Walker, Walton Harris, GEN

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Last Rank
General
Last Service Branch
US
Last Primary MOS
00GC-Commanding General
Last MOS Group
General Officer
Primary Unit
1948-1950, 8th Army, Korea (EUSA)
Service Years
1912 - 1950

US

General



Seven Overseas Service Bars


 Last Photo   Personal Details 


Home State
Texas
Texas
Year of Birth
1889
 
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Casualty Info
Home Town
Belton, TX
Last Address
Belton< TX

Casualty Date
Dec 23, 1950
 
Cause
Non Hostile- Died Other Causes
Reason
Vehicle Loss, Crash
Location
Korea
Conflict
Korean War
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
SECTION 34 SITE 86-A

 Official Badges 

Infantry Shoulder Cord Army Staff Identification Meritorious Unit Commendation 1944-1961


 Unofficial Badges 




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Korean War Fallen
  2017, Korean War Fallen

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 Unit Assignments
1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment5th Infantry DivisionCommand and General Staff College (CGSC) Resident CourseChina Combat Training Command
Infantry Center and School (Staff) Fort Benning, GADepartment of the Army (DA)3rd Armored DivisionIV Corps
XX Corps5th Army (Fifth Army)8th Army, Korea (EUSA)
  1912-1914, Army Garrison Fort Bliss, TX
  1917-1918, 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment
  1917-1918, 5th Infantry Division
  1920-1921, Command and General Staff College (CGSC) Resident Course
  1929-1931, 1542, China Combat Training Command
  1933-1935, Infantry Center and School (Staff) Fort Benning, GA
  1935-1942, Department of the Army (DA)
  1942-1943, 3rd Armored Division
  1943-1944, IV Corps
  1944-1945, XX Corps
  1946-1948, 5th Army (Fifth Army)
  1948-1950, 8th Army, Korea (EUSA)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1911-1919 Mexican Service Campaign (1911-1919)
  1918-1918 Aisne Campaign/The Battle of Cantigny
  1944-1944 Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)/Battle of Metz
  1944-1945 Ardennes Alsace Campaign (1944-45)/Battle of the Bulge
  1945-1945 Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)/Advance to the Rhine
  1950-1950 Korean War/UN Offensive (1950)/Eighth Army Offensive
  1950-1950 Korean War/UN Defensive (1950)/Battle of Pusan Perimeter
  1950-1950 Korean War/UN Defensive (1950)/Battle of Pusan Perimeter
 Colleges Attended 
Virginia Military InstituteUnited States Military Academy
  1907-1909, Virginia Military Institute
  1909-1912, United States Military Academy
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Promoted posthumously to full general, Walker's memory was much honored in the years immediately following the Korean War.
 

Born on December 3, 1889, he graduated from West Point in 1912. He served under General Frederick Funston in the Vera Cruz Expedition in 1914 and then on the border patrol near Mexico during the period before World War I. In 1917, he organized Company A, 13th Machinegun Battalion and went with it to France. In April 1917, as a Major, he led the Battalion at St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne, where he was twice cited for gallantry and where he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on the battlefield.

 

In World War II, he commanded the 3rd Armored Division and then the IV Armored orps in 1941. In 1943, IV Corps was designated XX Corps and he led it for the rest of the war. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1945, with the very same stars which George S. Patton, Jr. had received from General Dwight D. Eisenhower on his own promotion. He was a tough commander, not given to sentiment, reticent of manner, short of speech in any public appearances and was not popular with his troops. During the war, he took part in the drive across France following the Normandy Invasion, the capture of Metz and the liberation of Buchenwald.


During the Korean War he performed ably and his defense of the Naktong Line is regarded as a military classic. He was comander of the 8th Army in Korea when he was killed in the wreck of his jeep. His body was escorted back to the United States by his son, Sam Sims Walker, a battalion commander in the 19th Infantry in Korea at the time of his father's death. He was buried in Section 34 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Caroline E. Walker (May 16, 1897-March 31, 1985), is buried with him.


