Milton G. Baker - Chairman (1955- 1957)

Lieutenant General Milton G. Baker served as Chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board from 1955 to 1957.

General Baker, 79, founder of Valley Forge Military Academy and its superintendent for 44 years until his retirement in 1971, died on July 31, 1976, in his home, “Crossed Sabers,” on the academy grounds in Wayne.

Soldier, educator and civic leader, General Baker’s remarkable energy once prompted an academy staff member to comment, “If it were possible to harness the Old Man and convert his energy into electricity, he could light up a city the size of Baltimore.”

The son of a prosperous shoe manufacturer, he was born in the Hestonville section of Philadelphia and one said he could not remember when he did not want to be a soldier. In his boyhood, he joined the quasi-military Boys Brigade of America and soon was acknowledged leader of his unit. He went to St. John’s College in Annapolis, then essentially a military institution, but left to join the Army when the United States entered World War I.

As a Lieutenant in field artillery, he reached France just in time to learn of the armistice.

“There, I got the bug to open my own military school,” he once told a reporter. Two years later, he returned to Philadelphia as sales manager of his father’s firm, and although he remembered being ”reasonably successful,” there was always the urge to found his own school.

In October 1921, he was commissioned a Captain in the cavalry in the Pennsylvania National Guard, and through the ensuring years, rose to Colonel and Commanding Officer of the 103d Cavalry.

In 1928, with $25,000 in hand, he purchased the old Devon Park Inn in Devon, and announced the creation of the Valley Forge Military Academy. He began with 118 in his corps of cadets that September.

In January, only four months later, the school burned to the ground. Thirty-six hours later, General Baker had it reopened in rented quarters and later rebuilt it on a 200 acre campus in Wayne.

During World War II, the academy, in addition to training its own corps of cadets, trained about 5000 Second Lieutenants for the Air Force and conducted basic training for National Guard officers.

In 1953, General Baker was named Delegate-at-Large to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and in the same year succeeded Eleanor Roosevelt as chairman of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

The next year, he was appointed personal adviser and consultant to Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson, and from September 1955 to September 1957, he served as chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board of the Department of Defense. In this post, he was responsible to Congress for policies governing both the National Guard and Reserve Corps for all the Services.

On two occasions during the Eisenhower Administration, General Baker was offered the appointment of Secretary of the Army, but declined, citing his commitments to the academy.

General Baker was the first recipient of the Department of Defense’s Distinguished Civilian Service Award.

In 1965, Queen Elizabeth II appointed General Baker to Honorary Membership of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

In addition to his military service in the Pennsylvania National Guard, General Baker from 1950 to 1954 was chairman of the State’s Civil Defense Commission, and for the past 20 years, was a trustee of Temple University.

He was a member of the Union League of Philadelphia and New York, and the Penn Club of Philadelphia, among many other organizations.

He also was past National Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of the World Wars, and formed and organized, with several other general officers, the Association of the United States Army, which now claims more than 110,000 members – officers, enlisted men and civilians. He was past president and past chairman of its council of trustees. He was survived by his wife, the former Josephine L. Redenius, and a daughter, Mrs. Ann Baker Martin of Weston, Mass., and two grandchildren. His first wife, May Hagenbuch died in March 1970.

Funeral services were held in the chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion on the academy grounds. An all-night vigil was maintained at his coffin until the time of his funeral. Burial was in the Baker Mausoleum, next to the chapel.

Milton G. Baker
Milton G. Baker