South Korean president honors General Walker
October 2, 2013
SEOUL (Oct. 2, 2013) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye honored the first Eighth Army commander of the Korean War during a dinner here, Sept. 30.
Former Eighth Army Commanding General Gen. Walton H. Walker became the first recipient of the Gen. Paik Sun-yup Award, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty that established the South Korea-U.S. Alliance.
His grandsons, retired U.S. Army Col. Walton H. Walker II and Army Lt. Col. Sam S. Walker II, accepted the award on the Walker family's behalf at the ceremony attended by senior South Korean and American officials.
President Park thanked General Walker and all other Korean War veterans who defended freedom on the Korean Peninsula.
"I pay respects to and thank not only General Walker, but also all Soldiers," said President Park.
Along with President Park, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear attended the dinner.
The award is named after the Republic of Korea Army's first four-star general, Gen. Paik Sun-yup, who sat together with the Walkers at the dinner. A Korean War hero who served with Walker at the Pusan Perimeter, Paik is an honorary Eighth Army commanding general and the namesake of Eighth Army's mobile combined joint task force command post.
"It's kind of overwhelming," said Walton Walker II, who is from Fort Bragg, N.C. "[South Koreans] really do consider him somewhat of a savior of Korea."
Sam Walker II thanked the Korean people for their hospitality and he thanked American troops for upholding his grandfather's legacy in Korea.
"We felt so privileged to be able to come and for us to accept the General Paik Award on behalf of the Walker family," said Sam Walker II, a native of Athens, Ga. "We as former servicemen appreciate what you as Active Duty Soldiers are doing to uphold that alliance."
The Walkers visited the Eighth Army Headquarters where a 10-foot-tall bronze statue of their grandfather greets visitors. Donated by the ROK-U.S. Alliance Friendship Society, the Walker Statue was unveiled in June 2010 during the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.
"This is a cherished part of our Eighth Army tradition," said Eighth Army Deputy Commander for Sustainment Brig. Gen. Chris Gentry during a welcoming ceremony at the statue.
General Walker commanded Eighth Army at the start of the Korean War when United Nations forces were outgunned, outnumbered and in retreat.
Walker marshaled his troops inside a 50-mile-wide by 80-mile-long defense perimeter behind the Nakdong River, the last natural obstacle between the enemy and the sea. Behind this defensive line, called the Pusan Perimeter, Walker and his troops repelled attack after attack while reinforcements arrived on the Korean Peninsula.
Following the Incheon landing, Eighth Army broke out of the perimeter and pushed enemy forces all the way back to the Yalu River.
During a ceremony at the Nakdong River in September, Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux praised Walker's leadership at the Pusan Perimeter. Champoux said UN forces "couldn't have had a better leader to accept this challenge."
By holding the line at the Pusan Perimeter, Walker orchestrated one of the greatest turnarounds in modern military history.
Walker died in a non-combat-related automobile accident in December 1950. He was posthumously promoted to four-star general and buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Walker is revered in South Korea today. In addition to his statue at the Eighth Army Headquarters, a memorial marks the intersection where he died and an upscale hotel in Seoul bears his name.
As a part of their visit, the Walkers attended the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea change of command ceremony on Yongsan Garrison Oct. 2 where Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti assumed command from Gen. James Thurman.
The Walkers are the sons of Gen. Sam S. Walker, a Korean War veteran and a former commander of Allied Land Forces, South East Europe.
The Walkers said their grandfather's legacy lives on in the modern nation that has risen from the ashes of war to become one of the world's leading democracies.
Sam Walker II said the alliance continues to defend freedom on the peninsula today. "This alliance stands on the frontier of freedom," said Sam Walker II.
"South Korea has prospered, has thrived and has developed a democracy," said Walton Walker II. "[Today's service members] are a part of that legacy and the fact that they've continued that has made a big difference for the people here and for our own nation."