To Stop A Japanese Banzai Charge This Soldier Used His Rifle Like A Baseball Bat

The first wave of the Marines hits the beach at Saipan.
The first wave of the Marines hits the beach at Saipan.

In the movies, we will see the scene replayed where the wounded soldier begs his comrades to leave him rather than risk their lives.  Often we will see the healthy soldiers reject such a notion, but often relent at the pleading of the knowingly mortally wounded brother.

While it makes for a great piece of dramatic cinema, for a few men in life it is nothing less than a true-life war story. Sergeant Thomas Baker never left Saipan in World War 2, but the hard-nosed warrior ensured a good number of the enemy never did either. Specifically, the last 8 Japanese Warriors he would ever encounter.

Ready for War

In some cases, a warrior will demonstrate long before the conflict that they were bred for such an environment.  Then again, in other cases such as Baker’s, they will just rise to the occasion at the very moment in history for which they are needed.

Thomas Baker grew up the same as any individual did during the pre-World War 2 years and enlisted in the United States Army in 1940.  While it remains to be seen what would keep this man a private four years later, his conspicuous gallantry would put to rest any questions about his ability to serve in a fight.

A short four years later, Baker would find himself find himself in one of the most ferocious battles of the war as he pitched against the Japanese forces in Saipan.  In what would become one of the great tragedies of the war, the Japanese had told the occupants of Saipan that they would be raped and killed by the invading American forces if they were ever conquered.

As a result, many Japanese women and children leaped to their deaths off the high cliffs of the island.  Meanwhile, the Japanese soldiers occupying the island fought with the same all or nothing attitude making for quite a bloody affair for American forces.

The Battle for Saipan

Marines take cover behind a M4 Sherman tank while clearing Japanese forces from the northern end of the island of Saipan. 8 July 1944
Marines take cover behind an M4 Sherman tank while clearing Japanese forces from the northern end of the island of Saipan. 8 July 1944

Private Thomas Baker would prove himself more than once on Saipan and could have easily been recommended for accolades long before the action that awarded him the Medal of Honor.  During the fighting, Baker advanced ahead of his unit with a Bazooka to take out an enemy position that was raining down fire upon his unit.

Single-handedly taking out the Japanese pillbox and killing all 12 enemy soldier manning the position; Baker had already proved he could execute a lethal blow to the enemy.


Blasting Caves on Saipan

Later taking up a rear security position so his unit could traverse open terrain, he surprised a group of 6 enemy soldier laying in ambush and killed them all.  Several day of hard battle later, Baker would find himself surprising another group of Japanese soldiers laying behind the enemy lines waiting to ambush American soldiers.

Baker came upon them and personally killed all 12 Japanese preventing a devastating ambush on his fellow soldiers.

The experiences of Thomas Baker to this point were enough to make the man a decorated war Veteran of the Saipan campaign and respected warrior.

But this wasn’t a wrestling match where you could tag out when you are done.  The Japanese were far from ready to forfeit the island, and Baker would have to prove himself once again in the face of a determined enemy.

The Banzai Charge to End all Banzai Charges

Firmly entrenched into a foxhole, Baker was on a late watch when he would come face to face with the largest Japanese Banzai charge of the entire war.

With an estimated 5,000 men, the backed up Japanese led a ferocious infantry charge that demonstrated their tenacity and put every American in a pitched battle for their lives.  Fueled on Sake and a religious tradition for honor, these men would not go easily.

Private Baker opened up with his .30 caliber M1 and dropped as many as he could until his ammunition ran out.  When the enemy closed upon his position and continued the assault, Private Baker stood up and swung his M1 like he was Babe Ruth himself beating down a dozen or more Japanese attackers.

At some point during the battle, Baker was stuck in the stomach with a bullet but refused any attempts to be evacuated.  This hardened warrior was determined to fight to the very end with a tenacity superior to that of the opposing forces.

As Private Baker began to bleed out after being struck another time with a bullet, others attempted to evacuate him.  But rather than let his wounds lead to the death of his comrades, he fought off such attempts and merely requested a pistol to make his final stand.

When he was last seen alive, Private Baker was slumped up against a tree with a pistol loaded with eight rounds. The next time anyone would lay eyes on Baker he was fallen in combat with an empty pistol in one hand and eight dead Japanese around him.

Private Thomas Baker, Medal Of Honor
Private Thomas Baker, Medal Of Honor

There is no one alive to recount the final moment of Private Baker, but what is beyond a shadow of a doubt is that that this man fought till the bitter end.  Thomas Baker was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to Sergeant for his actions on Saipan.

With nothing to go on other than the reports of fellow warriors, it became clear that those who knew battle best considered this man to be a cut above the rest as he died protecting his brothers without a round left in the chamber.

Jeff Edwards

Jeff Edwards is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE