Rank/Name: Corporal Charles E. Baker
Hometown: Jefferson Township, Ohio
Branch: United States Marine Corps
Unit: 5th Division
Service Dates: 1944 - Eternity
In 1943, Charlie's junior year of high school, school administration broke the news that upon turning 18 he and the rest of his male classmates would be drafted to serve in WWII. Charlie became an adult in March of 1944 and, as he had been warned, was called to serve his country in June of the same year. Determined and motivated to become a Marine, Charlie visited the Marine Corps recruiting office to secure his spot in the Core. Young Charlie was successful and soon found himself on a bus from Cincinnati to Parris Island, South Carolina for boot camp.
"You think that they're probably the meanest men there was," Charlie recalls of his drill instructors. "But after you complete your training, you realize that they have taught you everything you need to know to protect yourself and you think a lot of them."
Charlie graduated basic training as a 30-caliber machine gunner. Soon after, he was sent to Camp Tawana, Hawaii where the 5th Division was being formed for the invasion of Iwo Jima. In December of 1944, Charlie and 256 other brave souls departed for the South Pacific.
Charlie's division landed on the black sands of Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945. For 36 excruciating days, Charlie and his fellow Marines fought the Japanese in arguably some the bloodiest battles of WWII.
HASOF Whiskey Co. Owner Zach Hollingsworth honoring Corporal Charlie E Baker at the 2017 Veterans Day Event
Charlie recalls one specifically terrifying moment when his group was catching friendly fire inside a foxhole. As shells rained from the sky barely missing their heads, most of the men were paralyzed with fear. Seeing that the tank was preparing another blast, Charlie jumped out of the pit, braving the threat of nearby snipers, and ran to a friend who was able to divert the attack and undoubtedly save countless lives.
That wasn't the only close call for the young Marine. One evening on patrol Charlie, machinegun in tow, tripped over a large rock in his path. "When I hit the ground I was below the terrain surface just enough that machinegun fire went over me. It didn't even touch me," he recalls. Despite the sheer terror of his near-death experience, Charlie believes nothing is coincidental. "The good Lord put that there for me to step on," Charlie says. "Yeah, the good Lord made me clumsy."
On an island measuring just 5 by 2.5 miles, 230 of the 257 men in Charlie's division lost their lives. As one of the 27 fortunate souls to survive, Charlie arrived home from Iwo Jima relatively unscathed. He worked at Standard Registrar for 40 years and was as married to his late wife, Lois, for 67 years. Charlie has two sons and a daughter and resides in Kettering.
"You do what you have to do to survive," Charlie says. "I would do it again for the people, the country, and for everyone."