During his career, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, with Oak Leaf Cluster; the Distinguished Service Medal, with Oak Leaf Cluster; the Silver Star, with two Oak Leaf Clusters; the Legion of Merit; the Distinguished Flying Cross; the Air Medal, with Oak Leaf Cluster.


Courtesy of the Center For Military History, United States Army Born at Belton, Texas, December 3, 1889. General, US Army; Non-hostile Death. Died December 23, 1950 in Korea. USMA Class of 1912, General Walker was a highly decorated veteran of World War I and World War II. 


In Korea he commanded 8th Army until his death in an automobile accident on December 23, 1950. For his leadership and valor, General Walker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Silver Star with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star and the Commendation Ribbon.

WH Walker Time Magazine Cover



WH Walker PHOTO
Walton H. Walker (left) and Major General William Dean in Korea


General Walton Harris Walker was the commander of the Eighth Army in the early part of the Korean War conflict and successfully conducted the defense of the Pusan Perimeter. A native of Belton, Texas, Walker entered Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1907 and later transferred to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1912. He was awarded the Silver Star medal for bravery in action during World War I.


During the interim war years Walker held a variety of assignments. In 1924, he married Caroline Victoria Emerson of Baltimore and they had a son, Sam Sims, who graduated from West Point in 1946. Walton Walker excelled in the training of troops and held a number of progressive training positions prior to World War II. He also had picked up the nickname of “Johnnie Walker,” derived from a brand of scotch whiskey he favored. He assumed command of the 3rd Armored Division in early 1942. During World War II he was a protege of General George S. Patton and rose to the rank of lieutenant general (brevet). Walker was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest award for valor. He was well respected by Patton and he developed a reputation as a tough leader and fighter.


After World War II he filled several assignments before taking command of the Eighth Army, which was performing occupation duty in Japan. There he obtained his permanent promotion to major general. The Eighth Army was composed of four divisions, the 1st Cavalry, 7th, 24th, and 25th Infantry Divisions. The combat readiness of the Eighth Army had declined due to congressionally imposed postwar budget and personnel cuts. The troops were largely undertrained, lacked sufficient equipment, and had grown soft with the relaxed pace of their occupation duty. Only 10 percent of the soldiers had combat experience. Despite the cuts, which were largely beyond his control, Walker instituted a massive training program toward the latter part of 1949 to upgrade the combat readiness of the Eighth Army. Unfortunately, the training exercises and programs were too late to adequately prepare the occupation forces with the combat skills they would desperately need in the coming months.


The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, with a massive multi-front attack by the North Korean Army across the 38th parallel, an artificial border which divided North and South Korea. On June 30, General Walker received his battle orders formally committing his forces to the Korean conflict. On July 13, Walker was placed in charge of all U.S. Army forces in Korea, and four days later was also put in charge of all South Korean forces. General Walker’s initial orders were to engage the North Korean Army as far north as possible and defeat them. It was commonly thought that the North Koreans would turn and run once they ran into American soldiers. Walker, on the contrary, was under no illusions about the capabilities of the Eighth Army. However, he had already run afoul of his superior, General Douglas MacArthur, and was in no position to question the orders he had received.


By July, with the fall of Taejon, it was apparent to General Walker that the Eighth Army would be forced to pull back even further. He feared for the safety of his own command post in Taegu, the nerve center of the perimeter defense. By late July his forces equaled in numbers the invading North Korean Army, although many of his troops were engaged in supply and support roles. However, the quality of the Allied forces remained deficient and the North Koreans held the initiative. Walker had the unenviable task of conducting a delaying action with his Eighth Army until sufficient forces could be built up to launch a counteroffensive into the North Korean Army’s rear area. By now his perimeter had shrunk to an area roughly fifty miles wide by one hundred miles in length from north to south. This became known as the “Pusan Perimeter.”


