Oscar Baker

Oscar Baker returns to discuss his experiences as a World War II Veteran, being drafted into the Army, and a surprise encounter with German soldiers.

Transcription

MUSIC PLAYING]

LARRY BURBANK: What’s your date of birth?

OSCAR BAKER: Oh, boy. 6-24-22.

LARRY BURBANK: ’22.

OSCAR BAKER: 1922.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh.

OSCAR BAKER: Coming up month after next, I’ll be 93.

LARRY BURBANK: 93.

OSCAR BAKER: Yep.

LARRY BURBANK: You look good.

OSCAR BAKER: Well, so far.

LARRY BURBANK: So far, OK. The– we’re gonna be inter– interviewing you as a veteran. And what branch of service were you in?

OSCAR BAKER: I was in the Army. You want me to go ahead with telling you about what I did and–?

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, yeah. You were– were you drafted or anything like that?

OSCAR BAKER: Yes, I was. I wouldn’t have went if I hadn’t been drafted, believe me, after– especially after knowing what I went through in the mean time. So–

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: –it was not– in February of 1943, myself, along with a good friend of mine, and neither one of us had been away from home a night in our life. And we had to be in Westminster on the 23rd of February, 1943 at 6:00 AM so catch a bus to go to Fort Meade. And that’s actually where we went.

And we stayed there, I think it was two days, two nights. And they said that our name would be on the list that they posted every morning if we were gonna be leaving Fort Meade. So one morning– we were both anxious to see if we were going to leave together– but we were on two different lists.

LARRY BURBANK: Ah.

OSCAR BAKER: But that didn’t mean too much. Because about a day out of Fort Meade on a train– we didn’t know where it was going– he came up beside of me. And we– we sat together all the way, four days and three nights. And we ended up in Fort Lewis, Washington to take basic training.

LARRY BURBANK: Clear across the country.

OSCAR BAKER (LAUGHING): Fort Lewis was– we looked later on the map. And we’d have been 90 miles closer to home if we had been in the Northwestern tip of Ireland. So that’s how far away we were. But anyway, we– and when we got to Fort Lewis, it was raining. And it was after dark. And a band was there playing “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here.” I’ll never forget that. That was something that you would remember by being a little, old country boy who’d never been away from home too much before.

LARRY BURBANK: Absolutely. So they–

OSCAR BAKER: So that’s my induction.

LARRY BURBANK: –had you all pumped up, didn’t they?

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, yeah. That was my induction into the armed forces.

LARRY BURBANK: And did you feel good about that?

OSCAR BAKER: Well, I felt as good as you could. Because it was– everything was so strange. You think back when you were 19 years old.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: And you run across the country on a train. And a band playing and it’s raining. Now, you know, this is unusual, really. We had no idea what to expect.

LARRY BURBANK: But you weren’t– you weren’t alone. ‘Cause you had other people feeling the same way.

OSCAR BAKER: Oh, that whole train was full of new GI’s.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: We had our uniforms on. ‘Course, the gave us that in Fort Meade.

LARRY BURBANK: Uh-huh.

OSCAR BAKER: But the training, we didn’t know where we were going to go for that. And this, incidentally, turned out to be the 44th Infantry Division. And they were supplying personnel for that– to command that division to get that started. It had been disbanded after World War I. And it was getting back and to save them.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, so the division was going up to speed after–

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: –they had been disbanded. Oh.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, that’s what it was all about. So– so I was at Ford Lewis from February until June. And I thought I was going to get to come home. And I didn’t. So I didn’t get a leave. But we were on bivouac. And they came out and got me to go back to the main area. And I didn’t know what for. And come to find out, I’d been selected to go to Army Specialized Training Program– ASTP they called it– during World War II. You never heard of that?

LARRY BURBANK: What was your specialty?

OSCAR BAKER: Huh?

LARRY BURBANK: What was your specialty?

