(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Medals and Badges Pfc. Baker probably earned

Harold A. Baker was born on July 28, 1913, in Wallington, New Jersey. The name of Harold's father was Arthur. As far as known Harold had one sister, named Mima. They lived at 171 Union Avenue, Clifton, New Jersey. Harold attended the Christian Reformed Church - Prospect Street, Passaic, NJ. Harold Baker was working for the United Wool Piece Dyeing and Finishing Company, Passaic. Harold entered the Service from Passaic County, New Jersey, on May 22, 1942. He had his training at Camp Croft (South Carolina), Camp Clayborne (Los Angeles) and Fort Bragg (North Carolina) and served in G Company, 327th Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR), 101st Airborne Division.

The 327th GIR had their glider-training at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. They began training with the CG-4a Glider. Along the way the glidermen were introduced to the paratroopers of the 502nd PIR. Many fights would break out between these two groups, as the paratroopers thought that they were the best and the glidertroopers didn't have the “Right Stuff” to be Airborne Soldiers. Nevertheless, in North Carolina the men received glider training at Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base. The first flights caused ill-effects on some of the men, who used their helmets, since air sickness bags were not available at the time. As training with the gliders progressed it became more apparent that landing men by gliders was to be more dangerous than landing by parachute. Some of the landings were to result in serious injuries. Mostly broken arms and legs. On landing, gliders would slide out of control and crash into trees or fences. Some, upon landing, would slide in and the nose of the glider would dig in and cause it to tilt up vertically on its nose section causing the contents of the glider to break free of it's lashings and come crashing forward, injuring Glidermen and Glider Pilots alike.

Mr. Denis Parsons told me that Harold Baker and he both served in the 3rd platoon which was the 30 cal. (air cooled) machine gun section and the 60mm mortar section. Mr. Parsons and Mr. Baker both served in the machine gun section. The company had two squads of 5 men each. The machine gun members carried the 30 cal. carbine with folding stock. Harold Baker was an ammo bearer, but the men all took turns on the gun at different times.


30 cal. machine gun unit of the 327th GIR

Company G, 2nd Battalion, 327th GIR landed by boat, and not by glider, at UTAH BEACH (Normandy, France) in the early afternoon of June 7, 1944. They were strafed by a Messerschmitt which was shot down by a Spitfire. Company G captured the German pilot as they tried to shoot him in his parachute, but missed. Company G's mission was to move to Carentan in order to cut off the fleeing Germans. The company was involved in an intense machine gun battle just north of Carentan, along the canal west side. Although causalities were high, the mission was accomplished. After weeks of fierce fighting, the 101st Airborne Division was used as a kind of occupation force. Harold and the others of his squad never went on patrols with the machine gun - riflemen and B.A.R. men were used on patrols. Then, the company moved back to England to prepare for its next mission.

On September 18, 1944, one day after Operation Market Garden started, G Company landed in Son. Holland was according to G Company veteran Jack Sherman one of the worst experiences. Company G took an awful lot of casualties in Veghel on Black Friday. Mr. Jack Sherman, replacement after Normandy, told me: “The main things I remember about Holland was that the nights were so very dark, cold and damp. I was there for over 70 days and during that time I only remember having two hot meals (from the British mess) and was able to take one shower. We were subject to a lot of Kraut artillery fire and the shelling we took in the churchyard in Veghel was one of the most terrifying times of the whole war.”


Left: US Officer with British made winter camouflage clothing
Right: GI dressed with his trenchcoat and improvised snow camouflage
Both pictures were taken in the Baugnez 44 museum in Malmedy, Belgium
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)

After Holland, mid-November 1944, the 327th GIR went to a base in Mourmelon, France, to recover from their casualties. On December 19, 1944, the 101st Airborne Division was rushed to Bastogne to prevent the Germans from capturing this strategic city. During the bitter and cold “Battle of the Bulge” the company received some replacements. Not Harold Baker's squad, but the other machine gun squad was lost at Marvie, outside Bastogne, while fighting in December 1944. The bodies of these soldiers have never been found according to Mr. Denis Parsons. Mr. Parsons further told me that when Harold Baker was killed by friendly fire Mr. Parsons himself was in the hospital at Bar Le Duc, France, with frozen feet from “the Bulge”. The friendly fire that killed Pfc. Harold A. Baker on January 13, 1945, consisted of “close air support” by a 250 lb bomb as the troops were advancing. According to Pfc. Baker's Report of Burial his Place of Death was Michen (Belgium) and the Cause of Death was shrapnel.

