Naval History and Heritage Command

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Paul G. Baker (DE-642)

1944-1969 

Paul Gerald Baker, born 20 February 1910 in Joy, Ill., enlisted in the Navy on 12 December 1929. From 1935, he served with aviation activities and units, and rose through the enlisted ranks to Aviation Chief Radioman. On 14 April 1942, while serving with Fighting Squadron (VF) 2 on board the carrier Lexington (CV-2), he was appointed lieutenant (junior grade) for temporary service. During the Battle of the Coral Sea (4-8 May 1942), Baker downed three Japanese planes and badly damaged a fourth in the engagements on 7 May 1942, but failed to return from his last mission. His herosim and devotion to duty earned for him the posthumous award of the Navy Cross.

(DE-642: displacement 1,400; length 306'; beam 37'; draft 9'5"; speed 23 knots; complement 186; armament 3 3-inch, 10 20 millimeter, 3 21-inch torpedo tubes, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (hedge hog), 2 depth charge tracks; class Buckley)

Paul G. Baker (DE-642) was laid down on 26 September 1943 at San Francisco, Calif., by Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 12 March 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Katherine E. Baker; and commissioned on 25 May 1944, Lt. Cmdr. W. Gordon Cornell, USNR, in command.

Steaming to San Diego on 18 June 1944 for shakedown, Paul G. Baker returned to San Francisco 20 July for post-shakedown repairs and alterations. She departed on 11 August for Seattle, Wash., arriving two days later. After picking up a convoy at Port Angeles, she set course for Pearl Harbor, T.H., on the 19th and arrived on the 27th.

Paul G. Baker cleared Pearl Harbor on 8 September 1944 as part of an escort carrier task unit which called at Emirau Island enroute Manus, Admiralties, where she arrived on 19 September for escort duty under Task Force II. On the 24th she headed for Port Purvis, Florida Island, arriving three days later.

Her duty in the Solomons was largely escort work. She steamed from Purvis Bay on 11 October 1944 to pick up merchantman Mormacsea at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, for escort to Munda, returning to her base on the 15th. She made a similar voyage 19-24 October, escorting Santa Monica from Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, to Treasury Island and Sasavelle Harbor, Munda, before returning independently to Purvis Bay. From late November through most of December 1944, she shuttled from Purvis Bay to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. From 12 January 1945 she trained for the invasion of the Ryukyus. Departing the Russell Islands, 15 March, she steamed via Saipan to Ulithi departing that port on 27 March to escort troop-laden transports for the landings on Okinawa.

The task unit arrived off Okinawa on the day of the initial landings, 1 April 1945, and Paul G. Baker took station on the inner transport screen off Hagushi Beach. Her first taste of enemy air activity came at dusk that day when she opened fire on a plane which crossed astern. She protected the transports during unloading by day and retirement by night until she departed the invasion area on 5 April guarding empty transports to Guam, arriving on the 9th thence to Ulithi to join a convoy for Okinawa.

Arriving off Okinawa on 18 April 1945, Paul G. Baker joined the dangerous but vital patrol screen which protected allied forces fighting to capture the island stronghold. On the 22nd, at 1745, enemy planes attacked without warning. One aircraft crashed into the nearby destroyer Isherwood (DD-520) and at 1847 another closed Paul G. Baker The plane swerved away and crashed into the minesweeper Swallow (AM-65) which capsized in about four minutes. Baker picked up nine officers and 69 men. Other ships also steamed to aid the stricken minesweeper, rescuing all but one of Swallow's crew.

The air attacks continued to be heavy and frequent for patrol vessels off Okinawa. On 12 May 1945 Paul G. Baker opened fire on two suicide planes attacking New Mexico (BB-40) and although she aided in splashing one of the kamikazes the other hit the battleship. On the 24th Baker joined the fire on a single plane which had wandered into the area. On 11 June, a low flying airplane made a dive on LSD-6, shifted the attack to Paul G. Baker, then swerved toward a merchantship. Paul G. Baker's gunners splashed this enemy fifty feet from its intended target.

On 20 June 1945 she sailed in the screen of a battleship and cruiser force to patrol southeast of Okinawa. She returned to Kerama Retto on 1 July to commence a series of five escort voyages between Okinawa and Saipan, lasting until 30 August.

She steamed from Saipan on 11 September 1945 to escort Mallabar (AF-37) to Tokyo Bay, arriving at Yokosuka on the 17th. Five days later she sailed singly for Saipan, arriving on the 25th. On 4 November 1945 she got underway for the U.S. arriving at Astoria, Ore., on the 21st. After overhaul at Portland, Ore., and Bremerton, Wash., she returned to Guam, arriving on 23 May 1946.

Departing Guam on 26 June 1946, she sailed to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, before arriving in Tsingtao, China, on 2 July. She exercised off the China coast with destroyers, then sailed on 3 August to visit Hong Kong. She paid another visit to Sasebo, Japan before departing on 10 September. She returned to Tsingtao on 12 September, and for the next month conducted exercises with a small hunter-killer training group in the area.

Homeward bound , she departed Tsingtao on 12 October 1946, called at Guam 18 October, visited Pearl Harbor (27-28 October), and arrived at San Diego on 4 November. She was decommissioned on 3 February 1947, and was placed in reserve at San Diego. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 December 1969.

Paul G. Baker received one battle star for her World War II service.

Published: Sun Mar 10 03:34:16 EDT 2019