OSCAR BAKER: Well, it wasn’t a specialty. It was two things. You either were going to be trained to speak Russian. Or you were going to be an engineer. So they put me in the Engineer Battalion. And we went to– to University of Idaho at Moscow, Idaho, where the capital of Idaho was. And that was for screening. And we took some more tests. And then they ended up sending me back to Eugene, Oregon to the University of Oregon. And I was there for nine months– classrooms only– and going to– learning how to be an engineer.

LARRY BURBANK: Ah.

OSCAR BAKER: And then because of the advent of the invasion of Europe, they decided to disband that to man-up all the divisions. And so they disbanded the STP. And the University of Oregon sent me down to Camp Cooke, California to the 11th Armored Division.

LARRY BURBANK: Mmm.

OSCAR BAKER: ‘Cause I separated from my buddy, who still was in– was in Fort Lewis. And he got– he was always lucky. He got set up as a driver for the company commander. And we’d be out on bivouac walking the distance back to the camp every evening. And he’d ride behind his jeep and toot the horn and says, hi, Bake’, you know.

He had– he had a wonderful job. But I’ll tell you a little bit more about him at the end. Because we– I followed him all over the world and ended up back at this hospital where he was. The same day I got there, he was leaving.

LARRY BURBANK: Hm. So he–

OSCAR BAKER: And I told he’d be dumb enough to go back to Fort Meade to re-enlist. He said, no, he wouldn’t. But he stayed 22 years and ended up as a recruitment sergeant.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, good.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: So how many years did you spend in the Army?

OSCAR BAKER: Well, I was in it 30 months– two and a half years.

LARRY BURBANK: Two and a half years.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, I went in in February of ’43 and got out in August of ’45.

LARRY BURBANK: OK. Now, if– if you had not been drafted, you would probably not have entered the military.

OSCAR BAKER: I probably would not have been involved.

LARRY BURBANK: Uh-huh.

OSCAR BAKER: I don’t know. Well, I guess I would have had to enlist, wouldn’t I?

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: I mean, when your that age and you’re able–

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: –you either go or they drag you along to go. So they almost had to drag me. But I went anyhow.

LARRY BURBANK: You went, anyway.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: OK. So do you– you spent your time and got out, and then came back to Carroll County?

OSCAR BAKER: Oh, yeah. Well, there’s a whole lot happened over– do you want to hear about the experiences overseas?

LARRY BURBANK: Well, I was going to get to it.

OSCAR BAKER: Right, OK.

LARRY BURBANK: Go right ahead. Yeah, go right– well, tell me about that.

OSCAR BAKER: Well, the thing was when I went to Camp Cooke, California–

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm.

OSCAR BAKER: –that was in the– in the summer of ’43– or ’44, rath– no, ’43. And then I went overseas in September of ’44 after the invasion.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: Our division did. In fact, our division was completely on one ship. It was an Italian luxury liner. And it was all 11,000 men were on that one ship. And we– [CHUCKLES] we had two meals a day. And I was on the third bunk on the– on the deck, third bunk from the bottom. It had four-bunk high out on the– out on the deck. And you got in line to eat your meal. And you got two meals a day.

And by– and when you got through your first meal, you got back in line for your second meal, which took you about four hours to get to that next meal. It was that many people in a very small kitchen area.

LARRY BURBANK: Huh.

OSCAR BAKER: And then when you went down in the hole to get your meal, you brought it back up, set it on your bunk, and ate it.

LARRY BURBANK: Ah.

OSCAR BAKER: And the thing I remember very vividly was at night time this convoy– it was pitch dark.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: And here some of us would stand along the– on the deck and look out over the ocean and wonder if– how many of us will be coming back.

LARRY BURBANK: That’s all’s in your mind, isn’t it?

OSCAR BAKER (LAUGHING): Yeah, that’s right.

LARRY BURBANK: Yeah.

OSCAR BAKER: Yep. But anyway, we got over to England. And we– in September– and we were in England ’til about the last part of October before they sent us b– and then when the Battle of the Bulge was– they surmised this was going to start. So they shoved us real quick over to the mainland, o– over to France.

