Right vs. Left Politics in the Cold War   
and

the Improbable Saga
of Major General Edwin Walker

by Bob Rowen
presented at the CUNY Graduate Center
to the New York Military Affairs Symposium on May 29, 2009

Right vs. Left Politics in the Cold War: perhaps every single person in this room had direct experience of this War – the Cold War that we all know.

The Improbable Saga of Major General Edwin Walker: 

Improbable meaning unlikely, implausible, far-fetched, fishy, questionable. 

And Saga – the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia: says saga is a genre of prose narrative typically dealing with prominent figures and events of the heroic age in Norway and Iceland, especially as recorded in Icelandic manuscripts of the late 12th and 13th century..….. Important ideals in sagas are heroism and loyalty; revenge often plays a part. Action is preferred to reflection, and description of the inner motives and point of view of protagonists is minimized.

General Walker would have liked that. 

Most NYMAS talks deal with events, strategies, weapons.  Let me try tonight to do a character study: what the character himself says and does, what others thought of him and what documents and records say about him -.and tonight to try a few theories: was he a good guy, a bad guy, a tragic hero, a pathetic washed-up figure?  All these things?  Maybe you’ll decide.

____________

So who was this guy?

Consider that Edwin Anderson Walker had a significant role in each of these events of the 20th century:

People and events of the 20th century:

•        The invasion of Italy and France

•        The Korean War

•        The Integration of Little Rock High School

•        The Cold War in Europe

•        Civilian Control of the Military

•        Concern about the Politicalization of the Military

•        Riots and Insurrection in Mississippi

•        Holding dissenters for psychiatric reasons

•        Key Supreme Court Decision about the Press and Public Figures

•        Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy Assassination

•        National and Regional Politics of the 1960s and 70s

•        Right Wing vs Left Wing America

These are serious events in recent American history but as we tell Walker’s story, there’ll also be room for the ridiculous and the absurd.

Somebody said Edwin Anderson Walker was “The Forrest Gump of General Officers”, that Walker managed, intentionally or not, to be there at many of the major events in his lifetime.

  ____________

 

Edwin A. Walker, United States army general, was born in Center Point, Kerr County, Texas, on November 10, 1909, the son of George Pickney and Charolette (Thorton) Walker. After public school he attended Schreiner Institute and then the New Mexico Military Institute from 1925 until his graduation in 1927. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point from 1927 to 1931.  He graduated 229th out of 296 cadets. He  became an artilleryman and during World War II , as a Colonel, he commanded a joint Canadian-American commando team, the First Special Service Force, in the Italian and Champagne Campaigns – the unit highly fictionalized in the film The Devil’s Brigade.  Walker won the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with cluster and the Legion of Merit.

I spent an hour on the phone with Mark Radcliff who commanded a unit alongside Walker’s who thought Walker was great and Mark regretted almost having shot Walker when they jumped into the same foxhole during a shelling.

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, in the book, The Devil’s Brigade, Bill Story remembered a Walker “who spoke in a high-pitched and garbled manner” and also said Walker was “a dirty unshaven man in a G.I. raincoat and a pulled down knit cap who looked like a tramp and was an altogether miserable character.”

 

In the book The Devil’s Brigade another officer says Walker stopped a high-ranking African-American Red Cross officer from entering the Officers’ Mess.

 

 


By the end of the War, Walker was in Norway involved in the processing of tens of thousands of German troops back to Germany, and Soviets back to Russia. 

Walker returned to the United States in January, 1946.  He served as assistant director of the combined arms department, Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, Okla and then headed the Greek desk at the Pentagon during the Greek civil war and made an official visit to Greece and Turkey.


In 1951, it was Korea.  Now General Walker commanded the Seventh Regiment of the Third Infantry Division. 

According to The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: 1991-1993‎ - Page 543,
Early in the cold war Soviet efforts to destabilize the governments of Greece and Turkey galvanized Walker's opposition to communist expansion. Assigned to Korea in 1951, he chafed under the constraint of limited war, which he believed "hog-tied" the army. Despite a promotion to brigadier general, Walker left Korea harboring suspicions that subversive forces in his own government were responsible for the Korean stalemate.

In 1955, Walker was selected by Maxwell Taylor as the lead US military advisor to Taiwan where Walker was senior adviser to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. His last assignment before coming to Little Rock was as commanding general of the Twenty-fifth Division Artillery in Hawaii. Taylor would also hand pick Walker for his next assignment

 

 

 

And in 1957, Major General Edwin A. Walker would get his second star.  

 

Later on, JFK will have a comment on this moment.

 

 

 

 

 

Walker’s 1957 assignment as commander of the Arkansas Military District placed Walker in history. 

Now in charge of the state's reserve component, the posting seemed routine, but within months international attention was focused on his command.  Arkansas governor Orval Faubus defied a federal court order to integrate Little Rock's Central High School.   President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the state national guard and placed it and troops from the 101st Airborne Division under Walker's command. The general, it was said very privately, had reservations about forced integration and believed federalization of the Arkansas National Guard was unnecessary. Unable to persuade his superiors to modify their action, Walker carried out their directives, integrating Central High and maintaining order.

The New York Times portrayed Walker as something of a hero, a guy who said “Check” and who was “a bachelor considered a prize for hostesses”….  A perception we’ll come back to.

The general also tried to reassure the children, saying, "I believe that you are well-intentioned, law-abiding citizens, who understand the necessity of obeying the law, and are determined to do so." (Christian Science Monitor)

The Washington Post, in a 1957 editorial, hailed him for handling "the Arkansas situation with extraordinary tact and firmness."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And one small footnote:

While Walker was in command in Little Rock, Walker phoned a complaint to the FBI, the FBI summary of which has now been declassified from the FBI files:

 

  ____________

 

Digression

At this point, before I pick up on General Walker and his fateful two years with the 24th Infantry Division, I’d like to take the liberty of inserting an explanation for my own interest and involvement with this topic and, further, try to give you a feeling for this Era – mostly pre-Vietnam and pre-60s.

How did I become interested in Edwin Walker?  …about whom no book has been written.

About the author  As a 25 year old draftee, I found myself in the headquarters of the 24th Infantry Division in Augsburg, West Germany in early 1963.   It was almost two years after Walker had been relieved – so, clearly, I never served under him.  

To briefly jump way ahead, about ten years ago, 1999, about the time I started the nymas.org website, I dug out some photos and memories from the early 60s and also started the “24th Infantry Division in Europe” website.  Before long I got hundreds of emails from vets – and a significant number of vets who served just before I did who vividly remembered General Walker.

I had gone to Europe, like millions of other US soldiers during the Cold War, not exactly because I chose to.

Because the Army had decided, after my 8 years of radio and television experience, that I should be an aircraft mechanic, I spent much after-hours time trying to get transferred from my 7th Army air transport unit to the offices of the American Forces Network in Munich.  My crusty old 1 st Cav major would have none of it.

