Valor Friday

| March 3, 2023

Thomas Baker

Many of the stories I have the honor of writing about seem so absolutely incredible that they stretch the bonds of credulity. These are some of my favorites to research, because it’s amazing to me that these stories are true. Today’s subject is another of those incredible men whose tale would make the most spectacular film.

Born in 1916 in Troy, New York, Thomas Baker enlisted into the New York National Guard in October 1940. At 24 years of age, he was brought to active duty the same day. The reserve components were initially activated for a year of training, but before that year completed, the Attack on Pearl Harbor had brought the US fully into the ongoing World War.

Baker was with the 27th Infantry Division. The division had started in the pre-World War I days as the New York Division within the National Guard. Activated for Mexican Border service in 1916, they subsequently deployed with the American Expeditionary Force into France when the US joined the First World War.

Designated the 6th Division and ultimately the 27th Infantry Division, the men from New York saw combat from the summer of 1918 until Armistice Day, 11 November 1918. They participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the Battle of Ypres-Lys, and the Somme Offensive.

The 27th Infantry Division (27th ID) has a shoulder insignia that famously features a representation of the Orion Constellation. This was selected as a clever play on words after the division’s wartime commander Major General John O’Ryan.

When Baker enlisted into the division they went on active duty for training. They started at Fort McClellan in Alabama before participating in the massive (and extremely effective) Louisiana Maneuvers in the late summer and fall of 1941. Just a week after Pearl Harbor, the 27th ID was the first stateside division to be deployed in response to the act of war. They were sent to southern California to protect against a feared land invasion of the US mainland by the Japanese.

When no invasion came, the division was moved forward to Hawaii. From there, they would be embroiled in the War in the Pacific for the duration of the war.

The first element of the division to see combat was the 3rd Battalion of Baker’s 105th Infantry Regiment at the Battle of Makin Island in November 1943. Baker’s 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry would first see enemy contact at the Battle of Eniwetok Atoll in February 1944. They were then returned to Oahu for replenishment and to train for the Marianas Islands Campaign.

On D-Day plus 1 of the Battle of Saipan, 16 June 1944, the division landed at night onto the tiny Pacific island. Along with the 165th Infantry Regiment, the men of the New York Division helped to secure Aslito Field (now Saipan International Airport) on 18 June. From the airport, the soldiers and Marines fighting on Saipan would continue to push back against the well entrenched Japanese. Weeks of hard fighting were ahead, with forward movement being slow.

On the 19th of June, when the men of Baker’s A Company were held up by automatic and small arms fire from a strongly fortified enemy position, he moved forward alone. Grabbing a bazooka, the young private dashed ahead of his company to within 100 yards of the Japanese. Despite the full brunt of his foe’s fire being directed at him, Baker opened fire on the enemy position, destroying it. This allowed his company to continue the assault on the ridge, driving back the enemy.

The next day, the men of 1/105th Infantry were a day into a three day attack on Nafutan Point. Bogged down, supporting fire from American tanks was called in. Due to the volume of enemy fire, the tank crews were forced to keep their hatches closed. In the fog of war, the three tanks got turned around and started to fire on the American positions. The regiment’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel William O’Brien dashed into the din of battle to turn the tanks toward the enemy.

Lt Col William O’Brien

The tanks were receiving heavy enemy fire. O’Brien dashed forward, within full view of the enemy, and mounted the lead tank. He banged on the hatch with his pistol to get the crew’s attention, to redirect their fire. He then rode the tank, channeling his inner George Patton, and directed his men in the attack from atop the armored vehicle.

A few days later, A Company was moving across an open field, flanked by enemy strong points. Baker volunteered to take the rear position of the movement. While covering the back side of his company, he discovered two enemy emplacements manned by two officers and ten men that had been missed.

Outnumbered 14-to-1, he single-handedly charged the enemy positions, killing them all. Just a few hundred meters further in their patrol, Baker stumbled upon another six enemy troops that had concealed themselves in the brush. He attacked and dispatched all of them. By himself.

Weeks of heavy fighting saw the men of the 105th Infantry fight for every square inch of ground. The soldiers named these places things like “Death Valley” and “Purple Heart Ridge” along the way. On 4 July they secured a location called Flores Point. They then advanced up Tanapag Plain, to a place about 1,200 yards south of Makunshka.