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm.

OSCAR BAKER: And then right away we had to high-tail it up to Belgium area. Because it was getting to be the first part of December then. And the Battle of the Bulge started on the 16th of December. And we were stationed to the Hurtgen Forest. And that’s where we met our first contact with the enemy. Because they– they had this artillery come into Hurtgen Forest. And I don’t know if you ever heard of this or not, but I– I’d never heard of it. But these shells would go off up in the trees. And a lot of our boys got killed because the trees would– splinters of the wood, would come down, go through their bodies.

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm.

OSCAR BAKER: That’s how they cap– killed a lot of the GI’s that way.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: But anyway, it ended up– then when the Battle of the Bulge really started, they sent us up to protect the Meuse River. And we were the last– they were saying we were to hold out to the last man to keep them from getting to the Meuse River. Because if they got across the Meuse River, they would go to Rotterdam and cut off our outfit from the British. And there might be hurtin’ on our part. So we didn’t know it at the time, but we found out that later. And– and that was when Bastogne, you know, was surrounded and all that stuff. And we weren’t far from that.

LARRY BURBANK: Were you pretty well-equipped for the winter?

OSCAR BAKER: No.

LARRY BURBANK: I was wondering about that.

OSCAR BAKER: No, when we first started, we had just ordinary combat boots on, you know.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: And– and we moved from one place to the other in half-tracks.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: And on the second day of January, we were moving. And there weren’t supposed to be any Germans close by. But there were. Because they started zeroing in on our group of– of half-tracks. And then finally when they found the right range, they really hammered us.

And that’s where I got messed up. Because one hit under the front end and flipped this half-track over. And the guy and I sitting in the back end across from each other, we were the only two that survived that mess. And we stayed out in the snow all night then. Because I had both legs broken, shrapnel in my legs. And I still don’t have no feeling in my left leg.

LARRY BURBANK: I see.

OSCAR BAKER: Got messed up pretty good. So I stayed in the hospital from that time on until I got discharged on the 31st of August. And one memorable thing that– that I always tell my friends that I think about more than anything else was when they sent us back to Paris in the hospital, there was a– we were up on several floors above the ground. And they pushed my bed over to look out the window to see the Eiffel Tower. And the lights just went back on, had just been turned back on.

LARRY BURBANK: Is that right?

OSCAR BAKER: That was a beautiful sight.

LARRY BURBANK: Uh-huh.

OSCAR BAKER: The next day, they sent me to Scotland. And I had several more operations before May the 8th. And as I showed you this paper–

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: –stars and stripes, May the 8th, the war was over. And that was the same day they were carrying me up the gangplank to get on the hospital ship to come home. And that’s how I got that stars and stripes. They handed it to me. And I kept it ever since.

LARRY BURBANK: Could we take a look at that now?

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: That’s– that’s a [INAUDIBLE].

OSCAR BAKER: It– it’s the original. And that’s– that’s what it said.

LARRY BURBANK: “Germany Quits.”

OSCAR BAKER: Yep. That was May the 8th, 1945. Yep. Yeah, I hold that in high esteem. Because that meant a lot.

LARRY BURBANK: Absolutely.

OSCAR BAKER: And then three day– two days out of Southampton, England, a German sub surfaced right in front of us. ‘Cause we were out on the deck.

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm.

OSCAR BAKER: And they wanted to know where they could surrender. But we thought there was– maliciously gonna maybe upset the– the hospital ship.

LARRY BURBANK: So they were wanting to surrender to you.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, they wanted to surrender to somebody. They didn’t know who.

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm.

OSCAR BAKER: Very interesting. So then I had– I’ll tell you about the rest of it later on. Is there something else you want to ask me?

LARRY BURBANK: Well, I was just going to ask you, were you married at the time you went out?

OSCAR BAKER: No, no, no, no, no.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: That’s a whole new story.

LARRY BURBANK: OK. And your family background?