Until suddenly, me, the major, and the whole company were– over a weekend – structurally absorbed into the surrounding 24th Infantry Division.  And I was immediately ordered to pack my bags and report to the 24th Infantry Division Headquarters in Augsburg.  The PIO, Troop Information and Civil Affairs unit were just one staircase over the office of the Division Commanding General.

 

I reported to the Lieutenant, who had gotten my transfer: 2nd Lieutenant Donald T. Laird.  He, one other PFC, and I were going to produce all the broadcast radio for the 24th Division. 

Lt. Laird,” I asked, “are you related to the congressman, what’s his name, Melvin Laird?” 

“That’s right,” said Lt. Laird, “He’s my uncle.  Chair of the House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations.  Melvin T. Laird”.  It took me until recently to fully realize the significance of the Chairman’s nephew being placed in the information section of the 24th  Infantry Division’s headquarters .

 

 

For all the "Troop Information" and promotion of "Unit Tradition", my thinking was more than a little modified in the move-around Army of the time.   The weekly AFN - Munich radio program we produced - began with thunderous drums and a grim-voiced announcer:

Click to hear:  http://www.bobrowen.com/nymas/walkermedia/showcase.mp3
"From the island of Leyte

To the rocky hills of Korea

To the mountains of Bavaria

Proudly waves the banner of the 24th Infantry Division"

Actually we had a somewhat more jaundiced view ourselves:

Most of us knew that the "Victory Division" was

- at Pearl Harbor (with the 25th Infantry - fictionally in "From Here to Eternity" - indicating that if you were a soldier with principles you’d be demoted, confronted with a broken-bottle wielding sergeant and beaten to a pulp – all before encountering the Japanese surprise attack.)

- and, the “Victory Division” – was one of the first into Korea, where it was pushed into the Pusan perimeter, lost its commanding general (William F. Dean) captured by the invading North Koreans.

It wasn't lost on us that we were peacetime soldiers in Europe and only in for 2 or 3 years.  But...., let's see, if the Warsaw Pact comes pouring through the Fulda Gap... 

 

The Era

Most will remember this era, but the Walker story may bring it more vividly to life: it was just 10 years after Korea, and after the Army McCarthy hearings, it was the era of nuclear tests in the atmosphere and tens of thousands of atomic weapons on either side of the Iron Curtain and no disarmament agreement had yet been signed.  It was the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, with very different meanings to, especially, Southern blacks and whites.

Always a hint of Doomsday in the air.

JFK, Catholic and liberal, was in office.  And April 1961 was the month of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and much recrimination.

Except for Walker and a few other, the ideas of “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”, “better dead than red” “blowing in the Wind” were just developing – student action, marches on the Pentagon, the whole anti-Vietnam War movement, all were to come later.

In the 24th Division, we weren’t in Vietnam, thank God, but guys we regularly met served in advisory missions there and KIA announcements at morning formations were regular too.  It was a peacetime army, but with unannounced alerts and long term field exercises, there was always an air of tension and there was that very military feeling of living in the middle of events beyond your own control. 

It also had that quality of peacetime armies you saw in The Bofors Gun, Tunes of Glory or especially From Here to Eternity – actually about the 24th.   The USA was negotiating its first nuclear test ban treaties with the Soviet Union and the Federal government was beginning to enforce integration at schools in the South. 

In Germany, the Berlin Wall had just gone up.   In 1963, units of the 24th got to exercise "rights of access under the Potsdam Agreement." by reinforcing the Berlin Brigade.  "If the balloon goes up...."  I believe was the phrase used when describing how all units in Berlin would be sacrificed in order to hold up the Reds for a day or two.  And it was important to be STRAC:  that is, Skilled Tough Ready Around the Clock or Standing Tall Right Around the Clock

JFK had made his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech; one of our German-American GIs in Civil Affairs insisted that because JFK used the article "ein", he had really said "I am a jelly doughnut."   Another in the Berlin Brigade quietly but persistently said that the Wall was the product of currency manipulation - by the West.   Well, he wasn't sent to Siberia and that was good to know since he might have if he were on the other side.  Hey, it was the beginning of the Sixties! 

 

Tactical Nuclear Weapons/
Test Ban Treaties

 

This is a snapshot of the armored door of a 24th Division NBC room:  NBC = Nuclear, Biological and Chemical.   See the caption at the bottom for the nihilistic spirit of the day.

 

In early 1960, when President Eisenhower's budget director Maurice Stans was told that the U.S. Navy's Polaris missile-launching submarines could "destroy 232 targets, which was sufficient to destroy all of Russia," he asked defense officials, "If POLARIS could do this job, why did we need other... ICBMs, SAC aircraft, and overseas bases?"

 

 

 

 

Well, one reason given was that in this era, tactical nuclear weapons were seen as the stopping force against Warsaw Pact armies flooding into Germany thru the Fulda Gap, the battlefield for Armor on the north German plains.  By the 1950s, artillery units of the 24th Infantry Division were beginning to be equipped with Honest John rockets and, later, M-28 or M-29 Davy Crockett Weapon Systems in 24th arsenals in both Augsburg and Munich – all potentially nuclear-tipped.

At the height of the Cold War, the majority of the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons were the smaller, tactical nuclear weapons.

This is a moment from a radio documentary I wrote and narrated in 1963: Grafenwoehr, you may know, is the army training and maneuver area in central Germany:

Click to hear: http://www.bobrowen.com/nymas/Walkermedia/rocket.mp3


 

Walker and the 24th Infantry Division in Europe

Back to Walker and the period 1959 to 1961.

In the summer of 1959, Walker was appointed commander of the 24th, considered the best of six US divisions on the Iron Curtain.

 ____________

Just one more side note : Noted military historian and NYMAS Boardmember Al Nofi did me the tremendous favor of going thru Walker’s personal papers at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Al Nofi wrote” There was, however, one very curious letter (Image 15), which was certainly the most interesting thing I found.  In 1959, when he received orders to take command of the 24th ID he [drew up] his resignation from the army, citing the “5th Column” threat to America.  Obviously he didn’t resign.  There’s nothing to indicate he actually sent it, or, if he did, nothing to explain why it was withdrawn.  Very curious.”

 

____________

 

Carl Foreman sent me this snapshot and remembered: “when Walker took over, it was like a tornado hit, it was PT every morning, field problems, etc. I could mark a mine field in my sleep; any PFC was able to fill out a morning report."

 

 

 

 

Dick Thornton remembered, “Not long after I arrived in Augsburg and had settled into my new job at 34th Inf (Regiment) PIO, there was a mandatory meeting called for all troop information personnel in the 24th Division. It was (groan!) on a Saturday, infringing on our so-called free time.

At the meeting there were two generals at the front of the room - Edwin A. Walker and, I think, a General Marroon or something like that - clearly, the remote second in command.

As Gen Walker addressed us, he pulled down a huge wall map of the world. It was rendered in various shades of red and pink. This was, he said, to show the degree of communist influence in each country. The United States got off easy with only a medium red color. We all looked at each other, the other general, too, rather mystified and uneasy with this commanding officer who seemed, to all intents and purposes, to be flat out crazy.

