Wisconsin World War II veteran, Harry Dillon Baker will celebrate his 103rd birthday on October 9, 2023. At the request of Baker's family, the museum staff is asking for your help in marking Harry’s milestone by sending a birthday card made out to him which we will deliver to his home.
- Birthday cards received 1127
- Cards received from 136 Wisconsin cities
- Card received from 147 cities in 44 states
- Cards received from the UK, Italy, and Netherlands
We have a supportive community for our veterans. Thank you to all who sent cards.
About Lieutenant Colonel Harry Baker
Madison-born Lieutenant Colonel Baker served for a combined 24 years active duty with the U.S. Army and in the U.S. Army National Guard. He joined the ROTC at Michigan State University and later attended officer candidate school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. On December 11, 1943, two days after being commissioned a 2nd lieutenant at Fort Sill, he married the love of his life, Patricia in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
During World War II, he was assigned to the 76th Infantry Division at Camp McCoy. He deployed to the European Theater 11 months later. Baker served as an artillery spotter/forward observer with K Company, 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment, 76th Infantry Division, Army. He was part of “Patton’s Army” as he describes it, seeing action at the end of the Ardennes-Alsace campaign, and the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns.
1944 image of Battery C, 302nd Field Artillery Battalion, 76th Infantry Division, Camp McCoy, WI. Second Lieutenant Harry Baker is standing first row, ninth from the right, Photo courtesy of the Baker Family.
After the War
After the war ended in Europe, his division was given notice that they would be refit and sent to Japan. Then the atom bombs were dropped.
“We did not believe it,” he says in a 2021 oral history interview.
He was sent home on the RMS Queen Mary with 15,000 troops and recalls eating twice a day on the ship. “It was remarkable.” He processed out at Fort Dix and returned home.
Baker continued to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves at various posts including being the commanding officer of the U.S. Army Reserve 303rd Ordnance Battalion in Saginaw, MI. He retired after 24 years of service.
After Military Service
In addition to his military service, Baker had a successful career with Sears, Roebuck, and Co. He worked for them for 33 years, in five different states, ultimately working on the 43rd floor of the Sears Tower in Chicago. He retired in 1982.
In a 2021 interview Baker was asked what he wanted young people to know, he said, “The only message I could leave is - When the time comes to support your country be the first to be there.”
We’re asking you for your support to make Harry’s 103rd birthday on October 9th memorable. At the request of Lt. Col. Baker’s family, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum is collecting birthday cards to be delivered to Harry at his home in Wisconsin.
"When the time comes to support your country be the first to be there.”
- Harry Baker
There Is More to This Story
Harry Baker's story is remarkable, and yet the longevity of his life measures in sharp contrast to that of the person he is named after, Harry Dillon of Mondovi, WI. Dillon was the roommate of Harry Baker’s father at the University of Wisconsin. They were members of the UW Class of 1913.
Second Lieutenant Dillon commanded Company C of the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division during World War I. While leading a charge at the beginning of the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1918 he was shot. He died October 4th, one month before the armistice. Dillion was 28 years old.
A comrade of Dillon’s wrote in a letter home to Dillon’s family, “He died a brave man with his face toward the enemy.”
The Baker Family and museum staff wanted to be sure the story of 2nd Lt. Harry Dillon was included in the remarkable narrative of Lt. Col. Harry Baker. Every Veteran Is a Story.
Jennifer Stevenson, Wisconsin Veterans Museum Marketing Communications Manager, had the honor of writing this blog post. Thank you to the Baker Family for sharing the story and images, and to the Fort McCoy Office of Public Affairs for making introductions. You can hear more stories of World War II veterans here.