OSCAR BAKER: Well, my fam– my family was all these farmers.

LARRY BURBANK: All farmers.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, my father was a farmer all his life. And my brother was. I had a brother and a sister. And my brother was 17 and a half years older than me. And my sister was 16 years older than me.

LARRY BURBANK: Really?

OSCAR BAKER: And I was the baby of the family. And they claimed that they babied me and spoiled me, you know.

LARRY BURBANK: Did they see service in any kind?

OSCAR BAKER: No, no, no.

LARRY BURBANK: OK

OSCAR BAKER: I was the only one in the family.

LARRY BURBANK: Uh-huh. OK. The next question would be, did any of your high school friends go in about the same time you did?

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, quite a few of them did. Quite a few of them did. And I only remember one or two. One went in the Navy. And he was messed up over in the Iwo Jima area off the coast of Imo Jima. And they buried him at sea.

LARRY BURBANK: Uh-huh.

OSCAR BAKER: And– but other than that, the other guys came home. But there was three real good friends of mine. And they all three were heavy smokers.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh.

OSCAR BAKER: And they all three died in their early 50s.

LARRY BURBANK: I see.

OSCAR BAKER: And I often wondered about that, whether the smoking was what it was. But it seemed very strange to me that the three of them, real close together, and all of them– all three of them died about the same ages.

LARRY BURBANK: I see. In– in World War II, we had what we called Combat Rations, or C-Rations.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah. Oh, yeah. That’s what we lived on for quite a while in the field.

LARRY BURBANK: Right, right.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: I guess those got a little bit old, but–

OSCAR BAKER: Oh, yeah. And we usually ate the chocolate– kept the chocolate bars. And that’s what kept us going, I think, with our needing nourishment.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: Because that was about all we had towards the end over there. Now, we did have a nice, hot meal on Christmas day. I remember that. I don’t know how it was done. But it was done, anyhow. There was a lot of little things that you think about as time goes on, little stories that were interesting and stories that might be of interest to some people, and not interest to another. And some of that was the– the food business and how they got our strength and all.

LARRY BURBANK: Right. I know– and that C-Rations, I’ve– I’ve had a few in my– in my experience. But they had a what they called a P38.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, that’s can opener.

LARRY BURBANK: That’s called a P38?

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah. It’s a can opener. It does a real sharp little job. You stuck it down in there and wiggled it around and opened up the can as best you could. And then you got it on here with the dog tags, right?

LARRY BURBANK: Right. ‘Cause I always had my dog tags. I always could open a can.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, there you go.

LARRY BURBANK: Uh-huh.

OSCAR BAKER: That little thing there, you wouldn’t think it would be that powerful. But it did a good job.

LARRY BURBANK: It– it will open any can you want.

OSCAR BAKER: And everybody had one of them. They usually put it on their ring with their dog tags, too, so they w– we would have it.

LARRY BURBANK: Right, right. So that’s kind of a– kind of a keepsake. Do you have–

OSCAR BAKER: That’s right.

LARRY BURBANK: Do you have one of those?

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, I’ve got my dog– I don’t have a P38, no.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, OK.

OSCAR BAKER: I did have. But when I went in the hospital, I think they– I don’t know. It disappeared. I don’t know.

LARRY BURBANK: If I have a spare, I will get you the P38.

OSCAR BAKER: All right. Yeah, ’cause I used it quite often.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, yes. Yes.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: ‘Cause you couldn’t open a can without it.

OSCAR BAKER: Every day. That’s right. That’s was the only way.

LARRY BURBANK: And here, I’ve brought in a World War II mess kit.

OSCAR BAKER: You brought a mess kit, too, did you?

LARRY BURBANK: Yeah.

OSCAR BAKER: Isn’t that something? This– this was the top part. And this went over and held it together.

LARRY BURBANK: You want to show us how that works?

OSCAR BAKER: Well, I don’t know if I remember. It was long ago. I don’t know if I remember. [METAL CLANKING] I don’t know if I remember or not– mess kit. Is that– is that the way– how did it go?