Gen Walker stated that it wasn't enough to be anti-red - you must be PRO-BLUE!   He gave us a list of books to be placed in all the dayrooms - required reading for everyone. It was up to us, the TI personnel, to spread the word.   Well, we didn't really get much done along those lines. Before long General Walker was relieved of his burden and we all got on with our various lives.

Several years later, I watched his exploits in New Orleans on TV with fascination."

________

 

David Ritter said, “I sort of enjoyed Walker’s program when we were told about our opposition."

Larry A. Kerr of Tybee Island, Ga remembered, “When Gen Walker assumed command he immediately began a new training program for the division.  It included many difficult days, and different exercises in the field for all of the division units to include the division headquarters, and the division artillery in Munich, commanded by Brig Gen Albert Watson. This training continued without stop for the 28 months I was assigned to the division. I honestly believe Gen Walker thought the Soviet Union would at sometime invade Germany, and wanted his division in top shape.  Remember the Berlin Wall crises in 62 or was it 1963? “

________

Don O’Connor wrote that General Walker “was a stickler for ceremonies like retreat and reveille.  Live buglers, no recording, for these ceremonies.  Cars were to pull over and drivers get out and salute.  People on line at movies stand at attention in civvies etc."

____________

  …and this one, from Larry Mooneyham, “......I had duty in the
Radio Control Center … I received a call one morning around
0600-0630 and I immediately recognized the voice as that of the General.
He asked me if I would have the Officer of the Day send someone to pick
him up, his driver had parked in the garage and committed suicide. 
I will never forget the nonchalance in his voice.”
 

 ________

Jack Slattery wrote me, “I remember sitting in the theater and watching the colors paraded down the isle to start the event.  This was followed by the national anthem playing as the stage lights were made brighter and brighter.  The lights revealed MG Edwin A. Walker and BG Autry J Maroun standing in front of a map of Europe.  (kind of like the Patton movie) The eastern countries were depicted in red and the western countries were in blue.  For the remainder of our three or four hours we were treated to the details of the "Pro Blue" program.  

I have never been able to figure out how people were selected to attend.  I think that there were about 3-4 hundred of us. For sure, all officers attended, but beyond that it may have been limited to NCOs (I was an acting Jack E-5)

As I look back on this event, the entire presentation was conducted by the two generals.  Their premise was that the entire east was communist (red) and their people were being bombarded with communist propaganda 24/7.  The generals indicated that the way for us to counteract the red strategy was to represent the "Blue" strategy to our troops and the western community.  As I indicated on the phone, there was no racial component or tilt displayed at our session.  Because we were to carry the anti communist message, there were collateral materials available to take away.  (wish I had some of the collateral's). Their strategy was to cascade all of this down to the troops.

I have always wondered what impact this experience had on my now right leaning view of the world.”

Well, just as Walker had predicted in his unsent letter of resignation before he took charge, what he described as the Fifth Column” was active:

Time, April 28, 1961, reported: “Walker was stuffing his troops with the rightist rantings of Birch Society Founder Robert Welch, [and] once made a public speech in which he called President Truman "definitely pink" and TV's Edward R. Murrow a "confirmed Communist." A man of towering temper, Walker was so enraged when he heard of Murrow's appointment as director of the U.S. Information Agency that his staff officers feared to go near him all day.  –

Wisconsin's Democratic Senator William Proxmire said the incident was proof positive that the fight against Communism should be taken over by "intelligent" people and not left to "morons."

What set off this storm about General Walker?

 _______

To explain:  There are three newspapers involved.  The famous Stars and Stripes, published wherever there were US soldiers, the Taro Leaf in the 24 th Division, that General Walker had used for his Pro-Blue Programs, and the independent, published for US troops and their families, Overseas Weekly.  Often found in PX and snack shop newsstands…but not always.


The Overseas Weekly

In West Germany, The Overseas Weekly, an independent newspaper run by Americans, declared that major General Edwin A. Walker, tough commander of the tough 24th Infantry Division, was Birching his troops with lecture and pamphlet. The paper charged that Walker claimed that President Truman, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt were "definitely pink." and that TV's Edward R. Murrow, now director of the U.S. Information Agency, was a "confirmed Communist." What was more, 60% of the U.S. press and broadcasting industry was Communist-controlled. Although Walker issued a denial….(Time, April 21, 1961)

From the Overseas Weekly website: “Frankly sensational and muckraking, the paper is loaded with sex, crime and corruption. OW calls itself "the enlisted man's court of last resort." Its targets are autocratic generals, sadistic junior officers, court-martial boards too quick with dishonorable discharges, war profiteers in uniform, civilian crooks operating post exchanges, brutal MP's, unfit combat commanders, and any others who need the clear light of publicity.”

 

 

 

 
It was all grimly serious except….:
A cartoon, perhaps typical, from the Overseas Weekly.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, Walker himself called the Overseas Weekly “immoral, unscrupulous, corrupt and destructive.” Even though Maj. Gen. Walter Kerwin, Commander  of the U.S. 3rd Armored Division later said, "Greatest little paper you ever saw. Any time I wanted to spread the word in the Division, I told the Overseas Weekly." -

"The least popular publication at the Pentagon is the Overseas Weekly ..."  - Time Magazine, 10/20/1967

"[The Overseas Weekly is] personally repulsive." - Robert S. McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense
- Newsweek Magazine, 7/18/1966

 

Andrew Guthrie, who worked for the “The Overseas Family”, a sister publication to The Overseas Weekly, remembered:  “the editor of the Weekly, John Dornberg, wrote an award-winning series of articles on General Walker which was the beginning of the end for him.  It was after that series of front page articles, that the Army Internal affairs unit at USAREUR could no longer ignore his right wing stuff in "The Taro Leaf" the Division newspaper and began to look into his whole conduct.

Even after Walker left and I was in the Division, my pal across the squad room, Lester Rowntree, PFC and editor of the Division newspaper, The Taro Leaf, ran into trouble because of The Overseas Weekly.  Lester wrote me:

As for General Walker, he was gone by the time I arrived at the 24th 
headquarters in March 1962, as was his Pro-Blue Troop Information 
program. What remained of the Walker era, as you may remember, was the 
official policy towards "The Overseas Weekly", which, I think, played 
a major role in getting Walked relieved from his command. If you 
remember, or at least this was the case throughout 1962, any reporter 
from "The Overseas Weekly" who came on Flak Kaserne [the 24th Division Headquarters]  to cover a court  martial had to be accompanied by an escort from the PIO office. 
Usually it was [a] … non-com, but one day I was the only one 
available so I hung out with the reporter …. I was more than a 
little candid in expressing to this reporter my FTA attitude, 
Unfortunately, I was overheard dishing the dirt by some officer who 
then reported me to the CG as a mole who was leaking anti-24th 
Division stuff to "The Overseas Weekly". Within hours I was presented with orders 
reassigning me to a line unit on the Iron Curtain as a plain old 
grunt. Not only that but I was to clear Flak by midnight of that day 
escorted by an armed guard.
 Lester R.

