BOISE — Officials will posthumously honor a World War II veteran next week at Gowen Field, where they plan to name barracks after him to celebrate his legacy.
First Lt. Vernon Baker, who lived in St. Maries, led a successful attack that helped the Allies drive German forces out of northern Italy during the war, according to news reports.
Baker’s role was largely overlooked because of his race. At the time of his service, the U.S. Army was segregated.
President Bill Clinton awarded Baker with the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1997, 52 years after his attack on enemy forces. Baker, who also served in the Korean War, was the only living Black WWII veteran to receive the belated accolade, the nation’s highest distinction for valor. Six others received it posthumously.
Baker also earned a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the Distinguished Service Cross. He died in 2010 at the age of 90 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Tuesday’s ceremony is the culmination of a year-long effort by Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, and Jerome Mapp, planning and zoning director for Caldwell.
“I’m so grateful I was able to work with Jerome to help make his vision a reality,” Wintrow said. “It’s so important to honor and recognize the achievements of Idahoans, especially Idahoans of color, whose contributions have not always been front and center in our state history. I hope this will lead more people to learn about Vernon Baker’s legacy and acts of bravery, helping keep the story of this American hero alive for decades to come.”
Mapp, a constituent of Wintrow’s in District 19, reached out in June 2020 looking for a way to honor Baker. The pair later connected with the Idaho Division of Veteran Services and Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak.
“I’m thankful that on that day we will create a lasting legacy in the name of Vernon Baker,” Mapp said. “For those, who will enter into this building will have the opportunity to learn about him and the sacrifice he made as well as other African Americans made for our country.”
Mapp is slated to speak at Tuesday’s event, which will start at 11 a.m. at Gowen Field, south of the Boise airport.
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