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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via Helpdesk
8th Air Force
04.08.1944 55th Fighter Squadron P-51D Mustang 44-13924 Capt. Harry B. Baker II DFC

Operation: Bomber escort (Mission #541), Peenemúnde, Germany

Date: 4th August 1944 (Friday)

Unit No: 55th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force

Type: P-51D Mustang

Serial: 44-13924

Code: KI:M

Base: Kings Cliffe (Station #367), Northamptonshire, England

Location: Wansford near Sibson, Cambridgeshire, England

Pilot: Capt. Harry Burtnett Baker II DFC O-733780 Age 25. KiA

Capt. Baker was credited with destroying a Bf-109 (no further details)

Above: Reporting of the claim (Courtesy of The Evening News, dated 17th July 1944)

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the 4th August 1944 the 20th Fighter Group was detailed on a withdrawal escort mission to Peenemúnde in Germany.

Shortly after take off from Kings Cliffe, at 11:20 hrs, Capt. Baker was killed when his Mustang crashed at Wansford, about 3 miles due east of the airfield.

Capt. Baker had experienced engine trouble the previous day on take-off in the same P-51. It is almost certain that the crash was due to an engine failure.

Henry John Tate, a farmer from Sibson, Wansford near Peterborough, was one of eight people commended for bravery in their efforts to rescue the pilot from the crashed aircraft. (London Gazette 19th December 1944).

William Morgan informs us that during his family research he found that Henry John Tate was a relative and owned the farm where the Mustang crashed. The plane caught fire on impact with the ground and with ammunition going off, he was able to get to the cockpit to find the pilot alive. Covering his face from the flames he tried to pull the pilot out of the wreckage, but the straps had not been released which meant that with the flames getting worse and surrounding him, he was unable to pull the pilot out and had to retreat. Regrettably it seems that the pilot may well have survived if there was common knowledge regarding the release of straps. The policeman who attended noted that the pilot was struggling to keep the plane steady and made an effort to avoid buildings before impact.

Burial Details

Above: Capt. Baker as a Lt. (Courtesy of The Evening News, dated 21st August 1944) and grave marker (Courtesy of David McInturff - FindAGrave)

Capt. Harry Burtnett Baker II DFC, Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. He was initially buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery before being repatriated to the United States and laid to rest in Section 34, Site 3902 at the Arlington National Cemetery at Fort Myer in Virginia. Born on the 11th April 1919 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The son of Harry Balmer and Martha Lenore (née Burtnett) Baker of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Husband to Sylvia (née Gibson) Baker and father to Harry Gibson Baker of Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, USA.

Awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFC) on the 27th July 1944;
Awarded the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters between the 29th June 1944 and the 23rd February 1945, the last being awarded posthumously.

Memorial service clipping (Courtesy of the Harrisburg Telegraph, dated 4th November 1944)

Researched by Ralph Snape and dedicated to the family of the pilot. Many thanks to William Morgan for the information regarding his relative’s efforts to save the life of Capt. Baker. (Oct 2023)

Other sources listed below:

RS 29.10.2023 - Initial upload

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 30 October 2023, 06:50

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