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: You show me.

LARRY BURBANK: Yeah, you opened it up.

OSCAR BAKER: Been a while.

LARRY BURBANK: And you would put this over here like this.

OSCAR BAKER: Upside down. There you go, like that. And that would be your dinner.

LARRY BURBANK: Right. And this, you’ve got your knife, fork, and spoon.

OSCAR BAKER: That’s right.

LARRY BURBANK: And normally, they’d just put everything in here a mess.

OSCAR BAKER: That’s right.

LARRY BURBANK: And then maybe dessert or something over here.

OSCAR BAKER: That’s the reason they call it a mess kit.

LARRY BURBANK: Mess kit, because it–

OSCAR BAKER: It was a mess.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: But you know, very seldom did we ever use this out on the field.

LARRY BURBANK: No, you didn’t?

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, no. Because we ended up just keeping one part of it. You never got a hot meal very often.

LARRY BURBANK: So you didn’t use this a whole lot.

OSCAR BAKER: No, no.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: No. In fact, everything you could get rid of that had any weight or unusual shape to it you got rid of as soon as you could.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, got rid of it.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Keep– keep everything quiet.

OSCAR BAKER: Quiet, and then also lightweight.

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm.

OSCAR BAKER: You didn’t want to carry around any more than you had to.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: But you talk about the– the shoes and all, we didn’t get– we got later on the heavier boots, but nothing like protection from the cold. You know, they claimed over there that that winter was the coldest winter they’d had in years.

LARRY BURBANK: Uh-huh.

OSCAR BAKER: ‘Cause it got down way below zero. And– and the roads froze. And it was hard to move equipment that didn’t have a track on it.

LARRY BURBANK: Sure.

OSCAR BAKER: It you just depended on four wheels, it was real hard for trucks to move.

LARRY BURBANK: I can remember Germany having a real damp cold.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah. Well, this was cold. But it wasn’t very damp. But it was cold, and snow.

LARRY BURBANK: Uh-huh.

OSCAR BAKER: It was– you know how we kept warm a lot of times? And this is a terrible thing to say. But a lot of farmers over there, they– they cleaned out their barns and piled what they call a manure pile. Now, it was dry manure. It wasn’t fresh manure or anything like that.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: And they buried their potatoes and turnips in these mounds to keep them from freezing.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: And we found that out. And we started digging into these mounds and getting warm. Because steam would come out of there. And that– that’s a good way to keep warm out in the field.

LARRY BURBANK: Is that right?

OSCAR BAKER: And we did that quite often, yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Huh.

OSCAR BAKER: Yep.

LARRY BURBANK: So it’s the old Yankee ingenuity.

OSCAR BAKER: That’s right. Take advantage of anything you can to keep yourself going, yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm. That’s right. Absolutely. Another question I have here for you if you have a moment is, what did you do when you came home from the war? And what about your–

OSCAR BAKER: We’ll let me tell you about h–

LARRY BURBANK: –first day on– on US soil.

OSCAR BAKER: OK. When I– I told you about coming– getting on the ship, the hospital ship.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: We came back to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: Which is the same place we left from. And– and when we got there, they said, anybody that lives within two hours of this place can go home except if you have a cast on. Well, I had a walking cast on one foot yet.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: So the nurse said to me, put a black sock over that. Stand behind somebody. And put your name in for a pass. And when they come out– your name’s Baker– they’ll call it early on. So reach over somebody’s shoulder and get your pass and go out to the bus and wait. And that way they won’t know that you got a cast on your foot. And you can go home.

LARRY BURBANK: You have it camouflaged.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah. So I did. So I got back to Baltimore. Well, first off, when I got on this train, you go clonking up the steps to get on the train over this thing on your feet.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: And a lot of people– the train was loaded. And they thought I had a artificial leg, I guess. So they– everybody jumped up, wanted me to sit down in their seat. So I got a good seat that way on the way back to Baltimore.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, good.

