William Joseph Baer was born March 2, 1919 to John Baer Sr. and Helen Baer in Jenkins, Kentucky. The Baer family would grow to include six children. William had three brothers, Theodore, Mikie, and Johnny; and two sisters, Mary and Sylvania. By the time that William was in high school the family had moved to Holden, Logan County, West Virginia, and William attended Logan High School. Before he entered the armed forces, William had worked for the Island Creek Coal Company.
William enlisted in the United States Army on February 14, 1941 at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He was sent overseas to serve in the Pacific on July 15, 1941 and served as a private first class with the Signal Corps Philippine Department. It was while serving in the Philippines that William was captured as a prisoner of war. While being transported to Japan on the Arisan Maru, William lost his life on October 24, 1944 when the unmarked ship was torpedoed by an Allied submarine in the South China Sea. His death was received by the War Department on June 16, 1945.
William was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and his body was buried at sea. In recognition of his honorable service in World War II, and for his ultimate sacrifice, William Joseph Baer's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in Manila, Philippines, and William's was one of the original names inscribed on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial.
Hellships of World War II
West Virginia Veterans Memorial Archives Database
West Virginia Archives and History