Korea owes its existence to 'Bulldog' Walker.
Gen. Walton "Bulldog" Walker is the most unforgettable American soldier who ever served in Korea
"I will stay here to protect Korea until my death!" Those are the words that the stout American general, who carried the look of a pugnacious bulldog, shouted as he moved frantically among his troops desperately trying to stop communist North Korean troops determined to breach the last line of American and South Korean defense along the Pusan perimeter.
In the early morning of June 25, 1950, some 231,000 well-trained North Korean troops had crossed the 38th parallel at all major fronts, on land and in the air, equipped with Soviet war machines including 200 artillery pieces, 274 Soviet-built T-34 tanks, 250 Yak fighters and attack bombers and 35 reconnaissance aircraft.
An ill-equipped and ill-prepared South Korean force of 65,000 combat troops, with no tanks and no air force, quickly collapsed and retreated. President Harry Truman of the United States, determined to stop the communist advance in East Asia, immediately ordered Gen. Douglas MacArthur to help Syngman Rhee of the fledgling Republic of Korea, created only 20 months before, in repelling the invaders.
On June 30, MacArthur ordered Gen. Walton Walker, the commander of the Japan- based U.S. 8th Army, to send the 24th Infantry Division to Korea immediately and to make plans for major ground operations.
Born in Belton, Texas, on Dec. 3, 1889, Walker graduated from West Point in 1912. He fought in France during World War I, earning the Silver Star for gallantry in action. After the war he served in various posts, including executive of the War Plans Division of the general staff.
When World War II broke out in Europe in 1939, Walker volunteered to serve in Gen. George Patton's armored forces. In 1942, he was promoted to major general and became the commander of the 3rd Armored Division and later XX Corps. In July 1944, he led the latter in combat in Normandy as part of Patton's 3rd Army.
In the latter part of the war, Walker's troops engaged in heavy fighting in France and Germany, at Metz and in the battle of the Bulge, liberating Buchenwald concentration camp in the spring of 1945. Soon after that, he was promoted to lieutenant general.
In 1948, he was assigned as the commander of the U.S. 8th Army in Japan. His assignment was to retrain and make the 8th combat-ready in post-WWII era.
Mentored and inspired by Patton, America's greatest combat general of WWII, Walker - or "Patton's Bulldog," as called by some - was the right man for Korea in 1950.
In the meantime on the Korean Peninsula, the enemy had advanced southward at a lightning speed, capturing Seoul, the capital city, within three days of the invasion. When Walker arrived in Korea on July 13 to take control of all ground operations in Korea, the enemy had occupied half of South Korea, down to Daejon in the vicinity of the Geum River.
With the help of 43,146 U.S. troops, including 2,602 officers and 237 warrant officers under his command at that time, Walker was determined to "delay the enemy advance, secure the current defensive line, stabilize the military situation and build up for future offensive operations."
Within five days, however, the enemy succeeded in crossing the Geum River and captured the city of Daejon. While trying to stop the enemy advance, a large number of U.S. troops were killed, captured, or lost.
Gen. William Dean himself, the commander of the 24th Division, was captured by the enemy. (Dean would remain captive in North Korea for three years, until the end of the war.)
As the battle fronts were engulfed in chaos, remaining U.S. and South Korean troops scrambled to reach safe areas further south toward Taegu and Pusan. Some of the American field commanders were coming to a conclusion that the Republic of Korea was a lost cause and should be abandoned.
Walker, determined to succeed in his mission to save Korea, visited U.S. military command posts telling field officers: "There will be no more retreating, withdrawal.a... There will be no Dunkirk, there will be no Bataan, a retreat to Pusan would be one of the greatest butcheries in history. We must fight until the end."
On Aug. 1, U.S. troops withdrew east of the Naktong River in the southeast corner of the Korean peninsula to regroup and establish the final line of defense around the city of Taegu and Pusan, known as the Pusan perimeter. For a month and half, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 15, Walker committed his 8th Army and the Republic of Korea troops to defend the perimeter against the enemy's relentless assaults.
One of the enemy's most formidable units was North Korea's 6th Infantry Division. Unknown to Walker then, it consisted of more than 20,000 seasoned Korean soldiers who, as part of Mao Zedong's famous 8th Route Army, had helped him in fighting the Japanese in China during WWII and later in defeating Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist troops.
In 1949, Mao sent them to North Korea to constitute the core of North Korean People's Army being trained for the upcoming invasion of the South.
Having swept across the western part of South Korea with little resistance, the 6th Division encamped around Masan, only 35 miles from Pusan. Its mission was to break through American lines and capture Pusan, bringing "the war of liberation" to an end.
The all-out efforts of the North Korea's 6th Division and other fierce fighters along the perimeter could not prevail against Walker and his troops, which in the meantime had been reinforced many times. The enemy continued to suffer heavy casualties, and by the middle of September they were beginning to be demoralized and fall into disarray. They began to retreat on Sept. 15 when U.S. and South Korean forces made a surprise amphibious landing at Inchon.
Walker saved the Republic of Korea. A few days before Christmas in December 1950, President Syngman Rhee honored him with the Korean Order of Military Merit with Gold Star for "bravery and personal skill" in defending the Pusan perimeter during the most critical days of the war.
A few days later, in the morning of Dec. 23, 1950, he was on his way to Uijongbu to present Republic of Korea Presidential Citation to the 24th Infantry Division and also to congratulate his son, Sam, for the Silver Star he had received for his role in the defense of the Pusan perimeter. As his Jeep was moving at a high speed on a dusty road, it was hit by a Republic of Korea Army weapons carrier. The jeep flipped over, killing the general.
Nearly 6 million U.S. troops came to aid Korea during the three years of the war. Of those, 36,913 died, while more than 105,000 were wounded.
Every Korean War veteran, especially the dead and the wounded, helped save the Republic of Korea from the communist tyranny. And they are forever remembered by Korea through monuments and events regularly celebrated with gratitude.
Walker is memorialized eternally on Walker Hill, named after him in east Seoul. Next to the Walton Walker Monument is the posh Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel, officially designated for "R&R" for U.S. servicemen serving Korea.
Korea has come a long way since the days of muddy fox holes along the Pusan perimeter - thanks to Gen. Walton Walker.
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|Title Annotation:||Guest Viewpoint; The U.S. general's dogged defense against advancing North Korean troops salvaged the Korean War|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||May 25, 2014|
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