So because of the Overseas Weekly articles about Walker, an investigation was begun by the higher USAREUR command in Heidelberg.

 

  Two small side notes –

 

On September 26, 1961, a German national who was reporter for the Overseas Weekly was convicted of “calling General Walker crazy and of telling three members of the general’s former command that the general had a brain tumor.” (NYT | UPI)

a diary entry from April 1, 1961:  This month, the Overseas Weekly will report that General Edwin Walker not only communicates his low opinion of leading American liberals and Kennedy officials in speeches to his troops, but also instructs them how to vote, using a political index prepared by a group so far to the right that it does not even give Barry Goldwater a perfect score. In doing so, Walker breaks various Army regula­tions and federal law.”  That’s a diary entry written in Minsk, in the Soviet Union by Lee Harvey Oswald.

 


 

On April 17th, 1961 , thru Sect of Defense McNamara, JFK ordered that Major General Edwin A. Walker be relieved of command of the 24th Infantry Division, pending an investigation.  General Walker sat in a Colonel’s quarters at USAREUR Headquarters in Heidelberg.   

Lt. General Frederic J. Brown, as 7th Army Inspector General headed an investigation of Walker.  Brown was not sympathetic to Walker and repeatedly asked him if he was a member of the John Birch Society – sounds like a real litmus test except this, you remember, is the group who had called Dwight D. Eisenhower a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy.”  and said that “John Foster Dulles and Allan W. Dulles were "communist tools".

 

The Overseas Weekly had reported that as a member of the John Birch Society, Walker applauded the organization's leader, former Boston candy maker Robert Welch, and that Walker had found nothing offensive in Welch's attacks on Dwight Eisenhower as a "conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.”

 

 

June 12, 1961: The investigation concluded that Walker was – should be – dismissed from command – NOT because he was a zealous anti-Communist, but because he engaged in political activity: he was admonished ''for taking injudicious actions and for making derogatory public statements about prominent Americans''  Specifically, that Walker was in violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government personnel from participating in politics other than voting.  This was based on his promoting the "A.C.A. Index" a list of ultra-conservative candidates.

In June of 1961, Wm F. Buckley, as an editor of the National Review, began a correspondence with Walker, hoping to gather enough facts to run articles supporting Walker and possibly making him a leader of the Right.

At this point, Walker received a new assignment: assistant chief of staff for training and operations in the Pacific—it meant maybe he still had a chance at a third star.


But then, in a stunning move, on

November 4, 1961 , Walker resigned from the Army. Said Walker: "It will be my purpose now, as a civilian, to attempt to do what I have found it no longer possible to do in uniform."  (Walker papers, other sources say Nov. 2)

For most of the rest of his life, Walker took pains to remind people he was NOT retired – but rather resigned – and therefore he had renounced his general’s pension and had complete freedom of speech.

Had Walker thought about Douglas Macarthur’s “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away”? And decided there’d be no fading away for Edwin Walker?  His first speaking engagement was for early December in his home state of Texas.

For Edwin Walker, the period from April, 1961 until his resignation and return to Texas at the end of 1961, is meaningful in this study because at the end of his life, Walker recounted to one of his loyal followers details of this period and his involvement with the JFK administration very different from anything I was able to verify or that is shown in the records. 


Click to see and hear: http://www.bobrowen.com/nymas/Walkermedia/Hat.wmv

 

 

 

 

 

 

In February 1962, Walker entered the race for Governor of Texas, but finished last among six candidates in a Democratic primary election in May that was won by John Connally

 

In September 1962 Walker was back in the newspapers, traveling to Oxford, Mississippi, to protest the enrollment of James Meredith, an Air Force veteran and an African American, at the University of Mississippi.

One leaflet at Ole Miss read “Do not be tricked into fighting your fellow Americans.  KENNEDY is out to destroy AMERICA because he is a sick, sick COMMUNIST”  (from Brothers By David Talbot)


Walker announced: This is Edwin A. Walker. I am in Mississippi beside Gov. Ross Barnett. I call for a national protest against the conspiracy from within. Rally to the cause of freedom in righteous indignation, violent vocal protest, and bitter silence under the flag of Mississippi at the use of Federal troops. This today is a disgrace to the nation in 'dire peril,' a disgrace beyond the capacity of anyone except its enemies. This is the conspiracy of the crucifixion by anti-Christ conspirators of the Supreme Court in their denial of prayer and their betrayal of a nation.[5]

On September 30, a violent, 15-hour riot broke out on the campus, in which two people were killed and six federal marshals were shot.

President Kennedy was quoted in a recorded phone call, now at the JFK Library, saying about General Walker. “Imagine that son of a bitch having been commander of a division up till last year. And the Army promoting him.” (JFK Library)

 

  Attorney General Robert Kennedy issued a warrant for Walker's arrest on the charges of seditious conspiracy, insurrection, and rebellion. He was jailed and held for psychiatric evaluation for five days at the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri and claimed that he was a "political prisoner" of the Kennedy Administration. (NYT)  This became a case in psychiatry as it was debated if Walker being held was like the incarceration of dissidents in the Soviet Union. 

(In 1961 Soviet General Petro Gri-gor-enko criticized Nikita Khruschev's policies and became a member of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group. The authorities sent him to psychiatric imprisonment from 1964-1965, and Grigorenko was stripped of his military rank, medals, and retirement benefits.   The differences and similarities between the cases of these two generals are a whole other topic.)

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association was receiving "a volume of letters from individual physicians" charging Dr. Charles E. Smith, the Army psychiatrist -- who commented on Walker's mental state at the time of the Oxford violence -- with unethical conduct: that he made an improper diagnosis without a personal examination. Dr. Smith was cleared by the AMA on July 4, 1963. He said that news stories of Walker's "reported behavior reflects sensitivity and essentially unpredictable and seemingly bizarre outbursts of the type often observed in individuals suffering with paranoid mental disorder." The society had received 2,500 letters from physicians alleging unethical conduct by Dr. Smith. Nevertheless, the board unanimously ruled in Smith's favor.

On October 7, 19 62 , Walker posted $50,000 bond and returned home to Dallas amid 200 cheering supporters carrying signs like "Welcome Home, General Walker," "Win With General Walker," and "President '64."

After the deep-South federal grand jury adjourned in January 1963 without indicting him, the charges were dropped.

 

An Associated Press dispatch saying that he had "assumed command" of groups of anti-integration rioters at the University of Mississippi and that he "led a charge of students against federal marshals" drew his wrath. He sued the AP and about a dozen other publications for similar accounts.  Walker was initially awarded court judgments of millions.

However, the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1964 that public officials cannot recover damages for reports about official duties unless they can prove actual malice, extended the ruling to public figures in general in 1967. The court reversed lower-court findings against the Associated Press, saying malice had not been proved.

 

For the first time in many years, the issue of “civilian control of the military” or, perhaps better, “the politicalization of the military” became an issue on the American scene.

