Every belligerent nation in World War I was in desperate need of ambulance drivers to care for the wounded. Richard Baker was one of those American drivers who volunteered to put himself in harm's way for the good of others. In his time on the front line, he would receive the French Award Croix de Guerre, which was the highest honor given to a soldier of an ally of France. He received this for his outstanding work in the trenches to save lives.
Richard Henry Baker was
born in Norfolk on July 8th, 1897. He was part of a well-connected family
and took advantage of the opportunities placed before him. After graduating
from Episcopal High School, he joined the fraternal orders of Alpha Tay Omega
and Lamda Pi. He also enrolled at the University of Virginia as a medical
When the United States
entered the war Baker immediately enlisted at an ambulance driver. Once he had completed
his training he was sent to France as part of the ever-expanding American Expeditionary
Force. He first saw action on November 5th in Alsace where he
carried wounded in dead back from the front line.
His highest point came in
May of 1918 when he and his unit were in Belgium supporting the French troops
there. Baker was sent into the trenches with a stretcher to grab the wounded himself
rather than just driving an ambulance. While in the trench he came under heavy
enemy artillery bombardment and many of his friends were killed and wounded. Throughout
this however, Baker continued to drag men out of harms way and providing basic
medical care. For this act he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Some other men
who have been awarded this metal are, Alvin C. York the famed American soldier
from the Battle of the Meuse Argonne, Dwight Eisenhower the supreme allied commander
in Europe during World War II. And Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier
of all time.
After the war Baker
returned to civilian life. The re-enrolled at the University of Virginia and
began to take classes again. This time however, he was taking theology courses
rather than medical. While many people go to war and lose their faith it seemed
that Richard Baker went to war and found his.