A Hero Walked Among Us

Owen Charles (OC, aka Mad Dog) Baker, Col., USMC (Ret.), 1932 – 2018. OC died on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at Fairfax Hospital with family members by his side, a resident of Fairfax, VA at the time. OC was born in Breckenridge, MN in 1932 and attended school in So. St. Paul.

OC was a retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel who began his career as an enlisted man. He spent three years as an aviation structural technician on the R5D (C-54) before receiving an appointment to the US Naval Academy. After graduating with distinction in 1957 as a Marine Second lieutenant, he was commissioned in the Marine Corps and began flight training. His lifelong dream of flying was realized after getting his wings of gold from Pensacola. He was able to follow that dream for the next 60 years through flying to defend his country and as a hobby with good friends before and after retirement. He flew the FJ-4B Fury, the first Navy jet designed to carry a nuclear weapon and launch from an aircraft carrier. He then flew the A-4 Skyhawk, the A-6 Intruder, and the A-7 Corsair II. Later, he transitioned into rotary wing aircraft and flew the H-46 during the Vietnam War.

Known as OC “Mad Dog” Baker, he conducted many heroic exploits, such as inserting and extracting Special Forces teams behind enemy lines. He did this in spite of heavy enemy gunfire directed at his helicopter. He also helped the Marine Corps evaluate the VX-15, a forerunner to the Osprey rotorcraft. OC served his country with distinction, most notably in Vietnam, but it was tough to get him to talk about those accomplishments. His various service medals included the Navy Unit Commendation, Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star, Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” and Gold Star and 32 Air Medals.

OC married Barbara Jean Wash in 1958 and they spent the next 29 years raising their daughters in various military posts and communities. Barbara’s favorite tour of duty was the Monterey Peninsula, where OC earned a Masters Degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Post Graduate School.

OC finished his distinguished military career at the Pentagon as a systems procurement specialist. After retirement, he worked several defense and civilian jobs including the Bell Helicopter company.

As a CFI with Bachelors and Masters degrees in aeronautical engineering, OC was a prolific writer on a variety of aviation subjects from aerodynamics to FAA rules. He often wrote letters to the editors of Sport Aviation and Kit Plane magazines and providing educational comments on the Matronics and DC Pilots websites as well as emails regarding the same. In all cases, his inputs were well-referenced statements of fact to clarify information for the flying community.

After complete retirement, he was active in the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 186 where the friendships and expertise helped him realize his dream of building and flying his own plane. A stalwart supporter of Chapter and airport activities, OC Baker served on our Board of Directors for many years. In addition, he was the secretary of the Manassas (45 unit) hangar condominium association, helping the Chapter board stay in touch with airport and tenant issues. Most outstanding was his role regarding our corporate hangar sale. Not only did he stay on
top of all the maintenance issues (including structural, insect control, incorrect billing by the utility company, and tenant liaison), but he provided valuable paralegal support. When the real estate lawyer requested seventeen separate documents regarding the hangar, the airport, the condominium association, utility and tax information, it was OC who spent scores of hours pulling all of this information together, saving us thousands of dollars in lawyer research fees that made the sale possible.

He also volunteered for such unglamorous jobs as airport security, airport liaison, tool crib manager, and facility maintenance manager. At our fall flyins, OC typically helped with airport landscape cleanup and then worked a double shift on the flight line. OC was a part of every Chapter House or hangar cleanup project, and he coordinated the repair of Chapter owned facilities.

In 2003, OC completed a homebuilt KIS TR-1 that he flew for many years. Having this experience as a homebuilder, he was very helpful in encouraging other members of the Chapter in solving their project problems. In December 2013, for his continuous Chapter support, OC was selected as our 11th George Lutz Memorial Service winner.

OC is survived by his wife, Barbara, of 59 years, their two daughters, Claudia Schlagheck (James) and Janet Smith (Patrick); four grandchildren, Joseph (SJ) and Aaron Schlagheck and Alexandra and Coriston Smith. He was preceded in death by daughter, Ann Douglas Baker.

He will be forever remembered for his love of family, patriotism, and passion for the skies. Burial at Arlington National Cemetery with Full Military Honors will be at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation – 909 N Washington St, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA, or a charity of your choice.

OC lived his credo, “The best investment we can make is the time and effort to gather and understand knowledge.” EAA Chapter 186 was truly lucky to have him as a member and contributor, and all will dearly miss him. A brick will be placed on EAA Memorial Wall in his honor.