Edwin Walker seemed to promise to become a hero in the Senate for Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Senators Eastland of Mississippi and Russell of Georgia.  Meanwhile, on the other side, Senators Udall and esp. William Fulbright of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a report on the problem of right-wing extremism in the military, warned that there was "considerable danger" in the "education and propaganda activities of military personnel" that had been uncovered. "Running through all of them is a central theme that the primary, if not exclusive, danger to this country is internal Communist infiltration," said the report.  Among the key targets of the extremists, the committee said, was the Kennedy administration's domestic social program, which many ultraconservatives accused of being communistic.


Edwin Walker
in American Fiction and Culture

 

By 1964, Edwin Walker, United States Army General (not retired but resigned) had become a figure in the American mind, representing many things to many people: champion of anti-integration, anti-UN, anti-arms limitation, anti-those in all three branches of government.  To some, he spoke up for what was wrong with America, for others, he was what was wrong with America.

At least three booklets were widely distributed, fervently promoting his ideas.

And two motion pictures were made in 1963, released in 1964 that seemed to dramatize, or ridicule, Walker and Walker’s character:

John F. Kennedy had admired Seven Days in May, the Knebel and Bailey novel- about a visionary pacifist President attempting to get a disarmament treaty ratified, over the threat of a military
coup d'etat in the United States.

JFK was reportedly so keen to have this film made that he vacated the White House for Hyannisport one weekend to allow scenes to be filmed there. [Brothers, Talbot]

The catch may be that Burt Lancaster portrayed the Walker-like General Matoon:

Click to see and hear: http://www.bobrowen.com/nymas/Walkermedia/Seven.wmv

 

 "I think the signing of a nuclear disarmament pact with the Soviet Union is at best an act of naiveté, and at worst an unsupportable negligence. We've stayed alive because we've built up an arsenal, and we've kept the peace because we've dealt with an enemy who knew we would use that arsenal.  And now we're asked to believe that a piece of paper will take the place of missile sites and Polaris submarines, and that an enemy who hasn't honored one solemn treaty in the history of its existence will now, for our convenience, do precisely that.  I have strong doubts, gentlemen."

This clip may truly represent some of the hot issues of the time but note that the Edmund O’Brien southern senator was played against type as a liberal supporter of the president.  Moreover, Lancaster’s General James Matoon Scott comes across as a truly smooth and formidable character and Walker was not.

Edwin Walker, in fact, had promised to become a poster boy for Senator Thurmond and finally appeared before his Senate Armed Services Committee on Thurmond’s demand for a full investigation of charges that military officers have been "muzzled”.  The trouble was that Walker was no Burt Lancaster.  After Walker’s testimony, William F. Buckley, an editor at National Review, gave up on Walker as a potential leader of the conservative movement in America. (Buckley, Let Us Talk of Many Things)
 

Perhaps an even more vivid a portrayal or caricature of Walker was in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove where Sterling Hayden plays General Jack D. Ripper.

Click to see and hear: http://www.bobrowen.com/nymas/Walkermedia/Fluids.wmv

General Jack D. Ripper : Do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war?

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) : No, I don't think I do, sir, no.

Ripper : He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.


A New York Times story on April 5, 1962
   Quivering with anger and tension, former Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker charged that he was a "scapegoat" of a national policy of collaboration with communism and the victim of slander and injustice by the Secretary of Defense….. In a far-ranging accusation, he assailed President Kennedy and suggested there was a conspiracy in high quarters to "undermine our American way."

Walker didn’t forgive or forget.  He later wrote “The best definition I can find today for Communism is Kennedy liberalism, or Kennedy socialism, either way you want to call it.  It's the best definition in America of what is selling us out and it's a better one than going around flaunting the word Communism.  ….Mr. Kennedy has another symbol of his greatness.  He is the greatest leader of the anti-Christ movement that we have had as a president of the United States.”  wrote Walker in the magazine The American Mercury which he briefly edited.

______________________

 

Walker shooting and the JFK Assassination

 

I’m going to try to make this part about Walker and the JFK Assassination as brief as possible.  The main reason is that around 80% of documents and published material about Walker available today is connected to the JFK Assassination.  And there’s even more on conspiracy theories.  It’s a bottomless pit!

In fact, on November 23, 1963, Edwin Walker was reported to be on a regional airline to Shreveport Louisiana.  Even tho one conspiracy theory has a photo that points to General Walker on the grassy knoll.

But perhaps it’s not surprising.   Murder mysteries and smart detectives are always trying to establish motive.  And Walker really established motives:

For example, Walker was partner with Robert Surrey, who had been Walker’s aide at Ole Miss, in the American Eagle Printing Company that authored, printed and distributed the “Wanted for Treason” poster that flooded Dallas on November 22, 1963.

In 1963, Texans were murderously angry at JFK.  JFK had disciplined General Walker, had scaled back the oil depletion tax credit, and was, rumor had it, considering dumping another Texan, Lyndon Johnson, from his 1964 ticket.

Click for a larger image

 

It might be fair to say that the ongoing problem with the JFK Assassination and the conspiracy theories that have sprung from it is simply motive: why would a left-winger like Oswald kill a left-wing president like Kennedy?  Especially when a virulent hatred against Kennedy had been stirred up by Walker after Walker had lost his command and continually ranted against Kennedy?

 

All of which is made still more confusing by the convincing evidence that Oswald, 7 months before the JFK assassination, set out to kill Walker.

 

Click to see and hear: http://www.bobrowen.com/nymas/Walkermedia/pbs.wmv

In this PBS documentary, made years later, Michael Paine talks about his acquaintenceship with Lee Harvey Oswald and then about General Walker: (Apologies for the poor picture quality of parts of this.)

If you look up Walker in the Warren Commission reports, you’ll see that Oswald’s attempt to shoot Walker is primarily based on Marina Oswald’s testimony and only cited “as evidence of an existing propensity [for Oswald] to act out his leftist beliefs in a violent and potentially murderous way”.



 Walker’s Later and Declining Years

Texas journalist Robert Wilonsky got to write a splendid piece called: The Man Oswald Missed - In his last interview, Gen. Edwin Walker defended his place in history.  Wilonsky wrote to me:

Wow, that was a looooong time ago, but this much I do
recall: He was one cranky sunavabitch. Though, interestingly, the thing I
never forgot: He refused to talk, then wouldn't stop talking. We spent
hours on the phone for several days ... and, always, he prefaced it
with, "I got nothing to say." But in the end, I think he knew his time
was up — and he wanted to set the record straight, for better or
worse, before the tape ran out.

Wilonsky, in his article, thought,    

“Here he was, grudgingly giving what would be his last interview, and most of it was an unintelligible mishmash of right-wing code words, out-of-date rhetoric, rallying cries long ago forgotten, and half-remembered snippets of anticommunist, antidesegregation speeches he gave decades ago in places like Shreveport and Jackson, Mississippi.” http://roswell.fortunecity.com/angelic/96/pcissu8.htm

One veteran of the 24th Infantry in Germany, who became a friend of Walker’s in Dallas years after the service, wrote me an extraordinary series of emails:

Walker tells his version of the events of 1961 to Larry F.

