By Bart Marcois, OpsLens.com
The picture captures the essence of the man: quietly confident, ready for anything, who knows who he is and what he’s done. Lt. Vernon Baker led a heavy weapons platoon in a real-life ‘Dirty Dozen’ style commando raid on a German-occupied castle in Italy. The raid broke the German hold on the “Gothic Line,’ the fortified German machine-gun, artillery, and bunker positions that stretched across northern Italy.
Lt. Vernon Baker was given the mission to take Aghinolfi Castle, but he had seen whole companies mowed down by German defensive fire. So at 5:00 a..m. on 5 April 1945, he led 25 men through the minefields, bunkers and machine gun nests that protected the castle from a frontal assault. He slipped up under the first bunker and shot the guards as they were looking through a telescope for signs of American forces. He then attacked several more bunkers in the same way.
After he had destroyed several bunkers and machine gun nests, and made it close to the walls of the castle, the Germans were suddenly aware of his platoon and counterattacked. One threw a grenade that hit Baker’s white company commander in the head, but failed to detonate. Baker killed him before he could attack again, saving his captain’s life.