One critical advantage General Walker possessed was that his military intelligence assets had broken the North Korean radio codes. Thus Walker knew every major North Korean movement prior to its occurrence. He had his major units deployed on the front lines, yet kept a mobile reserve that could be rushed in to plug any local breakthrough. His ability to read the enemy’s radio traffic enabled Walker to rush reinforcements to where they were needed on short notice. Often Walker could be found at the front line personally appraising the battle situation and issuing orders to local commanders. He told one commander that he only wanted to see him behind the lines in his coffin!


After numerous battle debacles and more than a hundred miles of retreating, the Eighth Army’s morale was low. During a conference in Taegu with General MacArthur, it was determined that there could no longer be any retreating by the Eighth Army. Shortly after the meeting, on July 29, General Walker issued his famed “Stand or Die” order to the beleaguered defenders of the Pusan Perimeter. This command was timely, for an all-out North Korean offensive was launched against the perimeter in five different spots on September 1. General Walker’s use of Marines and U.S. Army troops as a fire brigade to contain any North Korean breakthrough proved to be a sound strategy, and forestalled a forced withdrawal from the Korean peninsula.


General Walker’s holding mission was part of the overall strategy of General MacArthur. MacArthur’s plan was to launch a flanking attack deep behind enemy lines at the port of Inchon. The Inchon landing took place on September 15. General Walker planned his own breakout attack from the perimeter for September 16. By that time Walker felt that the North Korean forces would be demoralized with the knowledge that the landings had effectively cut off their lines of supply and retreat. Unfortunately for Walker, the North Korean soldiers had not heard of the Inchon landing and instead launched their own attack, which stalled the American breakout attempt in the Waegwan area. To top it off, the weather was overcast, preventing the use of close air support. Ultimately, the North Korean resistance began to crumble and the weather cleared, which allowed the employment of air assets. General Walker’s forces gained the initiative on the northern, north western, and western fronts with successive assaults against the crumbling North Korean Army. While the South Korean Army led the attack up the eastern seaboard, the 1st Cavalry Division and others attacked up the main highway leading roughly northwest toward Taejon and recaptured the city. On September 27 the linkup with the 7th Division which had landed at Inchon was completed just north of Osan, approximately twenty miles south of Seoul. Of the approximately 100,000 North Korean soldiers surrounding the Pusan Perimeter only 25,000 to 30,000 are believed to have ever made it back to North Korea.


General Walker continued leading the Eighth Army in its attack across the 38th Parallel into North Korea. The capture of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang was completed on October 20. On October 24, General Walker established his advance headquarters in North Korean Premier Kim Il Sung’s abandoned headquarters building. As the Eighth Army moved north there arose a dispute between political and military forces in Washington, which wanted to limit the war, and General MacArthur, who wanted to carry the attack to complete victory.


In October 1950, Chinese soldiers were encountered for the first time north of Unsan in North Korea. Despite mounting evidence of increasing resistance, General MacArthur hinted that American troops would begin returning home by Christmas, much to the consternation of General Walker. This belief of an early victory was so widespread that several United Nations members held back some of the troops they had earmarked for the Korean campaign.


This optimistic view would change quickly as the situation on the northern front lines rapidly deteriorated. In a series of vicious firefights the Eighth Army was stalled in its tracks and put on the defensive. MacArthur optimistically (or perhaps naively) ordered General Walker to press on with the attack toward the Yalu River despite the increasingly hostile weather, numerous supply shortages, and evidence of massive Chinese intervention.


Walker was reluctant to blindly press on with the attack at this point of the war, notwithstanding his past association with George S. Patton. He increasingly feared Chinese intervention and he had no illusions of a quick victory. Walker prudently delayed resuming the offensive while he tried to replace his personnel losses and build up his logistical supplies. He expressed fear of being forced to conduct a general retreat. His prudent delaying of the offensive gained him enemies in MacArthur’s Tokyo headquarters. Compounding Walker’s problems was the separation of his command from the X Corps, which was on the eastern flank of the Korean Peninsula and commanded by the impetuous Major General Edward M. Almond. The Taebaek mountain range effectively split the Eighth Army under Walker from Almond's X Corps which consisted of U.S. Marines, the 7th Army Division and South Korean Army forces. Walker's right flank was exposed to the inhospitable Taebaek mountain range. This same mountain terrain was simultaneously being used by the Chinese to infiltrate thousands of troops to the flanks of the Eighth Army.


