Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sergeant Baker, Execution Story

More family history and recollection. From my mothers side of the family. This is very special to me as I never got to meet my mother's father in person, only through his words as a writer in the mid-west and DC.

My mother writes as preface in email:

"Chris (my uncle) sent me a newspaper (a scanned copy) of an article that appeared in 1945. It was taken from a letter written by your grandfather, my father, Bob Baker. Thought you’d like to see the kind of writer he was … wish I could find more of his stuff. Three newspapers are cited as places he’d written for. Here it is."

From the American Legionnaire (Hoosier) newspaper, 1945

Hoosier Photographer Tells How French Executed a Spy

The dramatic story of how the French executed a spy is told by Sergeant Robert Baker, son of Guy L. Baker, managing director of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. The letter was written to Felix (Star) Brown, connected with the Motor Vehicle division of the state:

“Before it happened, we talked and laughed among ourselves. In the park ravine, where the light of breaking dawn threw down long shadows, we clumped about in muddy grass.

We had saluted and nodded to the French officers in charge. Now we looked at the riflemen – two rows of seven each. Young fellows, most in their early twenties. And rather nervous – two or three unable to test their weapons without assistance.

The Stage Was Set

Down on the floor of the small natural bowl, we continued to mill about, talking of trivial, unrelated subjects. More French officers, dignified and business-like, joined our circle which now included a New York Times reporter, three cameramen, and half a dozen intelligence officials from headquarters. On the dark bowl rim behind us fifty or so curious GIs stood in knots, audibly speculating on what was about to occur.

Suddenly the condemned man was coming toward us, with a guarding soldier on either side. He carried a stub of a cigarette in one hand, while the other was tied by rope to the wrist of an escort. He was a small, thin fellow, pale and sickly-looking, but he walked steadily towards the appointed spot.

When 50 feet from the stake, the prisoner threw away the cigarette butt. He paused to exhale, and for the only time, appeared to falter. Between the two impassive guards he reached the stake and his body reeled slightly as he was pushed down to his knees. An officer stepped from behind him with a black handkerchief, and the little man, looking directly at the men with the rifles, tried to remonstrate against the blinding cloth. But it was too late and his will to resist vanished quickly. Almost as quickly the big handkerchief went around his head, covering all his face, and the rope that had been tied to the guard’s arm was slipped around the stake at the prisoner’s back.

Firing Squad Ready

The riflemen, coached by sign rather than word, cocked, aimed, and squeezed all the volley of lead. Blended into the loud flash of their fire was the spraying one of a camera bulb. The half-hooded, kneeling figure lurched into the air, then crumpled to the ground. In another moment – blood welling from the twisted body – a pistol bearer strode forward, and leaning over the man’s head, administered the coup de grace.

In the dim dawn light, two medical officers whispered briefly before signing certificates. Then civilian flunkies lifted the body, and on a makeshift little carried it from the silent ravine to a waiting cart.

For his aid to the Gestapo, one Frenchman had paid. Hundreds more await the fate of the collaborationist.


Sergeant Baker, who wrote the above thrilling story, won a Legion contest writing on, “Why I Am Proud to Be An American,” while a student at Wabash. He was a former news writer for the Wabash Plain Dealer, New Castle Times, Indianapolis Times, Bloomington Star, and U.S. Daily. He attended George Washington University, and several Army schools. His brother-in-law, Lieutenant James F. Applewhite, was killed in an Army airplane crash.

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