Korean War veterans honor storied U.S. Army general
YONGSAN GARRISON -- Eighth Army leaders and Korean War veterans honored the Eighth Army commanding general who helped to save South Korea by holding the line at the Pusan Perimeter in 1950.
Gen. Walton H. Walker, the first Eighth Army commanding general during the Korean War, was honored Dec. 3 at a ceremony here at the Dragon Hill Lodge.
Sponsored by the Memorial Foundation for the Late U.S. Army General Walton Harris Walker and Chairman Kim Ri-jin, the ceremony was held to mark the anniversary of Walker's untimely death on Dec. 23, 1950, in a non-combat-related jeep accident.
He was posthumously promoted to four-star general.
Republic of Korea and U.S. leaders, including Combined Forces Command Deputy Commander ROK Army Gen. Kwon Oh-sung, Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson and Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Harris, also placed a wreath at the Walker Statue in front of the Eighth Army headquarters.
A storied U.S. Army leader, Walker left an indelible mark on two wars.
As the commander of XX Corps, Walker served in Gen. George Patton's Third Army during World War II. Employing surprise, speed and shock, Walker's troops slashed through enemy lines so often that the Germans called them the "Ghost Corps."
While General Walker directly contributed to the allied victory in Europe, he achieved his greatest feat inside the 80-mile-long by 50-mile-wide perimeter that UN forces defended in Korea during the summer of 1950. Called the "Pusan Perimeter" in news reports, the area was the last line of defense against invading communist North Korean forces.
Heavily outnumbered and outgunned by invading enemy forces, Walker led Eighth Army as it repelled attack after attack. Through their tenacious defense at the Pusan Perimeter, Walker and his Soldiers enabled Gen. Douglas MacArthur to conduct the decisive amphibious landing at Incheon that turned the tide of the war.
Within days after the landing, Eighth Army broke out of the Pusan Perimeter and drove enemy forces all the way past the North Korean capital of Pyongyang in less than a month.
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers soon joined the war to support the retreating and nearly defeated North Korea army and the frontlines moved back and forth until they settled near the current Korean Demilitarized Zone. Major combat operations in the Korean War ended with an armistice on July 27, 1953. It has never been followed by a peace treaty.
At the ceremony, Eighth Army Deputy Commanding General for Operations Maj. Gen. Walter M. Golden said Eighth Army's bold perimeter defense helped to save the Republic of Korea from communist tyranny.
"General Walker boldly maneuvered his forces around the right corner of the country and repelled numerous attempts to breach the perimeter," said Golden. "Because of his leadership, friendly forces maintained their foothold in Korea and demonstrated their enduring commitment to save South Korea from Communist aggression.
"Walker's triumph ensured that the Republic of Korea survived as a nation," said Golden. "Korea stands as a model for the world today … a country devastated by war a mere six decades ago is now one of the world's leading nations."
Golden said that U.S. troops in South Korea were as committed to the defending liberty as Eighth Army was inside the Pusan Perimeter.
"We continue to defend the freedom that General Walker and his troops fought for at the Pusan Perimeter," said Golden.
Former ROK Minister of National Defense Kwon Young-hae thanked U.S. troops for their continued service in Korea.
"I'd like to express my deep gratitude to the U.S. Soldiers still following in General Walker's footsteps protecting Korea," said Kwon
Today, Walton Walker holds a place of high honor in Korea. A monument on the sidewalk in Seoul marks the area where he died in 1950. Walker Hill is the site of a posh hotel in the capital city of Seoul and a luxury brand in South Korea.
On Yongsan Garrison in June 2010, the ROK-U.S. Alliance Friendship Society donated a 10-foot-tall bronze statue to Eighth Army to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Situated around the corner from U.S. Naval Forces Korea's statue of Korean Admiral Yi Sun-shin, a naval legend who helped to repel a Japanese invasion during the Imjin War, the Walker Statue stands in front of the Eighth Army Headquarters.
Wearing a three-star helmet, a sidearm and tanker boots, the Walker Statue points toward the modern, prosperous and free capital city that grew out of the rubble of the nation he helped to save.