Bob, Regarding my contacts with General Walker: while at his home, and during our Pro-Blue program discussions; he advised me that Senator Joe McCarthy was right in his suspicions of our congress, executive and judicial branches of government were being infiltrated by both Communists and communist (Pinko's) sympathizers, in ever greater numbers. Soon they would fill the leadership with ' Commies,' who would engulf our entire system and turn it into a Russian satellite. He said he was being patriotic by warning the country of their encroachment, beginning with his 24th. Division. He said he got immediate resistance from both military and political pinko's who wanted to shut his mouth for good; he felt, however, if he sounded the alarm, loud enough, long enough, the American people would rally to his conviction and begin throwing the bums out of office,  and putting them in jail for un-American activities. The Commies howled in protest and demanded he be relieved of command and sent home, and that's exactly what happened.

 

He said when he returned, he was summonsed to the White House to meet with President Kennedy: He obeyed, and met with his Commander in Chief. The meeting was more than he expected, and although the Pro-Blue program was brought up, which the President demanded he (Walker) stop the ' Communist[-like Indoctrination ' of the 24th. Division, he (Kennedy) sprang a surprise, by telling Walker that he (Kennedy) had picked him (Walker) to go to Vietnam and set up a command center for the coming massive influx of American military presence in that country. The General told me that he couldn't believe what Kennedy was saying, and mentioned to him that there were some 280 generals the President could pick from, most outranked him (Walker) in all military areas. So how come the President wanted a two star, over the many others?  He said the President told him, that he (Kennedy) had considered many others, but finally decided on him (Walker) because of both his conventional military training and background, but also because of his para-military activities and connections during WWII. The General told me he was stunned at the offer, both for the rewards (four stars, and Supreme Command in Asia) and for the awesome responsibilities he would undertake. He asked the President for some time to consider the matter before accepting, and he said Kennedy granted him the time, but wanted him to get started on the Vietnam project as quickly as possible.

General Walker said he immediately made contact with General Douglas MacArthur, and arranged to meet him in his Waldorf-Astoria suite.

He said he (Walker) sought Mac Arthur's advice on President Kennedy's Vietnam offer. Walker told me that Douglas MacArthur advised him that if he took the Vietnam command, he would become entangled into Asian land warfare that neither he, nor any other commander, could possibly overcome.  In the end, the U.S. military, would suffer the same humiliation and defeat that the French had endured, a decade earlier. When the agony of defeat would be felt by all America, the finger pointing would end up in his (Walker's) face, and Kennedy and the entire military establishment would have him (Walker) as their whipping-boy and blood-soaked scapegoat, Every American soldier's death would be placed into his hands. He thanked MacArthur for his perception and advice, and returned to President Kennedy with his answer. He said he could not, in good conscience, take the Vietnam offer; to which he said the President was disappointed, but nevertheless wanted Walker to take the appointment anyway, right away.

 

Walker said he had to respectfully decline the appointment, to which Kennedy replied that he (Walker) had no choice in the matter, as this was a Presidential Order, and he was to accept it immediately. Walker said he finally told Kennedy that he would not take the order, presidential or not; to which Kennedy demanded he take.

 

The General told me that the President told him it was not possible for a general to defy a presidential order, and for him (Walker) to pack his bags as he was leaving for Vietnam right away. Walker said he wouldn't go, and to make his point, he resigned his commission, left the President and returned home to Texas.

 

That was Larry F. telling what Walker told him.

After the JFK Library couldn't find any indication of any Walker visit, I was inclined to feel what Walker said was extravagant mental compensation for the place he thought he ought to have had in history – perhaps very meaningful in itself.  And very human in some ways, except he showed aberrations early on and tactical nuclear weapons were coming in when we were in the 24th.....

Walker’s views may have become more extreme, and more confused, in his waning years.  Al Nofi found this in his private papers:

In The Radical Right (Random House, 1967), Epstein and Arnold offer that at the 1965 convention of the Christian Crusade, another fascist front, General Walker, "in speaking of the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald, President Kennedy's assassin, urged his listeners not to forget that Ruby's name was Rubenstein, and they can't change that fact no matter how often they refer to him as Ruby."

 


Pension Restored

The Army restored Walker’s pension rights in 1982. In 1961, by resigning instead of retiring, Walker had been unable to draw a pension from the Army, then almost $1,000 per month. 

In the 1970s and 80s, Walker made friends with at least a few of the young men who had served under him. 
 


Arrests – 1976-77

Edwin Walker was arrested on June 23, 1976 for public lewdness in a restroom at a Dallas park and accused of fondling an undercover policeman.  He was arrested again in Dallas for public lewdness on March 16, 1977.  He pled no contest to one of the two misdemeanor charges, was given a suspended, 30-day jail sentence, and fined $1,000. 



Walker had been a chain smoker for many years. He died of lung cancer at his home in Dallas in 1993, age 83.

 

So what does it all mean?

Who is to say what a human being’s life was worth?  If they made any real difference in history?

 


 

3 Theories

Permit me to advance a few theories: 3 actually.  Just theories but based on what other said and based on my own fairly intensive research

Theory #1
Edwin A. Walker was a good guy and a true American patriot

He may have been flawed but great men and tragic heroes often are.

When the Army finally granted Walker a pension in 1982, it called Walker "a truly dedicated American soldier who firmly believed that insufficient action was being taken within the military establishment to combat the threat of communism."

General Bonesteel, who took over the 24th Division from Walker, remembered, “His pro-Blue program…on paper, and without an overenthusiastic implementation, was a sound troop education program, but I…made it low-key…Ted [Walker] was a grand guy, but I think he got overly excited about this thing and got out of hand a little bit.” (deRosa – USAMHI – Bonesteel papers)

Larry G. Farquer sent me a a great deal about General Walker:

“I met General Walker, interviewed him, and was truly amazed by him. I would follow that man into Hell, if I had to. He was an amazing man.”

Wasn’t Walker a great example of American free speech?   Shortly after Walker’s resignation and Thurmond’s promoting Walker as a hero, California congressman Edgar Hiestand asked,

“Since when, Mr. Speaker, is it proper procedure to relieve a military officer of his command for distributing the information of a patriotic society?  Since when is it wrong to advance the cause of Americanism?”

 

John Nuzzo sent me an email from Lawrence County Pennsylvania: John had been a co-ordinator for the John Birch Society north of Pittsburgh and got this signed photo from him.  John wrote:

  “We brought Major General Walker into town to speak at our event.  I was working for the campaign of Barry Goldwater at the time………  When I went into his room, he was wearing a tee shirt (athletic kind with no sleeves). We were talking and he pointed to a scar on his shoulder and told me that is where he was hit by a fragment when Oswald shot at him.

