John Drayton Baker
John Drayton Baker (born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on May 31, 1915) was an American Naval aviator who was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during World War II.
After flight instruction at Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, he was appointed naval aviator on 26 August 1941 and received a reserve ensign’s commission on 18 September. After serving for two months in the Advanced Carrier Training Group, Atlantic, Baker joined Fighting Squadron (VF) 42 on 8 December 1941. Eight days later, the squadron, embarked in aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5), sailed for the Pacific Ocean.
Battle of Coral Sea
On the morning of 7 May 1942, during the early phase of the Battle of the Coral Sea, Baker flew one of the Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcat” fighters that escorted the planes of Torpedo Squadron (VT) 5 in their attack on the Japanese carrier Shoho. He assisted in the destruction of three fighters from the enemy carrier’s combat air patrol and enabled VT 5 to escape unscathed after its successful attack and to return to Yorktown without loss.
Late that afternoon, planes from the Japanese carriers Zuikaku and Shokaku attempted a dusk attack on Task Force 17, but ran into inclement weather and the combat air patrols from Yorktown and USS Lexington (CV-2). One of the pilots who scrambled in the waning daylight to intercept the Japanese, Baker helped to break up the attack. Skillfully using his homing gear, Baker guided VF 42’s airborne pilots back to the ship.
However, as Yorktown’s gunners thought the circling planes to be Japanese and opened fire, VF 42’s pilots scattered to avoid destruction. Thereafter, Baker proved unable to pick up the carrier’s homing signal, and became disoriented. Despite the determined efforts of Yorktown to guide the young pilot back to the ship by radio, he was never seen again.
USS Baker (DE-190) was named in his honor. The ship was laid down on 9 September 1943 at Port Newark, New Jersey, by the Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; launched on 28 November 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Margaret Baker, the mother of Ens. Baker; and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 23 December 1943,
- Cressman, Robert (2000 (4th printing)). That Gallant Ship U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5). Missoula, Montana, U.S.A.: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company. ISBN 0-933126-57-3.
- Ludlum, Stuart D. (1997). They Turned the War Around at Coral Sea and Midway: Going to War with Yorktown's Air Group Five. Merriam Press. ISBN 1-57638-085-8.
- Lundstrom, John B. (2005 (New edition)). The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Annapolis, Maryland, U.S.A.: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-471-X.
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