General Walker finally launched the offensive that was designed to take the Eighth Army from beyond the narrow waist of the Korean peninsula all the way to the Chinese border on the Yalu River. Initially there was little resistance but then the hidden, massed Chinese forces struck. On November 25, 1950, the Chinese launched a massive attack on the right flank, which was held by the South Korean Army. In a matter of hours three entire South Korean Army divisions were routed and Walker’s right flank ceased to exist. By November 26 the battle situation verged on disaster, with the survival of Walker’s entire Eighth Army threatened.


Shortly thereafter, Walker attended a conference in Tokyo with MacArthur. The conclusion of the meeting was that Walker’s Eighth Army would withdraw to the south to avoid being totally outflanked by the Chinese. The withdrawal of the Eighth Army was a mixed story of success and disaster. The 24th and 25th Divisions withdrew in relatively intact condition. The 2nd Division suffered severe losses in personnel and equipment.


General Walker withdrew from Pyongyang and moved his Eighth Army steadily southward toward the 38th Parallel. He conducted a series of delaying actions in the face of the numerically superior Chinese. By this time Walker had fallen out of favor with his superiors, including Douglas MacArthur, and was being considered for replacement. There had already been suggestions at higher levels as early as the previous August during the Pusan Perimeter battles that Walker be replaced.

By early December, Walker had moved his Eighth Army south of the 38th parallel and prepared for the expected Chinese invasion. He continued his habit of speeding from unit to unit, meeting with commanders and troops to assess the overall situation. On December 22, 1950, Walker was killed in an accident while trying to pass a stalled column of South Korean Army vehicles near Seoul. He had been on his way to an awards ceremony to decorate soldiers of his Eighth Army. General Walton H. Walker was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Article Courtesy of David Kangas



WALKER, WALTON H
GEN 8TH U S ARMY
VETERAN SERVICE DATES: Unknown
DATE OF DEATH: 12/23/1950
DATE OF INTERMENT: 01/02/1951
BURIED AT: SECTION 34  SITE 86-A
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY


Walton H. Walker PHOTO
Courtesy of the American Battle Monuments Commission

 

This is to Certify that
The President of the United States of America
Takes Pride in Presenting
 

 
 
 


THE 
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS
to

WALKER, WALTON HARRIS
(First Award)
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Walton Harris Walker (0-3405), Major General, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while Commanding the XX Army Corps, in action against enemy forces on 23 August 1944. Major General Walker's inspiring leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, General Orders No. 54 (1944)


WALKER, WALTON HARRIS
(Second Award)
Citation:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Walton Harris Walker (0-3405), Lieutenant General, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Commanding General of the 8th United States Army. Lieutenant General Walker distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Korea from 14 July to 28 September 1950. During this campaign General Walker personally, and at great risk to his own life from enemy ground fire, performed repeated aerial reconnaissance flights in unarmed plane deep into enemy territory. The knowledge gained by General Walker from these flights was of inestimable value to him in making tactical decisions, and contributed greatly to the accomplishment of his mission in spite of the preponderance of force possessed by the enemy. In addition to the above and with personal disregard not only of health of but life itself, he spent hour after hour and day after day on the battlefield, inspiring the United Nations forces with his own courage and his will to fight. Where acts of personal courage were common, General Walker's fearlessness and courageous leadership were outstanding.
General Headquarters Far East Command: General Orders No. 33 (October 1, 1950)
 
   
Comments/Citation

Walton Harris Walker (December 3, 1889 – December 23, 1950) was an American army officer and the first commander of the U.S. Eighth Army during the Korean War.

Walker was born in Belton, Texas on December 3, 1889 and graduated from West Point in 1912. Sometime during this period, Walker earned the nickname, "Johnnie," for his favorite brand of Scotch, Johnnie Walker (and as a play on his name). As a lieutenant, he served in the Vera Cruz expedition under Brigadier General Frederick Funston. Patrolling on the U.S.-Mexican border in 1916, he developed a close friendship with Dwight Eisenhower.

