Name: Leo Baker Rank/Branch: Flight Engineer/Alabama National Guard Unit: Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Date of Loss: 19 April 1961 Country of Loss: CUBA Loss Coordinates: Status (in 1973): Died in Captivity Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: B26 Missions: Other Personnel in Incident: Thomas "Pete" Ray, DIC
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. 2010
From the National Alliance BITS 'N' PIECES newsletter 03/27/98
"CIA Acknowledges U.S. Pilots downed in Bay of Pigs Mission"
How many American Servicemen, Active Duty, Reserves or National Guard were lost during the ill fated CIA operation to invade Cuba on April 19, 1961? According to an L.A. Times article by Mark Fineman and Dolly Mascarenas at least two Americans recruited from the Alabama National Guard, were shot down over Cuba. Both crewmen, Capt. Pete Ray and flight Engineer Leo Baker survived the crash. Both men were shot and killed by Cuban soldiers. "Baker whose features appeared Latin was buried along with other unclaimed Cuban invaders..."
What happened to Pete Ray? According to the article "Castro was so determined to prove the Americans were there he froze Ray's remains for more than 18 years."
Finally, in 1979, due to efforts of Ray's daughter, Janet Ray Weininger "and after 19 months of painstaking diplomacy with a U.S. government that still did not want to claim him as one of its own, Cuba returned the pilot's body to Alabama."
In 1978, agents met with Weininger "...the agents told the truth about Ray and handed over two medals and a citation posthumously awarding Ray the Distinguished Intelligence Cross, the agency's highest award for valor..."
"Last month, the CIA released a document confirming that U.S. pilots had in fact been shot down over Cuba in 1961. And last week, agency officials acknowledged publicly for the first time that the Alabama pilot was one of theirs."
"These were vortex people, the most important people in the world for a few moments, and then the government just cuts the strings and cuts them loose to drift," said Ray's cousin, Thomas Bailey an Alabama journalist"
"...Weininger said she harbors no animosity toward the Cubans for keeping her father's body all those years. "I blame my government... They led these men into harm's way and then turned [their] back on them."
The Miami Herald
By LIZ BALMASEDA
The hero’s funeral Catherine Baker had planned for her husband 21 years is off. Last week the State Department broke the news to her: Leo Francis Baker, an Alabama Air National Guard pilot killed during the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, already has been buried. .....
Los Angeles Times 03/15/98
Bay of Pigs: the Secret Death of Pete Ray
* The Alabama Air Guard pilot died during ill-fated Cuban invasion attempt. For years, the CIA hid his fate from his family. Havana, meanwhile, kept his body frozen.
By MARK FINEMAN and DOLLY MASCARENAS, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 15, 1998 Home Edition Part A Page I Foreign Desk
HAVANA--When Thomas "Pete" Ray's B-26 bomber was shot down by Cuban antiaircraft batteries near Playa Giron on April 19, 1961, he wasn't there.
So said the CIA........
Times staff writer Fineman reported from Havana, Washington, Miami and Birmingham, Ala. Times researcher Mascarenas reported from Havana.