The sheer cost, in materials and manpower, that it took to win World War 2 is almost unimaginable. So many lives lost, so many men sacrificing to ensure the victory. Men like Lt. Colonel Addison E. Baker. To turn away, many would not have judged him for it. His bomber was in bad shape, but his devotion to duty and commitment to the mission and victory surpassed the normal actions of self-preservation. Men like Addison E. Baker are the reason the evil of Nazi Germany ultimately crumbled.The war raged on in 1943, bombing missions and fighting around the clock...this was all out brutal war. Large formations of bombers carpeted areas with tons upon tons of ordnance from low altitudes to ensure accuracy. Such was the case in the tale of Lt. Colonel Baker. The mission? Operation Tidal Wave. The purpose? To deny the Axis powers oil and fuel.With 177 B-24 Liberators, Operation Tidal Wave was going to put a damper on Axis operations. While en route, the plane carrying the mission navigator went down at sea. The formation took the wrong turn, all except those who followed Addison E. Baker. He made the right turn. As they grew closer to the target area, German anti-aircraft began rocking the bombers. Addison's aircraft "Hell's Wench" sustained a great deal of damage, it was on fire, yet still, Baker's bomber led the way to the target area. It was only after dropping his bombs on target, with devastating effect and avoiding aircraft collisions from the group who missed the turn that Addison E. Baker attempted to gain altitude to save his crew.
It was for naught. "Hell's Wench" crashed killing all on crew members.Where most would turn back, Addison led the way. Despite extreme damage to his aircraft, he completed the mission. He knew what was at stake. He knew that the survival of the men on the ground depended on him and his bombers annihilating the enemies oil supply. This mission was bigger than him, it was bigger than his crew, lives of thousands rested on his success. For his actions, Addison E. Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. As we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice this weekend, we remember that they looked further than themselves and their own lives, but rather to the success of what Eisenhower would later call "...the Great Crusade for which we have striven these many months."Read more stories of American Grit: