Synopses & Reviews
tells of some of the most dramatic acts of courage attempted in the entire Mediterranean theater during WWII acts that resulted in Baker's being awarded the Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and Distinguished Service Cross. On April 15, 1945, as part of one of the last segregated outfits to go to war for the United States, Lieutenant Baker knew he and his men were being deserted when, during the battle for Castle Aghinolfo in Northern Italy, his white commander told him he was going for reinforcements. Caught three miles behind enemy lines, and with half their comrades in arms dead, they refused to turn and run. Although he was decorated for his efforts, the army quietly surpressed this action until 1997, when Baker was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.
Lasting Valor also reveals Baker's early life. An orphan raised by grandparents in nearly all-white Cheyenne, Wyoming, he survived a rocky adolescence and went on to live in Father Flanagan's Home, and then to fight to join a segregated army. His years in the army are recounted, and give us a rare glimpse into the life of a World War II black infantryman. It is a powerful book.
"Whites should read this book to learn of Baker's accomplishments against a background of severe prejudice. Blacks should read it for the heroism it reveals. Everybody should read it for the power of its narrative." Washington Post
This is the true story of one of the last of the Buffalo soldiers, who for 52 years waited for the Army to give him his due. It is, at last, a story of the only living black WWII veteran to receive the nation's highest honor for battlefield valor.
About the Author
Orphaned at age four, Vernon J. Baker was raised in Wyoming by his grandparents, in a town with just a dozen other black families. During adolescence, he spent two years at Father Flanagan's Boys Home in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated from high school in Iowa, worked as a railroad porter. He fought to join a segregated army, and was sent to Italy with one of the few all-black regiments to see combat in World War II.
Mr. Baker fought in Italy, earning a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Distinguished Service Cross. He was one of the most highly decorated black soldiers in the Mediterranean Theater. On January 13, 1997, fifty-two years after Mr. Baker's World War II military service, President Clinton presented him with the nation's highest decoration for battlefield valor, the Medal of Honor.
Mr. Baker stayed with the Army, lived through its desegregation, and became one of the first blacks to command an all white company. He joined the Airborne along the way and made his last jump at age forty-eight.
After retiring from the Army, he spent nearly twenty years working for the Red Cross. Today, he lives in Northern Idaho with his wife. Heidy.
Journalist Ken Olsen grew up in Wyoming. He is an award-winning writer from Spokane, Washington's Spokesman-Review, which featured his widely hailed series on Vernon Baker. His freelance work includes essays published in the Left Bank series of literary anthologies produced by blue Heron Publishing Co. He also is the coauthor of a winter guide to Yellowstone National Park. Mr. Olsen, his sweetheart, Samantha, and their faithful dogs live in northern Idaho.