Eighth Army honors legendary Korean War leader
December 2, 2011
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea (Dec. 2, 2011) -- Eighth Army officials and Korean War veterans honored the U.S. Army general who helped to save South Korea by holding the line at the Pusan Perimeter in 1950, during a memorial ceremony today, at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.
Gen. Walton H. Walker, the first Eighth Army commanding general during the Korean War, was remembered in the ceremony at the Dragon Hill Lodge and at a wreath laying ceremony at the Walker Statue.
The annual ceremony was sponsored by the Memorial Foundation for the Late U.S. Army General Walton Harris Walker and Chairman Kim Ri-jin.
Attended by more than 250 South Korean war veterans and U.S. Soldiers, the ceremony marked the anniversary of his untimely death on Dec. 23, 1950, during a non-combat-related jeep accident.
Walker was posthumously promoted to four-star general.
Walker led Eighth Army into Korea during the darkest days of the war when United Nations forces were retreating. Eighth Army consolidated its defenses behind a defensive perimeter inside the Nakdong River, in an area that reporters called the "Pusan Perimeter."
Heavily outnumbered and outgunned by enemy forces around the perimeter, Eighth Army was cornered into an area 50 miles wide by 80 miles long.
Through their tenacious defense of the right corner of the country, Walker and his Soldiers enabled Gen. Douglas MacArthur to land a decisive amphibious left hook at Incheon. Within days, Eighth Army broke through the perimeter in a right jab that took them all the way to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang in less than a month.
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers soon joined the fight to support the fleeing and nearly defeated North Korea army and the frontlines see-sawed back and forth until they settled near the current Korean Demilitarized Zone. Major combat operations in the war ended with an armistice on July 27, 1953. It has never been followed by a peace treaty.
During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. David G. Fox, Eighth Army deputy commanding general for support, said Eighth Army's pugnacious perimeter defense saved UN forces from making a precipitous retreat.
"Had General Walker not boldly and skillfully maneuvered his scant forces around the chessboard with the adeptness of a master tactician in the late summer of 1950, friendly forces would have had to abandon Korea," said Fox.
Today, Walton Walker holds a place of high honor in Korea.
The ROK-U.S. Alliance Friendship Society donated a statue of Walker to Eighth Army in June 2010 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. The 10-foot tall bronze statue stands in front of the Eighth Army Headquarters around the corner from U.S. Naval Forces Korea's statue of Korean Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who helped to repel a Japanese invasion during the Imjin War.
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 Seoul and a luxury brand in South Korea.
"Walker's triumph ensured that the longevity of the Republic of Korea would be preserved," said Fox. "Because General Walker and his Soldiers held the line at the Pusan Perimeter, 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."
Fox added that Eighth Army today upholds the legacy of its legendary first Korean War commander.
"American Soldiers here today are the current defenders of a legacy forged in the fire of war more than six decades ago," said Fox, "and their commitment to the defense of this great nation is just as strong as it was at the Pusan Perimeter."
At the wreath laying ceremony, Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson thanked the South Korean war veterans who came to the U.S. Army post to honor Walker. Some of the veterans had served with Walker at the Pusan Perimeter.
"Every day when I come into work, I see General Walker's statue and I'm reminded of my responsibilities for the defense of Korea," said Johnson. "I'm also reminded of the brave people like yourselves who came before us and who fought to make sure that we could be here today enjoying what we have here in Korea."