyes were fixed upon the ship as it lifted itself from the runway. I remember saying aloud to myself, 'My God boy, you'll never make it!'
Scarcely had these words left my lips when I was frightened thoughtless as I saw the wings of the ship cutting off the tops of the trees in a wooded section beyond the end of the runway. Then in only a split second there was an explosion that illuminated the sky over a large area and could be seen for miles away. The things that I saw in the next few seconds and later, I can not begin to tell you here, but it was all over for John and the other members of the crew. I am sure none of them realized or none of them suffered the slightest pain.
I didn't know until about an hour later that the boys on the ship were of our Squadron, however, it was only a matter of seconds after knowing this before I was able to obtain the list of personnel aboard. Truly, I was speechless, it seemed unbelievable. I tried to catch hold of my¬self but there was a sudden weakness that passed over me and I returned to my bunk and rested for a few minutes as the tears rolled down my cheeks. Your lovely son was not the only member of the crew I had known, no, several others had been in our Squadron for a long time and two of them even trained with us in this country before going overseas with us.
I went to church that Sunday morning, as usual, though was most uneasy. I tried to listen to the Service but my mind was elsewhere. It wasn't with John and other boys, for I knew they were all happy and peaceful now, now that God had taken them into his eternal Kingdom. No, my mind and prayers were not with John and the boys now. They were with you and the families of the other boys who were taken so suddenly from us.
I prayed that when the news reached you, God would comfort all of you and help you to understand that He needed your son and the other boys and that He was giving them Eternal Rest. Today as I think back, I like to feel and say the same of these boys, my close friends, as Mrs. Roosevelt said about our President after he had passed away. I don't recall her actual words, but its meaning was quite the same as this:
"That, Mr. Roosevelt had successfully fulfilled his duties here on earth and that our Heavenly Father chose to give rest to him and his body, and to give his soul eternal life."
To me, that seemed the most beautiful thought one could express.
As I sat motionless in church that Sunday morning, 15 October 1944, and just as our Holy Communion Service was coming to an end, the last of the five-hundred pound bombs from John's ship exploded in the distance, and to me it meant a most reverent salute to those who had that gorgeous Sunday morning, only a few hours ago given their lives that we and our great nation might live.
Mr. and Mrs. Baker, words can not reveal to you my sorrow in your great loss, and I am unable to tell you in words how very much I admired your faithful son. The only bit of comfort I can convey is to tell you how greatly proud you can be for giving such a beautiful young man, a body of your own blood and flesh to the greatest sacrament on earth and to Al-mighty God.
John and the other boys were given a beautiful military funeral service and were laid to rest in the Cambridge American Military Cemetery at Cambridge, England. I was unable to attend the funeral service, however, I took it upon myself to visit John's grave and the graves of two of the other boys regularly and on Christmas Day of last year I took flowers and wreaths and placed on their graves, for they had meant much to me and I wished to show my sincerest respect for their loyal companionship and great sacrifice.
Again on Memorial Day of this year I was unable to visit the graves of those who had met so very much to me. How¬ever, I asked an officer of our Squadron to go for me and with my camera, to take a photograph of John's grave and the other two boys who had been close to me. I left England unexpectedly by air for the United States before the exposures had been developed so I made arrangements for one of the boys in our office who was returning later by boat to bring them with him.
It was quite some time ago that I received them, however, I have had a great deal of difficulty in having some prints made. I am writing to you now because I know how very much the picture of John's grave will mean to you. Even yet, the enlargements have not arrived so I am holding this letter until the pictures reach me. There is no grass in the cemetery because the cemetery grew so rapidly that it was impossible to keep it seeded. Then too, at the time John was buried, the cemetery was only a temporary burying ground and to my knowledge it has not been made a permanent one. That also explains why the crosses are made of wood.
It is very evident that no parents could have had a finer son.
I trust this letter will be of some com¬fort to you, less I should regret it ever having been written.

A Faithful Friend,
Ex-Staff Sergeant
Air Corps"

John was buried in a temporary grave at Cambridge until after the war when his parents had their son's body brought home for burial.

Second Lieutenant John P. Baker earned the following badges/decorations for his service during World War II:
- Army Air Corps Navigator's Wings
- Purple Heart Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- European Theater of Operations Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star
- World War II Victory Medal
- Presidential Unit Citation ribbon




  • Maintained by: Rick Lawrence
  • Originally Created by: US Veterans Affairs Office
  • Added: 25 Feb 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 315019
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for 1LT John P. Baker (unknown–15 Oct 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 315019, citing Long Island National Cemetery, East Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Rick Lawrence (contributor 47207615) .