During World War I, Walker fought in France with the 5th Infantry Division and won the Silver Star for gallantry in action.


In the inter-war period, Walker rotated through a variety of assignments, including service in China, Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and teaching duties in several posts, including West Point. The turning point in his career occurred in the mid-thirties, when he served as executive officer of an infantry brigade commanded by George Marshall, making a strongly favorable impression on the future Army Chief of Staff.


World War II


When hostilities broke out in Europe in 1939, Walker was executive of the War Plans division of the general staff, but when Marshall (now Chief of Staff) assigned George Patton to organize America's armored forces, Walker successfully lobbied his old boss for a post as one of Patton's subordinate commanders in this effort, gaining promotion to brigadier general in the process. Promoted major general in 1942, he commanded Third Armored Division and eventually XX Corps, taking the latter to England in early 1944 and leading it into combat in Normandy in July as part of Patton's Third Army.


Walker's XX Corps played a distinguished role in Patton's dash across France in August and early September, earning the sobriquet, "Ghost Corps," for the speed of its advance. During this time Walker won high praise from both Patton and Eisenhower for his drive and aggressiveness; he was frequently well forward, driving with reckless speed in his jeep, close to his leading tank columns, in the style of his mentor and - some say - idol, Patton. Walker's troops saw heavy fighting in France and Germany during the remainder of the war, especially at Metz, the Battle of the Bulge, and in the invasion of Germany. In the spring of 1945 XX Corps liberated Buchenwald concentration camp, then pushed south and east, eventually reaching Linz, Austria, by May, as the war ended, and Walker received his third star, making him a Lieutenant-General. By now Walker was considered one of the Army's finest tank commanders, perhaps second only to Patton himself, who lauded his subordinate as "my fightingest son-of-a-bitch."


Post-World War II


After the war Walker became commander of Fifth Army, headquartered in Chicago, but in 1948, he received the assignment for which he is largely known: commanding general of the Eighth Army, the American occupation force in Japan. This proved a challenging assignment from the start. Soon after Walker's arrival, the Eighth Army, which had deteriorated into a soft, minimally trained, under equipped constabulary during the occupation, was ordered by General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Allied Commander in Japan, to restore itself to combat worthy condition.


It was a difficult task, not only because of shortages in manpower, equipment, and training areas in cramped and overcrowded Japan, but also because Walker had a difficult relationship with the imperious MacArthur, his immediate superior, and (especially) MacArthur's chief of staff, Major General Ned Almond. Neither MacArthur nor Almond had confidence in Walker. According to witnesses, Walker himself displayed a lack of self-confidence when briefing his commander. The reasons for this are unclear, but may have had to do with MacArthur's lofty, almost god-like status, in the after-glow of World War II, as a world famous general, as the conqueror of Japan, as well as his intellectual brilliance and massive ego. Whatever the reasons, Eighth Army made only limited progress in its training program, which would soon cost it dearly.


Korean War


Shortly after the North Korean invasion of South Korea, in June, 1950, the Eighth Army was ordered to intervene and drive the invaders back across the 38th parallel, the border between the two countries. With only four divisions, still lightly equipped, poorly trained, and insufficiently hardened, Walker began landing troops on the southeast side of the Korean peninsula in July. After his lead units, elements of the 24th Infantry Division (including the ill-fated Task Force Smith), were virtually destroyed in a few days of furious fighting between Osan and Taejon, Walker realized his assigned mission was impossible and went over to the defensive. Pushed steadily back towards the southeast by the North Korean advance, Walker's forces suffered heavy losses and for a time were unable to form a defensible front, even after bringing the 1st Cavalry and 25th Infantry Divisions into the fight.