Facing probing attacks, the men of the 105th Infantry tried to maintain a cohesive line of battle. In the early morning hours of 7 July, before dawn, the Japanese launched the largest Banzai charge of the war. At least 4,000 fanatical enemy made their frenzied attack. The 105th Infantry, a regiment that nominally has a strength of a little over 3,000 (but was depleted to heavy combat casualties from the previous weeks), bore the full brunt of the enemy charge. Both lead battalions of the American line were soon overrun. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued as the Japanese and American soldiers met in the bloody clash. Thousands of men would die or be wounded.

Colonel O’Brien refused to leave the front line, even as the enemy overwhelmed them. He led the 1st Battalion’s defense, moving across the American positions with a pistol in each hand. Engaging the enemy with his sidearms, he moved from position to position to encourage the beleaguered troops to hold steady. He even manned a .50-cal machine gun mounted to a Jeep after he ran out of pistol ammunition. O’Brien’s award citation says, “When last seen alive he was standing upright firing into the Japanese hordes that were then enveloping him. Some time later his body was found surrounded by enemy he had killed.”

Private Baker meanwhile was with his comrades in the thick of the fighting when the massive enemy assault commenced. He was severely wounded early in the day’s fighting, but refused evacuation. He fought to his final bullet, at times the enemy came as close as five yards away from his position. When the Japanese overran him, he battered his rifle in the melee fighting. With no ammunition, and a useless weapon if there were any, he was finally carried off the field by a fellow soldier.

They made it about 50 yards before Baker’s would-be rescuer was shot down and critically wounded himself. His comrade unable to move him, Baker insisted he’d rather go down fighting than risk the lives of any more of his brothers. At Baker’s insistence, he was propped into a sitting position against a tree to face the coming enemy. When another American came and moved to carry him away, Baker again refused. He told them to give him a pistol and to save themselves. They gave him all they had, a single Model 1911 pistol with its eight rounds of ammunition, and left him to go down fighting.

When last seen alive, Baker was sitting, pistol in hand, calmly awaiting the enemy. Days later, after the Japanese counterattack had been repulsed, Baker’s body was found in that spot. Around him lay dead eight Japanese. In his final stand he made every single round count and made the enemy pay the heaviest toll a single, mortally wounded soldier could make them pay for his ground.

Baker was only 28 when he died a true warrior’s death on that tropical island. O’Brien was 44 years old. They weren’t the only ones that paid the ultimate price. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry suffered 406 killed in action and more than 500 wounded. Among the dead in Baker and O’Brien’s 1/105th Infantry all the battalion’s officers save for two were killed in the fighting. The 2nd Battalion lost all of their company commanders and almost all of the battalion’s staff officers. The regiment received the Presidential Unit Citation (the unit-level equivalent of a Distinguished Service Cross) for their valor in action on 7 July 1944.

The 105th Infantry’s valiant stand cost the Japanese even more. Nearly 2,300 enemy men lay dead ahead of the regiment’s line. Intermingled among the American line and in the rear of the line were another 2,000 enemy corpses.

Thomas Baker was posthumously promoted to sergeant for his heroism in action during Battle of Saipan. He also received the Medal of Honor.

Lieutenant Colonel William J. O’Brien, who had been Baker’s battalion commanding officer, was also a native of Troy, New York (which was the regiment’s home). He too received the Medal of Honor for his actions during these weeks of battle. In addition to what I described above, he was also cited for gallantry in personally leading a charge on an enemy position on the 28th of June. During that day’s battle he crossed 1,200 yards of sniper infested ground to arrive where his men were held up. Leading four men forward into the enemy, the successful attack led the colonel and his men to capture five enemy machine guns and a 77mm fieldpiece.

The 27th Infantry produced three Medal of Honor recipients in World War II. All three died on 7 July 1944 on Saipan. In addition to Thomas Baker and William O’Brien, we’ve previously talked about the third. Captain (Doctor) Ben Salomon, like Baker and O’Brien, he died while valiantly standing up to the brutal, savage Banzai charge. All three men were found after the battle surrounded by dead enemy. They embody the motto of the 105th Infantry; “Possumus et vincemus” (We Are Able and Will Conquer).

