Leaders remember heroic Korean War commander
SEOUL, South Korea (Dec. 3, 2013) -- U.S. military leaders and Korean War veterans remembered the Eighth Army commander who stopped communist forces from overrunning the last corner of Korea.
Gen. Walton H. Walker, the first Eighth Army commander during the Korean War, was honored at a ceremony, Dec. 3.
Sponsored by the Memorial Foundation for the Late U.S. Army General Walton Harris Walker, the ceremony marked the 63rd anniversary of Walker's untimely death on Dec. 23, 1950, during a non-combat-related jeep accident.
The leaders and veterans gathered at the site of Walker's death in Seoul and placed wreaths at the monument there. Eighth Army Deputy Commander for Operations Maj. Gen. Walter M. Golden and Eighth Army Deputy Commander for Sustainment Brig. Gen. Chris Gentry attended the ceremony at the accident site.
Later in the day, on Yongsan Garrison, American and South Korean leaders, including Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux, Golden, Gentry and Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Devens, placed a wreath at the Walker Statue in front of the Eighth Army Headquarters.
Dedicated in June 2010, and prominently positioned outside of the Eighth Army Headquarters, the Walker Statue reminds American military personnel of the important mission they continue to accomplish on the Korean Peninsula.
Walker achieved his greatest feat inside the 80-mile-long by 50-mile-wide perimeter that U.N. forces defended in Korea during the summer of 1950. Often called the "Pusan Perimeter," the area was the last line of defense against invading communist North Korean forces. It protected the critical supply port of Pusan that U.N. forces used to bolster their combat power.
Outnumbered and outgunned by invading enemy forces, Walker led Eighth Army as it moved its scant forces around the battlefield and repelled attack after attack.
Through its hard-fought defense of the Pusan Perimeter, Eighth Army enabled Gen. Douglas MacArthur to conduct the decisive amphibious landing at Incheon that turned the tide of the war. Within days of the Incheon amphibious 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 communist Chinese soldiers soon joined the war to rescue the retreating and nearly defeated North Korea army and the front lines moved back and forth until they settled near the current Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Often called the "Forgotten War" because it was fought between the larger Second World War and the longer Vietnam War, the Korean War never officially ended. While the guns fell silent more than 60 years ago with the signing of an armistice agreement on July 27, 1953, the ceasefire has never been replaced by a peace treaty.
"Through a cascade of battles, United Forces repelled the enemy invaders and kept them outside of the defensive perimeter," said Golden during a speech at the accident site. "Walker's triumph ensured that the Republic of Korea would be preserved."
Golden said Walker's tenacious spirit lives on in Eighth Army today. Golden said that U.S. troops in Korea were as committed to the defending liberty as Eighth Army was inside the Pusan Perimeter.
"As we reflect on General Walker's commitment and courage as a leader and a Soldier, let us reaffirm our commitment to live by the sterling example he has established," said Golden, a native of Salida, Colo.
"Together with our [Republic of Korea] allies, we will continue to deter North Korean aggression," said Golden, "and if deterrence fails, we will fight and win."
Walton Walker holds a place of high esteem in the Republic of Korea.
The Belton, Texas, native was named the first recipient of the Gen. Paik Sun-yup Alliance Award at a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty this year. His grandsons, Walton Walker II and Sam Walker II, received the award on his family's behalf.
During his six months of service in the Korean War, General Walker earned the gratitude of a nation that has lasted for more than six decades.
Kim Ri-jin, the chairman of the Memorial Foundation that sponsored the ceremony, said the "foundation has held an annual memorial ceremony since 1979 to remember the U.S. service men and women, including General Walker, who made sacrifices during the Korean War."
"General Walker succeeded in defending the Pusan Perimeter, Nakdong River Line, which was the last bastion of survival for South Korea, making the most significant contribution to Korea's existing as a sovereign nation up until now," said Kim. "In this sense, we all owe him our country."