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Remembering WWI in Norfolk

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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 student.

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.