Walker's situation was not helped by unrealistic demands from MacArthur, in Tokyo, not to retreat an inch. Attempting to obey, Walker gave a bombastic "not a step back" speech to his staff and subordinate commanders which did not go over well, and did not stop the North Koreans from pushing the Americans, and the ROK forces (the South Korean army, which had been badly cut up in the opening days of the invasion), back even further. Indeed, outside observers began to fear the Eighth Army would be driven into the sea, creating, "another Dunkirk," and causing tremendous damage to American prestige in what was believed to be a struggle between the communist East and non-communist West for world dominance.


However, as American and ROK forces retreated further east and south, they finally arrived at a defensible line: the Nakdong River. They could now take advantage of shortened supply routes and a relatively good road network to exploit the advantages of "interior lines." Walker was able to quickly shift his units from point to point, reinforcing weak spots, meeting, slowing down, and eventually stopping North Korean attacks before they could reinforce them. The Americans were greatly aided by decoded radio intercepts of enemy communications, giving them advance knowledge of where communist attacks would occur. Walker was also able to employ artillery and airpower to great effect for the first time.


American forces gradually solidified this defensive position, which formed a small corner on the southeast side of the Korean peninsula, and was dubbed the "Pusan Perimeter"(for its chief port and supply center). Walker now received some much needed reinforcements, including the Provisional Marine Brigade, which he skillfully used, along with the Army's 27th Infantry Regiment, as "fire brigades," especially reliable troops who specialized in counterattacking and wiping out enemy penetrations. For several weeks, fighting raged up and down the perimeter. Losses were heavy on both sides. The North Koreans almost broke through on several occasions but each time they were beaten back, sometimes by airpower, sometimes by artillery barrages, most often by the tenacity and fighting spirit of the soldiers and Marines in the foxholes.


Gradually as more reinforcements arrived, the balance of combat power tilted in Walker's favor. North Korean forces had suffered terribly and their supply lines were under constant aerial bombardment. Almost all of their T-34 tanks, which spearheaded the invasion, had been destroyed. Walker ordered local counter-attacks while planning for a large scale breakout. This occurred in conjunction with MacArthur's audaciously brilliant Inchon landing in September.


The strategic situation was now reversed; with MacArthur's amphibious flanking move, the North Koreans seemed trapped between his anvil at Inchon and Walker's hammer coming out of the Pusan Perimeter. But Walker's attack, a straight ahead, hell-for-leather dash northwest towards Inchon and Seoul, emphasized speed over maneuver. It made no attempt to encircle and destroy the North Koreans after punching through their lines. In fact, although thousands of prisoners were taken, many North Korean units successfully disengaged from the Americans, melting away into the interior of South Korea - where they would conduct a guerilla war for two years. Others escaped completely, marching at night, on foot, all the way back to North Korea, to fight another day.


At the time, however, this seemed unimportant. With the war apparently won, Walker's Eighth Army quickly moved north and, with the independent X Corps (commanded by Walker's nemesis, Almond) on its right, crossed the 38th parallel to occupy North Korea. Fighting tapered off to sporadic, sharp clashes with remnants of North Korean forces. By late October the Eighth was nearing the Yalu River, North Korea's border with China. Walker, informed by MacArthur's headquarters that the Chinese would not intervene, did not insure that his troops maintained watchful security. Indeed, there was a slack, "home by Christmas" attitude in many Army units. Also, due to a lack of coordination between Walker, Almond, and MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo, a huge gap had opened between Eighth Army and X Corps as they moved close to the Chinese border. Finally, the weather had turned savagely cold, and most American units had no training and inadequate equipment for the bitter temperatures.


All this proved disastrous when the Chinese did, in fact, intervene. First in a series of ambushes, then in sporadic night attacks, finally in an all-out offensive, large Chinese forces infiltrated, in, around, and between American units, skillfully taking advantage of the American failure to take basic security measures, the large intervals between spread out American and South Korean units, and the 80 mile wide empty space between Eighth Army and X Corps. From late October until the beginning of December, the Chinese caused havoc, killing or capturing thousands of American and ROK soldiers, almost destroying the 2nd Infantry Division, and forcing Walker into a desperate retreat.


