Feature   Know Your Military

Sports Heroes Who Served: College Star Turns Army Aviator

Sept. 1, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

When Hobey Baker entered Princeton University in 1910, he joined the school's hockey, football and baseball teams. For a while he played outfield on the baseball team but he was told by school officials that he could play only two sports at one time, so he dropped baseball. It proved to be the right choice.

A man in a Princeton letter sweater poses for a photo.
Princeton Pose
Hobey Baker poses for a photo at Princeton University in New Jersey in 1910.
Photo By: Courtesy of Princeton University
VIRIN: 100726-O-ZZ999-001

As a freshman in one of his first football games with the Tigers, he helped defeat Ivy League rival Yale when he faked a drop-kick field goal and ran for a touchdown.

In 1911, Baker's second year, Princeton finished their ten-game season with eight wins, no losses and two ties. During a re-match against Yale, on Nov. 18, Baker set a school record that still stands: 13 punt returns for 63 yards. That same year, Baker scored 92 points, a school record that stood until 1974.

In 1912, Princeton also had a winning football season of seven wins, one loss, one tie.

A man in a football uniform poses for a photo.
Football Star
Hobey Baker poses for a photo in his football uniform at Princeton University in New Jersey in 1910.
Photo By: Courtesy of Princeton University
VIRIN: 101126-O-ZZ999-001C
A man in a hockey uniform poses for a photo.
Princeton Hockey
Hobey Baker poses for a photo at Princeton University in New Jersey in 1911.
Photo By: Courtesy of Princeton University
VIRIN: 111226-O-ZZ999-001C

In 1913, his final season, Baker was named captain of the football team. He finished his senior year in 1914 with a winning record of five wins, two losses and one tie. 

In hockey, the Princeton Tigers finished the 1911-12 season eight wins and two losses, and in Baker's final hockey season that concluded in 1914, Princeton won the national championship with a ten-and-three record. 

Baker was noted for his good sportsmanship. After each hockey game, it was said he shook hands with each of the opposing team's players.

In 1916, two years after graduation, Baker joined an aviation unit in New York City that was tasked with training civilians who were interested in passing the reserve military aviator flying test and receiving commissions in the Army's aviation section of the Signal Corps. Baker, an aviator, enjoyed flying even more than playing sports.

A young man in school hockey gear poses for a photo.
Hobey and Hockey
Hobey Baker, in school ice hockey gear, poses for a photo at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., in 1908.
Photo By: Courtesy of St. Paul’s School, Concord, N.H.
VIRIN: 080726-O-ZZ999-001

On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I. That summer, Baker was part of a group of soldiers who were among the first to arrive in Europe. After training in the United Kingdom, he traveled to France where his achievements as a pilot were as illustrious as his collegiate sports record.

In April 1918, Baker joined the 103rd Aero Squadron in France. He downed his first German aircraft the following month and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre medal for valor.

That summer he joined the 13th Aero Squadron. He downed another aircraft and was given command of the 141st Aero Squadron's 26 pilots and 180 enlisted service members.

In October 1918, just four years after graduating from Princeton, Baker was promoted to captain. He shot down two more aircraft on Oct. 28 and Nov. 5.

The war ended Nov. 11, 1918.

A man in an aviator uniform poses for a photo.
Baker in France
Hobey Baker poses for a photo in his Army aviator uniform in France in 1917.
Photo By: Army
VIRIN: 171126-O-ZZ999-001

On Dec. 21, 1918, Baker took his final flight from the 141st, based in Toul, France. His aircraft reportedly had mechanical difficulties and crashed, killing Baker.

Baker was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975. He is the only person ever to be inducted into both.

The Hobey Baker Award was established in 1981 and is awarded annually to the best player in National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey.

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Sports Heroes Graphic
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Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 200706-D-ZZ999-903