Statue dedicated to Pusan Perimeter leader
By JON RABIROFF | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 23, 2010
SEOUL — A statue honoring the U.S. Army general who led a desperate stand against invading North Koreans early in the Korean War was unveiled Wednesday in time for the 60th anniversary of the start of the conflict, but in an area where few South Koreans can visit it.
A civic group tried for years to get the monument to then-Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker erected in a place where local residents could easily learn how the 8th Army commander led the defense of a critical line around Pusan, the only pocket of South Korea not captured by communist North Korea in its June 25, 1950, invasion of the South.
Walker’s Pusan Perimeter stand during the summer of that year set the stage for Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s dramatic and better-known Inchon Landing near Seoul in September, which cut the North Korean supply lines and allowed United Nations forces to eventually push back the enemy.
After efforts to put the statue in a couple of public places failed, the monument found a home next to 8th Army Headquarters at Yongsan Garrison, where a number of U.S. and South Korean dignitaries gathered Wednesday to uncover the 18-foot-tall, bronze-and-granite statue and to remember “the forgotten general of the forgotten war.”
Suh Jin-sup — chairman of the Republic of Korea-U.S. Alliance Friendship Association that funded the $770,000 project — said Walker “will be remembered by future generations” as the man “who saved the Republic of Korea from an extremely precarious state.”
While only people with base access will be able to visit the monument to Walker for years to come, 8th Army officials pointed out that South Koreans eventually will see it when U.S. military operations are consolidated at Camp Humphreys, south of Seoul, and most of Yongsan Garrison is turned over to the government of South Korea. That move is tentatively scheduled for 2015 or 2016.
Suh said previously he felt Walker was a more important Korean War hero to South Koreans than MacArthur, and he was frustrated that efforts to find a more public home for the statue were unsuccessful.
In 2005, the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan (the new spelling of Pusan) rejected an association request to place the monument there because Walker was more a representative of the U.S. than the U.N.
The group then asked the city of Daegu — home of Camp Walker, a U.S. military base named after the general — but officials there rejected the statue largely because it was during a period of elevated anti-American sentiment on the peninsula related to the 2002 deaths of two South Korean schoolgirls killed by a military vehicle driven by U.S. soldiers.
Ironically, Walker was killed in December of 1950 when his jeep was struck by a South Korean military vehicle near Uijeongbu. He was promoted posthumously to the rank of four-star general.
U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens said “Bulldog,” as Walker was known, led by example.
“If necessary, he intended to be the last American standing” if the North Koreans had managed to make their way into Pusan, she said. “We are inspired by his example today.”
“Because Gen. Walker and his soldiers held the line at the Pusan Perimeter,” current 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Fil Jr. said, “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.”
A number of dignataries were on hand Wednesday at Yongsan Garrison in South Korea for the unveiling of a statue of Walton H. Walker, the 8th Army commander who is credited with turning the tide of the Korean War early in 1950 by leading his troops in defending Pusan, the only part of South Korea not overrun by North Korean troops at the start of the war. Among those in attendance were Kathleen Stephens, U.S. ambassador to South Korea, second from the left in the front row, and U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Walter Sharp, third from the left.
JON RABIROFF/STARS AND STRIPES