The 105th Infantry continued their distinguished service later in the war. They fought through mud, torrential rainfall, and static line fighting not unlike the trenches of World War I on the island of Okinawa. Heavily battered, a Marine who witnessed them come back from weeks of hard fighting said, “Boy, they looked like hell coming off that line.”

The 105th Infantry was returned to the US in December 1945, just after the end of the war, and the unit was deactivated. The 27th Infantry Division continued in one form or another until deactivation in 1967. The lineage of the 27th ID was carried forward to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, organized in 1986 as part of the New York National Guard. They have since seen service in both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Category: Army, Historical, Medal of Honor, Valor, We Remember

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Rest In Peace, Sir.


Never Forget.


Slow salute.


Rest In Peace, Sir.


Never Forget.

Thank You, Sapper3307 for sharing.

“Pearl Harbor Survivor Jack Holder Dies At Age 101”.

“The World War II Flyer Who Flew Over 100 Missions Died In AZ”

“The Pearl Harbor National Memorial said Holder was awarded two distinguished flying cross medals, six air medals, a presidential citation and six commendation medals in his Navy career before being honorably discharged in 1948.”


CPT Benjamin Louis Salomon

Rest In Peace, Sir.


Never Forget.


LTC William Joseph O’Brian.

Rest In Peace, Sir.


Never Forget.'brien


Thank You, again, Mason, for another Valor and Courage story of three Unsung Heroes.


BZ for another great article!



Never Forget.

“Biden Awards Medal of Honor To Vietnam Hero After Nearly 60-Year Wait”

“President Biden on Friday hailed “a true hero of our nation” by presenting the Medal of Honor to retired Green Beret Col. Paris Davis, one of the first Black officers to lead a Special Forces team in combat.”

“Humble as ever, Davis told Fox News of his successes on the battlefield all those years ago. “You make the right choices. You want to get the right result,” Davis said.”

“It certainly was the right result. One fateful night on June 18th 1965, Davis saved three men from enemy capture: American soldiers Robert Brown, John Reinberg and Billy Waugh.”

Over the course of a 19-hour battle, Davis refused to leave the battlefield until all his men were out of harm’s way.”


Saving Billy Waugh was a real service to the country. SGM Waugh is a legendary special operator and CIA operative, in his 90’s now.

Skivvy Stacker

This PINO is not worthy to drape that Medal around the neck of a man of that fortitude, bravery, and pure badassery.
As old as he is, you can still see it in his eyes; he could kill you with his left pinky.
God bless you forever, Colonel Davis. I would have been proud to serve with you.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Some time later his body was found surrounded by enemy he had killed.”
“When last seen alive, Baker was sitting, pistol in hand, calmly awaiting the enemy. Days later, after the Japanese counterattack had been repulsed, Baker’s body was found in that spot. Around him lay dead eight Japanese. In his final stand he made every single round count and made the enemy pay the heaviest toll a single, mortally wounded soldier could make them pay for his ground.”
How every soldier in battle dreams of dying, surrounded by punctured bodies and empty brass.
Too bad that when (not if) that battle for freedom comes to us, too many of those enemies will be “domestic” instead of “foreign”.
Damned allergies and dust. Pass the kleenex.

Testify, Tox. True Warrior’s Warriors. That such men lived indeed. And as Skivvy Stacker points out, we all would hope that we are never put in that situation, but pray that we would have that same fortitude.

Battery Gun Salute for these Heroes. We are humbled by their Sacrifices. Kleenex won’t be enough. Give me a bath towel.

Another excellent presentation, again, Mason. We Thank You, Good Sir.

Skivvy Stacker

These men (O’Brian and Baker) were probably held in the highest respect by the Japanese as well.
We all wonder if we could have the kind of fortitude and courage to face our own death with as much determination as these men did. I don’t know if I could, but I like to think I could. And I know there are situations that would bring that kind of character out from the depths of my soul.
God forbid I should ever have to answer these questions.
But also, God be praised for men such as these who set an example for all of us to aspire to in our quest to be better men, and willing to give our all for others.
“No greater love is there than this; that a man give his life for his brother”.


[…] Last week I talked about three men who went down fighting, and left a pile of enemy corpses surrounding their own bodies. Just a few months before their valiant last stand on Saipan in the Pacific Theater, another man did the exact same thing in the European Theater. […]