OSCAR BAKER: When I got to Baltimore, I got a cab over to my uncle’s house. And he was surprised to see me. ‘Cause I hadn’t told my mother. My father wasn’t living then. But I hadn’t–

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: –told my mother I was back in the country. So he– I asked him to take me up to– to my house, which was about 20 miles out of Baltimore. And he says, sure. So we got up there at my house. And it was just almost gettin’ dark.

LARRY BURBANK: Uh-huh.

OSCAR BAKER: And now, this was, uh– this was– let me see now. This was in– in August.

LARRY BURBANK: August, OK.

OSCAR BAKER: Because I got discharged the 31st of August. So I did this on several times coming back from the hospital. But anyway, I was assigned to the hospital in North Carolina, Duke University.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, good.

OSCAR BAKER: And so when I got home, my mother was in the house. And my brother was there visiting. ‘Cause it was on a Sunday evening.

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm.

OSCAR BAKER: And he– I said– told him to keep quiet, don’t say anything bad. And my mother came out of the house. And she saw me. And she went berserk. And– and when she saw me hopping on this foot, she thought I’d lost that leg.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh.

OSCAR BAKER: She said, I knew it, he had lost his leg. But I hadn’t. But anyway, I stayed home for 24 hours and went back. And then– then there was a minister in Mount Airy that lived in North Carolina. And he would go home every once in a while. And the rest of the month of August I’d go back with him on Monday morning to– to the hospital. And then he’d let me come home.

So I was theoretically in the hospital from the second day of January of ’45 ’til the 31st of August. When I got discharged, I got a what they call a CDD– Certificate of Disability Discharge. So that’s how I got out.

LARRY BURBANK: So you– you went back home. And then you stayed around the house. And then did you go back to work anywhere?

OSCAR BAKER: Well, yes. After a while I went to work as a clerk in a clothing store in Mount Airy– men’s clothing.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: And I was there about two months. Then Raymond Mohs was a good friend of mine. And he was a fire department captain in the government fire department at the Naval Ordnance Lab down on New Hampshire Avenue. And he– he asked me if I’d want a job at the government, ’cause they had an opening. I said, sure, I’d love to. So that’s how I got started. And I stayed in that fire service in the government for 35 years. And I ended up– I retired as fire chief at the National Bureau of Standards in Gaithersburg.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, really?

OSCAR BAKER: And that’s– and I’ve had 75 years in the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Department.

LARRY BURBANK: 75 years.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah. 74 of those were active, where I made my points for what they call Length of Service Award Program. And so that’s been going on ever since.

LARRY BURBANK: Let’s go back a little bit. When you came home, you were single.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Did you get married soon after you come home?

OSCAR BAKER: Well, I had a good friend at home. This is funny. This man’s wife is now living at where I am at Lorien Assisted Living in Mount Airy.

LARRY BURBANK: OK

OSCAR BAKER: And his– her husband was a very close friend of mine. We used to double date and go around together. So he got married. I accuse her of taking him away from me. ‘Cause I was by myself after he got married to her.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: And I used to call her and ask her what she was having for dinner. And she’d tell me. If something good, well, I’d– I’d say, put on another plate. So I’d go over and eat with them. ‘Cause he was a farmer. And so she said, it’s good that you’re coming tonight. ‘Cause I got my cousin’s gonna be here. And she’s looking for a man. I said, well, I’m looking for a woman. Let’s see what happens. [LAUGHTER] So when I got there, we both liked each other. And then we ended up getting married a year after that.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, good.

OSCAR BAKER: So it– that was in August. And we got married a year from that, ’46 in September. So it all started right there.

LARRY BURBANK: OK. And you’ve been married for several years. Had some children?

OSCAR BAKER: Oh, yeah. We had three boys. We got two grandsons and two great-grandsons, no girls.

LARRY BURBANK: No girls?

