Charles J. Baker by Ariana Wilde
Charles J. Baker was one of the many Indiana University students whose education was disrupted by events outside his control (in the form of World War II and conscription); one of several similarities he bears to today’s IU students. While the young man enrolled in IU in fall 1942, there are no records in IU files indicating he ever graduated. However, unlike some of the others who were drafted or volunteered to serve in the war, Baker’s records also lack any killed in action notices. So, what happened to him after his enlistment? And how did his military service affect the course of his life? Also, how does his story contain parallels to our experiences?
Charles Jewell Baker was born October 5, 1923 in Washington, D.C1. While he was a student in Bloomington, he listed his and his parents’ addresses as Washington, D.C., suggesting he attended IU as an out-of-state student. Considering how long such a drive would have taken and how many closer options he had, Baker–like today’s out-of-state and international students–had good reasons to choose IU.
Baker only completed his freshman year at IU yet did well enough that he was part of the Freshman Honor Society of 1942-433. While at IU, he entered the Enlisted Reserve Corps in November 1942 and by July 1943, he was in the Quartermaster Corps Camp Lee, Virginia. The following April, Baker was stationed at Bari, Italy, serving in the Army Air Corps4.
Despite only spending a year at Indiana University, Baker remained as invested in the school’s sports and campus news as students living in Bloomington. While stationed in Italy in 1944, he requested the schedules of the football and basketball teams as well as a subscription to the Indiana Alumni Magazine5.
Mr. Baker also repeatedly expressed interest in returning to IU after the war, ideally during the fall of 1946.6 However, IU records show he did not. Nonetheless, he did continue his education. The 1948 yearbook of George Washington University indicates he did indeed resume college albeit at a different school7. In fact, given the fact that he joined the Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Fraternity in December 1946, he apparently met his goal of reenrolling in fall 19468.
Attending George Washington University instead of Indiana had a lasting impact on his life. In June 1949, shortly after graduating college, Baker married Nancy Giglio9. She appears as a senior in the same 1948 yearbook. In addition to getting a BA in Spanish, Nancy was involved in a variety of organizations, including Greek Life, the Cherry Tree Yearbook, student government, and soccer10. Presumably, given the time of their marriage, Nancy and Charles met at some point during their time at college, which would not have happened had Charles returned to IU.
It is possible that his time in Italy influenced or at least confirmed his choice of career path. While his letters while stationed in Italy suggest an interest in math11, he ended up pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Service at George Washington University. In some 1945 correspondence12, Baker mentions a wonderful 10-day trip to Switzerland that “compensated in part” for having been “located for the past twenty months in Bari, Italy with an Army Air Forces Supply Depot.” Baker’s travel in that time period is also evident in Figure 1 above, where he is photographed in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, some 375 miles away from Bari13.
Whether he had previously sought an international career or not, his experiences abroad continued. New York passenger arrival lists observe Charles and Nancy Baker returning from Paris in August 196214. By this point the couple lived in Arlington, Virginia. Interestingly, although she does not appear in the passenger manifest, her Virginia marriage record15 (with date of birth) demonstrates that the couple’s daughter Alexandra was almost 6-years old at the time of their trip. Based on his Washington Post obituary16, the Bakers had at least three more children at some point, whose names similarly are not on the manifest. While the couple may have simply gone on a vacation without their kids, it is also possible that the trip in question was related to work. According to his Delta Phi Epsilon obituary17, Baker went on to work for the CIA in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Morocco, and became the branch chief of North African affairs before he retired in 1973. Such a job likely involved a fair amount of travel.
Due to his service in World War II, Charles J. Baker was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, not too far away from where he grew up and later graduated from college18. While his path didn’t bring him back to Bloomington or Indiana after the war, Baker’s experience still offers a critical perspective of the IU experience at the time. His correspondence with the Indiana Alumni Magazine indicates an institution and its members trying to support students affected by the war. It also highlights a young man whose short time in Indiana nevertheless allowed him to connect with IU and Hoosiers, including Edward Hutton, whose address he specifically asks about19. The individual captured in the documents in the IU Archives bears a remarkable similarity to current students despite his very different circumstances: he had a favorite professor, participated in extracurricular activities like choir, enjoyed traveling abroad and learning about new cultures, and followed IU basketball. Charles Baker is an exemplar of what an IU student can aspire to, especially as we strive to balance education with drastic world-wide events.
1. 1930 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com, Washington, District of Columbia, page 4B, Enumeration District 0361, FHL microfilm 2340038. United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.
2. IU War Service Record, Indiana University War Service Register records, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, 1.
5. Baker, Charles. Charles Baker to Indiana Alumnae Association, September 22, 1944. Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
6. IU War Service Record, Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, 2.
7. George Washington University. Cherry Tree 1948 Yearbook. Washington D.C.: Graduating Class of 1948, 1948. U.S. School Yearbooks 1900-1999, Ancestry.com, 16.
8. “Chapter Eternal.” Delta Phi Epsilon, last modified January 2014. http://www.deltaphiepsilon.net/Chapter_Eternal.html
9. District of Columbia, Marriage Records, 1810-1953, Ancestry.com. Marriage Records. District of Columbia Marriages. Clerk of the Superior Court, Records Office, Washington D.C. https://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=61404&h=35517&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=9278
10. George Washington University. Cherry Tree 1948 Yearbook. Washington D.C.: Graduating Class of 1948, 1948. U.S. School Yearbooks 1900-1999, Ancestry.com, 24.
11. Baker, Charles. Charles Baker to Indiana Alumnae Association, September 22, 1944. Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
12. IU War Service Record, Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, 2.
13. Archive Photograph Collection. Charles Baker, P0067303. Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington. http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/archivesphotos/results/item.do?itemId=P0067303&searchId=1&searchResultIndex=1
14. New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1967, Ancestry.com. Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. The National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/imageviewer/collections/1277/images/42804_336747-07398?pId=6098269
15. Virginia, Marriages, 1936-2014, Ancestry.com, Roll: 101142203. Virginia Department of Health. Richmond, Virginia. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=charles-jewell-baker&pid=15231322
16. “Charles Jewell Baker.” Washington Post, September 28, 2005. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=charles-jewell-baker&pid=15231322
17. “Chapter Eternal.” Delta Phi Epsilon, last modified January 2014. http://www.deltaphiepsilon.net/Chapter_Eternal.html
18. National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca.1775-2019, Ancestry.com. National Cemetery Administration. Nationwide Gravesite Locator. https://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=8750&h=3697857&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=60901
19. IU War Service Record, Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, 2.