by James Stewart Chapter Member

The James Stewart Chapter of the DAR was pleased to have Veteran Fred Baker share some of his experiences in Vietnam at the November meeting. Fred was drafted when he was 19 years old.   “I did not want to go into the military but when I got drafted I made up my mind to do the best job I could do for my country,” said Fred. After Advanced Infantry Training, Fred was aboard a Continental Airlines flight to Vietnam. “When we landed, I looked out the window of the plane and saw soldiers and jeeps with machine guns. Then I looked back in the plane at the nicely dressed stewardesses. What a contrast! It was like the Twilight Zone..” shared Fred.

Fred was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division in Pleiku. Most of the duty was jungle recon patrols which involved his squad (7 or 8 men) being helicoptered out about 20-30 miles, dropped off in a clearing, and making their way back, taking anywhere from 3-5 days. Their mission was to search for enemy movement and report via radio, back to HQ. On these jungle patrols each man had to carry his own ammunition and C-rations, enough to last for the 3-5 days.  Of course they always made it back to the base camp, but sometimes they were amazed because all they had to navigate with was a compass and map.

Typing may have saved Fred’s life! When he was in high school, his father insisted he take typing. One day in Vietnam the Commanding Officer asked if anyone in the camp could type as the communications company was shorthanded. Fred raised his hand and from that moment on his tour of duty changed. He became a teletype operator and eventually became a company clerk much like Radar on Mash. He was moved to several different locations but never had to go back in the jungle again. After a year and a half in Vietnam he was shipped stateside and stationed at an army hospital in Pennsylvania. There he had the chance to be a Military Police Officer, which is the position he held during the remainder of his time in the army. Fred served four years overall.

Fred was a boy thrust into a world unknown to most of us. His story was moving and interesting. The members of the James Stewart Chapter thank Fred and all Veterans for their dedicated and loyal service to America!