OSCAR BAKER: [INAUDIBLE] all boys. And yeah, I had three boys. And we lived first in Mount Airy. We had a house in Mount Airy. Then we built one right outside of Mount Airy.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: And then we moved back to the– to the town where they had senior housing. And we bought the first house there that they had offered. So we moved into that. And we were married, I think, some 67 years before she passed away. She had Parkinson’s disease–

LARRY BURBANK: Oh, my.

OSCAR BAKER: –for 27 years. And I kept her at home the whole time. And she died at the hospital. She couldn’t breathe anymore. So she passed away.

LARRY BURBANK: Ah. Yeah, that’s–

OSCAR BAKER: Man, you’ve got it all out of me, everything.

LARRY BURBANK: I know– [LAUGHTER] Uh, what military awards did you earn during your wartime service?

OSCAR BAKER: Well, let’s see. Let me– let me get this– get this discharge off of here.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: And that’ll tell you. Let’s see. It says, [INAUDIBLE] European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with two Bronze Battle Stars and two Battle Stars with Rhineland and Ardennes.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: –from over there. And then I got the– the– what is it? Was it a purple heart and– the Bronze– Bronze–

LARRY BURBANK: Bronze Star?

OSCAR BAKER: –Medal. Bronze Medal with two Battle Stars, yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Bronze Star, OK.

OSCAR BAKER: And the one I’m prized mostly is the Combat Infantry Badge. ‘Cause that gave me $10 more a month.

LARRY BURBANK: Oh-ho.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Plus your combat pay.

OSCAR BAKER: Combat Infantry, yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm.

OSCAR BAKER: That was really interesting.

LARRY BURBANK: What–

OSCAR BAKER: This is it. This is my discharge from–

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: –the hospital.

LARRY BURBANK: So the Combat Infantry Badge, how long ago course was that?

OSCAR BAKER: There’s no course. If you had combat and you were in the infantry– see, I was in the 11th Armored Division.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: And I was in the 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion, Company B. 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion. And instead of walking, we rode on half-tracks, instead of com– regular infantry.

LARRY BURBANK: So you got your Combat Infantry Badge on the job training?

OSCAR BAKER: That’s right. That’s right. (LAUGHING) sure did. It was pretty vicious training, too.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Is there anyth– what is the most memorable day?

OSCAR BAKER: I told you. The most memorable day was that seeing that light go on that Eiffel Tower in that hospital.

LARRY BURBANK: That was the– that was the–

OSCAR BAKER: That was the highlight of my–

LARRY BURBANK: OK

OSCAR BAKER: –overseas bit.

LARRY BURBANK: OK.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, it really was.

LARRY BURBANK: And then when you stepped back on US soil, did you want to kiss the ground?

OSCAR BAKER: Yes, you did. You wanted to– you were so–

LARRY BURBANK: Yes.

OSCAR BAKER: –joyful about being back home.

LARRY BURBANK: Yes.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah, you know, people don’t– you can’t imagine–

LARRY BURBANK: No.

OSCAR BAKER: –what that’s like unless you lived it.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: Because you can tell people all you want about that experience. But it meant nothing until– unless you lived it.

LARRY BURBANK: Exactly. Right.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: There’s a certain bond between military.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Yeah.

OSCAR BAKER: Oh, yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: Mhm.

OSCAR BAKER: And you know, people say, what would you tell people today that join the military? I’d say, do the best you can. Because you live to serve the country.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: And it’s your duty, really.

LARRY BURBANK: Right.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah.

LARRY BURBANK: And you don’t reg– you don’t regret a day of it.

OSCAR BAKER: That’s right.

LARRY BURBANK: Nope.

OSCAR BAKER: Yeah. No, that’s right. But you wouldn’t want to go through it again.

LARRY BURBANK: Exactly.

OSCAR BAKER: But you wouldn’t give up a day of it. Because you learned so much. Uh-huh.

LARRY BURBANK: OK. Well, thank you, Oscar.

OSCAR BAKER: OK, buddy.

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