By early December, using his superior mobility (in trucks and other motor vehicles), Walker had successfully broken contact with the Chinese (who had virtually no motorized transport), withdrawing south to a position around Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Asking for but receiving no instructions on what to do next from MacArthur's headquarters, Walker decided that Eighth Army was too battered in body and spirit to defend Pyongyang, and ordered the retreat resumed to below the 38th parallel. Vast amounts of supplies which had been accumulated in the capital were ordered destroyed, and as freezing, dejected, exhausted US and Korean troops passed through the city they were treated to the spectacle of these supplies going up in huge bonfires.


Death


Once again, the Eighth Army succeeded in escaping south, but it had still not found a line it could defend when Walker, riding at high speed in his command jeep to inspect positions north of Seoul on December 23, 1950, was killed when he collided with a civilian truck. His body was escorted back to the United States by his son, Sam S. Walker, who himself would become a general. South Korea subsequently honored Walker by naming a hill in the southern part of Seoul in his honor. "Walker Hill" is now the site of one of the older fine hotels in Seoul, the Walker Hill Sheraton. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


Honors and assessment


Promoted posthumously to full general, Walker's memory was much honored in the years immediately following the Korean War. The Army chose his name (and his other nickname), for its next light tank, the M41 Walker Bulldog. Dallas, Texas, named the western segment of Texas State Highway Loop 12 after him (the portion going through neighboring Irving, Texas continues the naming convention). One of the largest Armed Forces Recreation Center's hotels, the General Walker Hotel in Berchtesgaden (now demolished), was also named in his honor.


Walker's reputation as a general, high after World War II, was diminished by his record in Korea. But in making an assessment, it is important to remember several things:


1. Few generals have ever been given a more daunting task than the one handed Walker in July 1950. He had to lead - against a ruthless, tough, well-trained and well-equipped foe - an army that was none of these things, that was, in fact, one of the worst ever fielded by the United States. Part of its unfitness was Walker's fault, but only part.


2. The support and confidence Walker, as commander of the Eighth Army, should have received from his superiors was often lacking. Again, it was partly his fault; his lack of self-confidence in front of MacArthur, his inability to inspire his subordinates and (in notable contrast to World War II) his commander, were serious shortcomings. Still, MacArthur was a very difficult man to serve under, and even before his clash with President Truman, MacArthur's own behavior and performance during the Korean War - despite flashes of genius like Inchon - is open to severe criticism.


3. Finally, there is still no biography, "definitive" or otherwise, on Walton Walker, except for short write-ups in books about the Korean War itself. This is a pity, for as important as he was, if only because of being in a critical position at a critical time, he deserves a full biography, and it would be useful to students of history as well as students of the military art, to know more about the man, about his strengths and weaknesses.


Having entered these caveats, it is generally thought that Walker, while unquestionably brave and a competent commander of troops, was not an inspiring or gifted leader of men. Often overweight, with a protuberant stomach, and blustery manner; he was also shy and (some fellow officers believed) insecure about his relatively short stature (5'5") and generally unimpressive appearance. Although a "hard-charger" in Europe in '44 and '45, he had seemingly slowed down by the time he took command of the Eighth Army.


Walker never had a high reputation as a tactician or for brainpower. His breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, while slashing in the Patton mold, ignored the differing realities on the ground, rejected maneuver in favor of showy advance, and allowed thousands of North Korean soldiers to escape to fight another day. Under his care, or lack of it, the Eighth Army, which had been forced to harden or die in Pusan, gradually lost its edge the farther it advanced north after the breakout, until it was again careless and slack, and easy pickings for Chinese infantry in the terribly harsh conditions along the Chongchon River in North Korea.


Nevertheless, Walker's leadership during the dark days of July and August, 1950, redeems him from his earlier and later failures. For this was the most critical time of all in the Korean War, when the United States came closest to a true catastrophe. Constantly on the move, close to the fighting, visiting divisions and regiments, hectoring their commanders to stand firm, moving units to protect the most threatened areas, Walker's defense of the Pusan Perimeter was a historic achievement, which prevented the loss of the war by the United States before it had hardly begun.

   
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