Stewart M. Baker, Jr., Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Korean War

Published 1:00 pm Friday, June 2, 2023

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When 2nd Lt. Stewart M. Baker, Jr. was killed in Korea on September 19, 1950, his home of record was Andalusia, Covington County, Alabama. His father was The Rev. Dr. Stewart M. Baker, pastor of The First Methodist Church of Andalusia.

Stewart Melvin Baker, Jr. was born December 26, 1927, in Castleberry, Conecuh County, Alabama. His parents were Anne Douglas Park and Stewart Melvin Baker, Sr. His father was pastor at the Foster Street Methodist Church in Dothan when he graduated from Dothan High School. He enrolled at Birmingham Southern College and attended several months before joining the U.S. Army during WW II.

After WW II, Baker enrolled at Alabama Polytechnic Institute [now Auburn]. Baker married Ray Nell Allen of Dothan, Alabama, on June 6, 1948. At Auburn, Baker joined the Kappa Alpha social fraternity. He was a member of the Army ROTC, the Caisson Club and was a Distinguished Military Graduate when he graduated in March 1950. Baker was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Regular Army since he already held a reserve commission.

Baker trained with Battery C, 39th Field Artillery Battalion, First Cavalry Division, at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being deployed to Korea in early August. After arriving at Pusan, South Korea, Baker was assigned to the 77th Field Artillery Battalion, First Cavalry Division. By August 26, he was serving as a forward observer on the front lines near Taegu. His division had been fighting in the ongoing Battle of the Bowling Alley [so named for a narrow valley] since August 21.

Just a day after Baker joined his division, the North Korean army [ called the Korean People’s Army or KPA] executed 41 U.S. prisoners in what was called the “Hill 303 Massacre,” near the town of Waegwan. Five soldiers survived. General Douglas MacArthur dropped leaflets over the North Korean army positions threatening to prosecute those responsible for war crimes. This atrocity was only one of many committed before the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953.

In letters home, Lt. Baker wrote about the deplorable conditions of the Korean people. He said that the South Koreans were good to have along with his company. They pack ammunition and food up the mountains and they know how to identify the North Koreans. He also said that the South Koreans were rough on the “Red Koreans,” if they get their hands on them.

On September 19, 1950, 2nd Lt. Stewart M. Baker, Jr. was killed during the Battle of Waegwan Road. He had been in battle less than four weeks. He was killed by a mortar shell while acting as a forward observer for his Company. His body was briefly interred at the United Nations Cemetery at Taegu. Lt. Baker’s body was returned to the States in June 1951.

Funeral services for Lt. Stewart Melvin Baker, Jr. were held at the First Methodist Church of Andalusia, Alabama, on July 15, 1951. He was survived by his wife, Ray Nell Allen Baker; his parents Rev. Dr. Stewart Melvin and Mrs. Anne Baker; and two sisters, Mrs. Forney Renfroe and Mrs. Allen Cory. As part of the funeral service, a bronze plaque was unveiled in the entrance to the sanctuary of the First Methodist Church. Burial followed at Andalusia Memorial Cemetery with full military honors.

John Vick

[Sources: Wikipedia; The Montgomery Advertiser, May 9, 1948; The Andalusia Star, September 14, 1950; The Dothan Eagle, July 11, 1951; The Birmingham News, June 24, 1951.]