Rick Demas, adoptant of Pfc. Baker's grave, in Bastogne
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)


Pfc. Harold A. Baker's Grave
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

First, Pfc. Harold Baker was in a Mission in Action status. A newspaper article of Pfc. Baker's hometown reads as following:

THE HERALD-NEWS, PASSAIC, N.J.
Baker Missing in Belgium
Glider Infantryman Overseas 17 Months

Arthur Baker, 171 Union Avenue, has been notified by the War Department that his son, Private First Class, Harold A Baker, a glider infantryman in the 101st Airborne Division, has been missing in action in Belgium since January 13. Private Baker, 31 years old, was born in Wallington, and entered service in May 1942. He went overseas seventeen months ago after training at Camp Croft, SC; Camp Clayborne, LA, and Fort Brag, NC. He was formerly with United Wool Piece Dyeing and Finishing Company, Passaic. The last letter received from him was written December 17 in France.

At the time of his death Pfc. Harold Baker had with him: Combat Infantry Badge, Glider Pin, ETO Ribbon W/star, Garrison Belt, moccasins, comb, sewing kit, ETO ribbon, shoe brush, pictures, 2 testaments, 3 bottles perfumes, 1 cig. lighter, 1 pocket watch+chain, 1 pipe, 1 pocket spoon, coins, 4 hand rings, part of 1 paybook and a US Postal Money Order in the amount of $5, payable to Harold Baker, remitted by Gladys and John Baker, 8 Glen Ave., Roseland, NJ.

Pfc. Baker's Report of Burial states that Harold was buried at the Foy Military Cemetery on March 25, 1945 at 09.00 Hours. He was buried in his uniform and his body was complete - with a fractured maxilla. His Report of Death states: “The individual named in this report of death is held by the War Dept. to have been in a missing in action status from 13 Jan 45, until such absence was terminated on 1 May 45, when evidence considered sufficient to establish the fact of death was received by the Secretary of War from the Commanding General, European Area.” An Obituary for Harold was placed in the "Young Calvinist": July 1945, p. 14 (which unfortunately I do not have or know the content of).

Rick Demas, adoptant of Pfc. Baker's grave, next to Foy Military Cemetery Memorial Stele
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Inscribed at the Foy Military Cemetery Memorial Stele: "Here lies the site of the Foy American Temporary Cemetery - From 1945 to 1948 It served as a temporary resting field for 2.701 Americans killed in action during The Battle of the Bulge 12-16-1944 - 1-28-1945"
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

On July 17, 1946, Harold Baker's parents were informed that their son was buried at US Military Cemetery Foy (Plot I, Row 9, Grave 206) – located 4 miles north of Bastogne (Belgium). According to the “Request for Disposition of Remains” form, Harold Baker's father, Arthur, decided on January 5, 1948, that his son be interred in a permanent American Military Cemetery overseas (Henri-Chapelle).

According to Harold Baker's Disinterment Operations Record, his Date of Disinterment at the Foy cemetery was September 13, 1948. On September 16, Pfc. Baker's remains were prepared and placed in a transfer box to get permanently transferred to the Henri-Chapelle Military Cemetery. On December 8, Pfc. Harold A. Baker was permanently interred in Henri-Chapelle. The flag was sent to his father on December 9, 1948.

The final letter to Harold Baker's father was sent on February 21, 1949, saying: “While interments are in progress, the cemetery will not be open to visitors. You may rest assured that this final interment was conducted with fitting dignity and solemnity and that the grave-site will be carefully and conscientiously maintained in perpetuity by the United States Government”.

Mr. Parsons told me: “Harold was a good soldier who you could depend on, and he did the things we were trained to do. Stay alert, be careful, and stay awake at night.” Pfc. Harold A. Baker's final resting place is, together with 7,989 brothers in arms, the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium, Plot H, Row 15, Grave 31.


Adoptant, Rick Demas, next to Pfc. Baker's grave with Christmas 2006
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

If anyone has information that may be of assistance to me about Pfc. Harold A. Baker, please contact me at rickmommers@msn.com

For more G Company stories:
Pfc. Jack Sherman

Sources:
Mr. Denis Parsons (G Co., 327th GIR, 101st Abn., 1943-1945)
Mr. Jack Sherman (G Co., 327th GIR, 101st Abn., 1944-1945)
Mr. Kevin Brooks
http://www.ww2-airborne.us/units/327/327.html