- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 31, 2009

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David E. Baker, a combat fighter pilot and former Vietnam War prisoner of war, died Thursday of congestive heart failure. He was 62.

Gen. Baker, called “Bull” by fellow fighter pilots because of his aggressive flying style, was a forward air controller during the Vietnam War whose aircraft was shot down by a missile while flying over Cambodia in June 1972. He is the only prisoner of war repatriated from that war who went on to carry out 20 fighter missions over Baghdad as an F-15 pilot during the Persian Gulf War.

“He was a hero who fought in two wars and a leader in the Air Force who went on to have a tremendous career in the investment community,” said Edward Garlich, director of the Stanford Policy Research Group who worked with Gen. Baker in Washington. “He will be sorely missed.”

Gen. Baker was born in Huntington, N.Y., and began his career in the Air Force in 1969 after graduating from Hofstra University.

He was deployed to then-South Vietnam in January 1972 and was taken prisoner June 27, 1972, after his Cessna O-2A aircraft was shot down. He spent the next eight months as a prisoner of the Viet Cong in Cambodia until his release Feb. 12, 1973.

During the ordeal, he was wounded trying to escape after he stole a rifle and shot several of his captors. He is the only Air Force prisoner repatriated from Cambodia after the war ended.

Complications from the leg wound lingered for years and led to his hospitalization at Walter Reed Army Medical Center several months ago.

Gen. Baker told associates he was lucky to be returned from captivity alive and was the first Air Force POW to be released by the Viet Cong. The release from captivity is “something I will always be proud to remember for the rest of my life,” he once told former POW returnees.

After the war, Gen. Baker became an F-15 fighter pilot and held positions with the Air Force in the Netherlands, Africa and Egypt.

In 1991, he was deployed as deputy commander of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Al Kharj, Saudi Arabia. He flew 20 combat missions during the Gulf War.

In 1994, he worked in the Pentagon as vice director of operational plans and interoperability on the Joint Staff. He retired in 1997 and became a financial adviser and consultant to investors.

His numerous awards and medals include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal with “V” device and oak leaf cluster, and Purple Heart

He is survived by his wife Carol, his sons David Jr. and Christopher, and a twin brother, retired Rear Adm. Stephen Baker.

Gen. Baker composed a poem while in Viet Cong captivity that he wrote down after his release, which thanked God for keeping the camp’s seven men alive despite Communist brutality. It concluded by imagining the day they would be freed:

“We will be a little older, but much more wise,

And I don’t mean from listening to Communist lies.

If there is one thing upon which seven men can agree.

That one thing is: Freedom is not free!”

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