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Baker, Wilder DuPery (1890-1975)


Photograph of Wilder D. Baker

National Archives #80-G-427320

Cropped by author

Baker helped develop antisubmarine tactics in the Atlantic during the First World War. The son of a Kansas newspaperman, he had spent time on submarines as a young officer and later commanded the destroyer squadron that included Reuben James, sunk by a U-boat while on Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic in 1941. Prior to his Atlantic posting, Baker had been naval attaché in London (with instructions to observe the Italian-Ethiopian war) and had been an ROTC instructor at Yale. The friendships he made with the faculty and administrators at Yale would prove valuable during the war.

An early champion of operational research, Baker spent a month in England learning about British antisubmarine tactics from such luminaries as Patrick Blackett, later a Nobel Prize winner in physics, then helped create the Antisubmarine Warfare Operational Research Group (ASWORG). This initially consisted of thirteen actuaries led by another future Nobel laureate, William Shockley, who all became known as "Baker's Dozen".  These men successfully persuaded Baker to arrange for them to go on patrols with the antisubmarine forces so they could see for themselves what was taking place. Baker's call for greater centralization of the training and direction of antisubmarine forces was forcefully spelled out in a 24 June 1942 memo that bluntly began "The Battle of the Atlantic is being lost."

Following his tour with the Antisubmarine Warfare Unit and command of battleship North Carolina, Baker was promoted to command of cruiser-destroyer forces in the Aleutians and amphibious forces in the invasion of Saipan. He later was chief of staff of Task Force 38 under McCain. Together with Captain "Jimmy" Thach, McCain's operations officer, he devised tactics for using picket destroyers with combat air patrols to defend against kamikaze attacks.

Baker was an avid golfer and saw to it that portions of Miramar were converted postwar to golf courses for the use of both active duty and retired servicemen.

Service record

1923-1-11
Lieutenant
Commander, SS S-11
1923-7-14

Commander, SS S-13
1932
Lieutenant commander     
BB Wyoming
1941-10-1
Captain
Commander, Destroyer Squadron 31
1942-2-7
Captain Commander, Antisubmarine Warfare Unit, Atlantic Fleet
1942-12-5

Commander, BB North Carolina
1943-5-27     
Rear admiral     
Commander, Cruiser Division 1
1944-4-14

Commander, Cruiser Division 14
1944-8-11

Chief of staff, 2 Fast Carrier Task Force
1949-2-14

Commander, 11 Naval District

References

Budiansky (2013)

Harrison (2010; accessed 2011-1-26)

Morison (1959)

Naval Historical Center (accessed 2009-6-9)
Pettibone (2006)
Tuohy (2007)


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