“I can remember him with a towel over his shoulder and coming out of the bathroom while shaving….I do know he told me that he was responsible for Oswald’s dishonorable discharge from the service. 

“I have kept his autographed photo on my walls   I tell everyone about him and meeting him.  I thought he was as kind, honest man.  He went out of his way to meet anyone and talk with anyone. 

We drew a pretty good crowd that night for him and he shared his thoughts about America and Communism…one thing that stood out was his love of America and his deep hatred for Communism….I have not been a member of the JBS, for 30 plus years probably, but I still maintain a conservative view.

 

24th Infantry veteran Robert Admonilli wrote me:
“You brought back memories when you wrote about Gen. Walker. Remembering attending mandatory lectures, named if I remember right, "Pro Blue Program". Never thought of him as a "right wing fanatic" nor do I today.  Thought of him as very patriotic, got the division in great shape (mandatory PT and runs daily) and to tell you the truth never did see any racist attitudes come from him (most of my NCO's (were) black or Hispanic) and we received great field training. He may have been a little extreme, in some people’s eyes, but most of the men did not think so.”



In Herman Wolk play and film The Caine Mutiny ( 1954) where Capt. Queeg may be a nut but also was an indispensable cog for the nation in wartime, the defense attorney says,

“You know something? While I was studying law, and Mr. Keefer here was writing his stories, and you Willie were tearing up the playing fields of dear old Princeton, who was standing guard over this fat, dumb, happy country of our, eh? Not us, oh no, we knew you couldn't make any money in the service. So who did the dirty work for us? Queeg did, and a lot of other guys. Tough, sharp guys who didn't crack up like Queeg.” 

Not that Walker ever cracked up.  He stood by his beliefs – to the very end.  And only amplified them as he went on.

If the Communists demanded ideological purity, then we should demand ideological purity.

And this was War – or at least potential War at any moment.

George Orwell said, “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

Carl Forman remembered earning money by taking extra guard duty in the 24th Division when “Gen.Walker found it odd to have seen me guarding the entrance to the "War Room" so many times. One afternoon, after all had left and I was alone …. Gen.Walker walks in … stopped and looked at me for a moment, then asked, "Foreman, where in the states are you from"?  “Louisiana, Sir!!!” Then he asked why I was on guard so often….. two days later, I was standing Honor Guard for a visiting General.  He had a profound hatred of "Communism", to which we all had, that was the reason we were in Germany to begin with.  But never, did I know him to be racist

In 1962] in Beaumont,Texas. I saw on the evening news, Gen. Walker was going to speak at the Beaumont City Auditorium the next night…..There standing, in a civilian suit, was Gen.Walker …. he looked at me, then looked down again …. then stopped and stared again. He then recognized me….. His first words were, "Foreman, what a pleasure to see you again".  Gen. Walker told him to put another chair on stage for a servicemen that had served under his command in Germany. Now Rowen,,,,,I nearly pissed in my pants, there on stage, I was so afraid of crowds, but I figured what the hell, if it helps him to get the governorship for Texas, it was the least I could do.

Then the curtain rose, people stood up and clapped, everyone said the Pledge of Alliance, then sat down. Gen. Walker was introduced to the crowd as the next governor of the great state of Texas.  He walked up to he podium, very upright, no slouching in his walk, very officer like, spit shined shoes, everything in place. The first words were, "Good Evening, before I start, I would like to introduce one of the solders that served under my command in Germany, Carl Foreman.  Stand up Carl.”   I did stand up, that was the first and last time I ever got an applause.

  …His talk was pretty much orientated to his "Pro Blue" indoctrination class. This time he threw in States Rights over Federal Gov'ts rights,  and the Constitution. He told the audience that under the Continuation, the states were protected from the Federal Govt and folks had better wake up before it was too late.  After his talk, the curtain closed, he came over and thanked me for helping him and said if he won the race to the state capital, for me to come up and visit sometime. Oh well, good try, he got 4% of the vote, if I recall.”

 


 

Theory #2
Edwin A. Walker was a bad guy
and a danger to American democracy

PSTD, maybe from WWII or Korea?  Or maybe a brain tumor?  Either one, why was he a general in the US Army? – and with nuclear missiles?

The emphasis was on the topics he chose, the attitude was indignant, the tone was certitude; not far from the Fox News, Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levine of today. For Walker, it became, Democrat =  liberal = progressive = socialist = communist  Then Walker said, “When you think of the definition of Kennedy liberalism, [it] is Communism…he doesn’t need you anymore…He’s out to get the Negro vote.  And you’ll be voting with the Negroes from now on.” 

You can debate whether it applies to Walker himself to the followers he’s entangling but Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983), longshoreman and philosopher of this Era, wrote, “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new context not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.”


In Walker farewell to 24th Division, Walker talks about “My pride”, “God’s word”, “truth”, “right and justice”. The posture is judgmental, the attitude is total certitude.

Even Fred Schwartz of the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade would complain about “Attracting people too superheated to teach to – or learn – anything.” (Schoenwald )

This was the Cold War.  For simple minds, if we had had any guts, we would have a nuclear war.

Imagine being JFK, trying to juggle incredibly sensitive and powerful forces and having a vengeful, righteous man, wrapped in certitude and the American flag.  Walker wasn’t just dumb or crazy, he was dangerous.

Were there precedents for Walker? Truman and Douglas MacArthur, of course.  Early, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr with General James Wilkinson.  NYMAS members will know about Smedley Darlington Butler who turned the tables on a plot of uncertain size against FDR.

Like McCarthy, Strom Thurmond, or Robert Welch, Walker contributed to the coarsening and deadening of political dialog in the country.

Al Nofi said about Walker’s private papers: “The vast bulk of the material relates to events beginning with his sacking.  Already a serious right winger…., he plunged deeper and deeper into anti-liberalism, anti-communism, super-patriotism, anti-tax, pro-gun, pro-secession, etc., eventually picking up on pretty much every ultra-right cause one can imagine; anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigration, and more, with lots of literature related to these…..It suggests an increasingly paranoid personality.”

 

Tho a lot of those who served under him in the 24th Infantry Division thought he was least OK, other saw the danger.   Jim Dunnigan of NYMAS and the Strategypage.com wrote, “NCOs and officers who knew him, told me that most troops considered Walker a fanatic and a flake. In retrospect, Walker was adopted by the media…”

Brigadier General and military writer SLA Marshall blasted Walker as “scatterbrained, unofficer-like and contemptuous of the best traditions of the Army” (deRosa, Washington Post)

Walker’s definition of extremists embraced those who would "go back to eliminating the income tax from our laws and the rights of people to unionize... [and those] advocating some form of dictatorship." It also included those who "make radical statements [and] attack people of good repute who are proved patriots."

Eisenhower was blunt in discussing the recent "rise of extremists" in the country.

"I don't think the United States needs super-patriots," he declared. "We need patriotism, honestly practiced by all of us, and we don't need these people that are more patriotic than you or anybody else."

