By Kevin M. Hymel, ANC Contract Historian
U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Addison E. Baker, who earned the Medal of Honor posthumously, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on September 14, 2022. Baker gave his life trying to save the lives of his bomber crew and the crews around him during the bombing of Romanian oil fields and refineries—the famed Ploesti Raid—during World War II.
Baker was commanding the 328th Bombardment Squadron on August 1, 1943, when enemy fire hit his B-24 Liberator bomber on the way to Ploesti, Romania. His bomber, like all those on the raid, was flying at low level to hide from enemy radar. Once hit, Baker refused to land his plane on the open fields and instead led his squadron to the target and dropped his bombs. Afterward, Baker’s stricken bomber dropped out of formation, yet he kept enough control to prevent hitting other bombers. He tried to gain enough altitude for his men to bail out, but the aircraft stalled and crashed into the town of Ploesti. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor in 1944.
Baker’s body remained unidentified and was eventually buried in an American cemetery in Belgium. In 2017, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) exhumed Baker’s remains and identified them on April 8, 2002.
Lt. Col. Baker had no children, but his brothers, Harold and Russell Baker, married and had children. They all grew up hearing stories of their uncle—not only as a Medal of Honor recipient, but also as an ornery kid would skip school on Fridays and, later, drive fast cars. As a pilot, Baker enjoyed flying low over Howard Lake in Akron, Ohio, and ‘buzzing” the houses, including his brother’s house, along the shore. “He’d come up,” recalled nephew David Baker, “and jerk the whole house.”
Three generations of Bakers arrived at ANC for the funeral service, including a few named Addison, to honor their hero uncle. “Out of respect for our mom and her family,” said great nephew Joshua Greenberg, “we named our son Addison, and he grew up hearing stories about [Uncle Addison’s] childhood but also his heroism.”
The funeral service, which included a flyover by a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber, impressed the family. “It was very honoring and we’re very grateful,” said great niece Mary Ostrow. Joshua Greenberg marveled at “the degree extra respect paid to somebody who paid that ultimate sacrifice.”
After the funeral service, four family members laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The four represented three generations of Bakers: nephew John Baker; great nephew Paul Addison Baker; and great-great nephews Addison Greenberg and Benjamin Burlin. “We just felt it was important to honor the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” explained Mary Ostrow, “because our Addison was unknown for so many years.”