39th Bomb Group (VH)

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Sgt Leo F. Baker
Left Gunner

Leo Francis Baker grew up in Boston and graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1944.

He entered the service in 1944, serving with the 39th BG (VH)’s Crew 51 as Left Gunner. After WWII he joined the Air Force where he served for 13 years in the Air Force, having served in the Korean War.

In 1957 when he got out of the Air Force, he and his family moved to Birmingham, AL where he worked for Hayes Aircraft (Feb 12, 1957). He was laid off from Hayes during the recession in the early 60s and opened a couple of pizza restaurants.

He was a member of the Alabama Air National Guard.

In January 1961, Baker was among 60 guardsmen who volunteered to work for the CIA training Cuban resistance troops and to possible fly supply missions, under complete secrecy from even his family.

On the early morning of 19 April 1961 – Six Douglas B-26 Invaders painted in Cuban Air Force colors took off on their mission, flying in pairs having taken off in 30 min intervals. As the bombers arrived over the beachhead at sunrise, Cuban fighters were waiting for them. The two lead B-26’s came under attack but were able to deliver their ordnance and return to Nicaragua. Of the next two B-26’s one was able out manuver the T-33 fighters but the other plane was hit and went down. Futher inland, Leo Baker flying as Flight Engineer and his pilot Thomas Willard “Pete” Ray were shot down by Cuban antiaircraft batteries near Playa Giron after they several daring strafing runs. They crahsed in a cane field. Baker and Ray survived the crash but were killed by Cuban soldiers.

Leo Baker received the Distinguished Intelligence Cross from the CIA on Oct. 23, 1973.

Distingusihed Intelligence Cross
For a voluntary act or acts of extraordinary heroism involving the acceptance of existing dangers with conspicuous fortitude and exemplary courage.

In May 1998, the names of the four Americans killed in the Bay of Pigs were added to “The Book of Honor” located in front of the Memorial Wall at CIA Headquarters.

Click on "The Book Of Honor" to enlarge

Leo Baker's daughter Theresa Baker Geiger can be contacted via email:

Crew 51 Main Page
62nd Squadron Crew Index
Source: Theresa Baker Geiger daughter; L.A. Times Article: “The Death of Pete Ray” published 15 March 1998 – – mailing list archive;
“The Wings of Denial: The Alabama Guard in The Bay of Pigs” by Warren Trest and Don Dodd –
Photo/Image Source: "CIA - Book of Honor -; Southern Muesum of Flight - Birmingham, AL