 

 

Theory #3
“Unassailable Shield”  Theory

Before, I quoted one email from a 24th veteran – an email that always bothered me:

He asked me if I would have the Officer of the Day send someone to pick him [Walker] up, his driver had parked in the garage and committed suicide. I will never forget the nonchalance in his voice.  Larry Mooneyham

And then, the – not one but two arrests.  My correspondent, Larry F., who had told me with complete sincerity about Walker telling him that JFK demanded Walker take over command of Vietnam and the Pacific, thought that the suggestion that Walker was gay was “the very same allegation [that] was levied against German Army General-Oberst Werner Freiherr von Fritsch, in 1938” and that the truth would only be known to Walker, himself and to God.

 

Well, to Walker himself, to God….and to the Dallas Police Department:

 

Edwin Walker, the attractive eligible bachelor in Little Rock, never married and never had children.  He died leaving one unreachable nephew.

 

In Walker’s era in the 24th Infantry Division, homosexuality was not tolerated and even the suggestion made a candidate for an Army security clearance a blackmail risk.

 

So this theory suggests Walker may have, however consciously or unconsciously, created an “Unassailable Shield” by being the most patriotic and staunchest fighter against America’s enemies.  To assault this shield was to assault true Americanism.

 

As for those who might attack him, well, he’d already started naming names.

 


Interestingly, one of the few sources I found that pursued this theory was not from Walker’s enemies, but in a distinctly ultra-conservative publication  Encyclopedia of White Power: A Sourcebook on the Radical Racist Right (Hardcover) by Jeffrey Kaplan (Author) which includes the rather mysterious “Deguello Report on the American Right Wing”:  Walker was

 

 

Former NYMAS president Brian R. Sullivan responded to my H-War query about General Walker:

“It does seem more likely - although hardly certain - that the key to understanding Walker's behavior is tied to his homosexuality…..I wonder how Walker managed to combine an active gay sex life with rising relatively high in the army? Did his superiors suspect but valued his service and protected him?.....  

(Walker's bachelor status must have seemed at least a bit odd at a time when an army wife was a virtually indispensable aid to reaching higher rank.) Did rumors about Walker's sex life tip someone off and lead to blackmail? …..

Had he been forcing his attentions on his driver, hence the latter's suicide? As you point out, this might be impossible to investigate now…...

It was.  Attempts to get records from the Army Criminal Investigation Division under the Freedom of Information Act came up with nothing found.  Also, even if there was something, it is perhaps likely that a Division Commanding General would have had more influence over the record than a Private First Class.

 

I’d like to call this “The Unassailable Shield” Theory.  It is not meant to be homophobic – in fact, quite the opposite.  Couldn’t help but think, if gays serving openly had been the policy since the beginning of Walker’s career, would Walker have turned out all together differently?  Would the unassailable shield not been needed?

 

Again, Brian Sullivan:

….. perhaps Walker used the mores and attitudes of the time - which often depicted all gays as effeminate, "limp-wristed" types - to hide his sexual orientation behind a super-macho, violently anti-Communist exterior. But such a hypothesis doesn't help so much to explain the events that brought Walker notoriety. Why did he rather suddenly become so outspoken? I could make a guess that he felt in particular danger of exposure over an episode of some kind. Perhaps he decided to deflect attention away from a peccadillo that he feared would expose him or to build up a character defense in anticipation of such. Perhaps he thought he could find defenders against charges he believed were about to be brought against him among the John Bircher types of his era. Obviously, these are no more than uninformed guesses……

Brian Sullivan


So what’s the moral of Edwin Walker’s life?

Martin Luther had said, “I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

Good guy and patriot?  Bad guy and a threat to American security?  Was he a closet gay wrestling with his demons?  Would you have trusted him with tactical nuclear weapons? Or was Edwin A. Walker just crazy?

Maybe all those things?

Decide yourself if General Walker was a good guy, a bad guy, or maybe something else, or maybe all three.


My own feeling, sometimes, is like Eisenhower’s 

"People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable. ………. Things are not all black and white. There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters."

 


###


 

Bibliography

 

Mary Ferrell Foundation  http://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
contains over 1.2 million pages of documents, government reports, books, essays, and hours of multimedia

 

Edwin A. Walker Papers, Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.

 

Cartwright, Gary.  “The Old Soldier”  Texas Monthly, February, 1991

 

Political indoctrination in the U.S. Army from World War II to the Vietnam War

by Christopher S. DeRosa, Published by U of Nebraska Press, 2006, ISBN 080321734X,

 

The Pentagon's Battle for the American Mind: the Early Cold War - Page 156

by Lori Lyn Bogle

           

A Time for Choosing: The Rise of Modern American Conservatism‎ - Especially Chapter 4, “The Case of General Edwin A. Walker" by Jonathan M. Schoenwald  - 2001 –

 
Encyclopedia of white power: a sourcebook on the radical racist right ‎ - Page 375by Jeffrey Kaplan - Political Science - 2000 - 585 pages  includes The Deguello Report.  The source and motives of both works are unclear and might be viewed with suspicion.  The full text online of The Deguello Report is at http://iamthewitness.com/Deguello-Report.html 

 

Brothers,  by David Talbot

           

Robert Kennedy and his times‎ - Page 450 - by Arthur Meier Schlesinger - 2002 - 1088 pages

 

About Face,  By David H. Hackworth, Julie Sherman

 

The Man Oswald Missed - In his last interview, Gen. Edwin Walker defended his place in history by Robert Wilonsky at http://roswell.fortunecity.com/angelic/96/pcissu8.htm

 

Let Us Talk of Many Things, by William F. Buckley

 

Knebel, Fletcher and Charles W. Bailey II, Seven Days in May, 1962

 

Devils Brigade by Robert H. Adleman and George H. Walton 

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum:  http://www.jfklibrary.org/  Esp. Oral Histories and Diary

Truce Tent and Fighting Front, Walter G. Hermes, Center Of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D. C., 1992

Pamphlets from the American Eagle Printing Company, Dallas, TX
Censorship and survival by Edwin A. Walker

Walker speaks - unmuzzled!: Complete text of three speeches   

Courtney, Kent., The case of General Edwin A. Walker, by Kent and Phoebe Courtney, New Orleans, Conservative Society of America, 1961.



 
Bob Rowen has been a board member of the New York Military Affairs Symposium for over 10 years and has been Director of Operations and Programming. 

He helped launch this organization's website nymas.org which is rated one of the top 10 resources on Wars and Conflicts on the Web by both Google and the Open Directory Project.  He’s produced the talks of more that 20 NYMAS speakers as audio podcasts on the NYMAS site and has another 20 waiting in the wings. 

He has given NYMAS papers on "Researching Military History on the Web", "American Privateers in the War of 1812" and “ Gray and Black Radio Propaganda against Nazi Germany

He would like to caution this audience that there is occasional foul language in quotations so children and child-like minds should be warned.

 

 

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Did you know
Major General Edwin A. Walker?

If you knew Walker during, or even before or after, his time as Commanding General of the 24th Infantry Division (1959-1961),
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Just email rrowen@nymas.org
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