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First Name: John

Last Name: Baca

Birthplace: Providence, RI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Philip

Date of Birth: 10 January 1949

Rank: Specialist 4

Years Served: 1968-1970
John P. Baca

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


John P. Baca
Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

John Philip Baca is a former Specialist Fourth Class in the U.S. Army and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions in the Vietnam War.

Born on 10 January 1949, at Providence, RI, Baca grew up in the San Diego, CA, area. He was a troubled kid who was in and out of juvenile hall for various petty crimes. At the age of seventeen, after serving a short time in a California Youth Authority correctional facility, he tried to enlist in the military but couldn't because he was still on parole. Two years later, in 1969, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

On 10 February 1970, he was serving in Vietnam as a Specialist Four with Company D of the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. On that day, in Phuoc Long Province, he was serving on a recoilless rifle team when the lead platoon of his company was ambushed. Baca led his team forward through intense fire to reach the besieged platoon and set up a firing position. When a fragmentation grenade was tossed into their midst, he "unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his own safety," covered it with his helmet and then laid his body over the helmet, smothering the blast and saving eight fellow soldiers from severe injury or death.

Medal of Honor


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4. Baca, Company D, distinguished himself while serving on a recoilless rifle team during a night ambush mission. A platoon from his company was sent to investigate the detonation of an automatic ambush device forward of his unit's main position and soon came under intense enemy fire from concealed positions along the trail. Hearing the heavy firing from the platoon position and realizing that his recoilless rifle team could assist the members of the besieged patrol, Sp4. Baca led his team through the hail of enemy fire to a firing position within the patrol's defensive perimeter. As they prepared to engage the enemy, a fragmentation grenade was thrown into the midst of the patrol. Fully aware of the danger to his comrades, Sp4. Baca unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his own safety, covered the grenade with his steel helmet and fell on it as the grenade exploded, thereby absorbing the lethal fragments and concussion with his body. His gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved 8 men from certain serious injury or death. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by Sp4. Baca, at the risk of his life, are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Baca survived his wounds and, on 15 June 1971, he was formally presented with the Medal of Honor by President Richard M. Nixon. Two other soldiers in his company, Allen J. Lynch and Rodney J. Evans, had previously earned the medal.

After the War

In 1990, Baca returned to Vietnam with a group of ten men from Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project. The group spent eight weeks working alongside Vietnamese building a health clinic in a village north of Hanoi.

Baca rarely speaks publicly about the events for which he was awarded the Medal. He prefers to recount an incident that occurred on Christmas Day, 1969. He was walking ahead of his unit, acting as "point," when he surprised a young North Vietnamese soldier sitting alone on top of a bunker in the jungle. He saw that the soldier could not reach his rifle quickly and, not wanting to shoot him, yelled in Vietnamese for him to surrender. Not only was he able to take his "Christmas gift" alive and unharmed, the young man, twenty years later, was among the Vietnamese that Baca worked with in building the clinic in 1990.

Baca remains active in social causes, particularly related to Vietnam Veteran's issues and the plight of the homeless.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Silver Star
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Air Medal
Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device.


In 2002, a park in Huntington Beach, CA, was named in Baca's honor. At the park's dedication on 27 April, John read the following poem he penned for the occasion:

It's a playground for the young, a walk for the dog,
These grounds will be blessed by the rain and the sun, free from the smog.
A refuge for the birds vacationing south,
"Let's visit Baca's Park."
Soon it won't be long for all to enjoy their song! My buddies and friends have joined me for this delight.
Some unknown evenings I may be sitting upon my bench enjoying the quiet of the night.
What is a park? A site of beauty, a place to rest.
A place to stay, leave one's worries, also leave behind their stress of the day.
A solitude visitor can be still, enjoy the quiet of their thought.
One can hear the voices in the breeze, trees are clapping their hands, with the movement of the leaves.
All humanity can find a space. All are welcomed to a safe, you might say sacred place.
These grounds will be a witness for families, lovers and friends who picnic, play, hold hands and maybe embrace.
It will be filled with harmony and song and the smile of God's grace.
One last thing before I depart and be on my way,
I sat on the bench and a swing in the park that was dedicated in my honor and in my name on this beautiful day.

John P. Baca

Honoree ID: 885   Created by: MHOH




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