Fred L. Walker

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Fred Livingood Walker
Fred L. Walker.jpg
Born (1887-06-11)June 11, 1887
Fairfield County, Ohio
Died October 6, 1969(1969-10-06) (aged 82)
Washington, D.C.
Allegiance United States United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1911–1946
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Unit USA - Army Infantry Insignia.png Infantry Branch
Commands held 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment
36th Infantry Division
Battles/wars

Pancho Villa Expedition
World War I

Awards Distinguished Service Cross (2)
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Purple Heart (2)

Major General Fred Livingood Walker (June 11, 1887 – October 6, 1969)[1] was a highly-decorated senior United States Army officer who served in both World War I and World War II and was awarded with the second highest military decorations in both wars, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). During World War I he commanded a battalion on the Western Front, fighting with distinction in the Second Battle of the Marne in July 1918, earning him his first DSC. During World War II, Walker commanded the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division[2] throughout its service in the Italian Campaign, from September 1943 until June 1944.

Early life and military career[edit]

Fred Livingood Walker was born on June 11, 1887 in Fairfield County, Ohio as a son of William Henry Walker and his wife Belle (néé Mason). Walker attended the Ohio State University and graduated in 1911 with a diploma from engineering. Subsequently he was accepted into the United States Army and was commissioned as an officer, with the rank of second lieutenant, into the Infantry. He served briefly with an Infantry unit in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas and then he was transferred to the Philippines, where he served with the 13th Infantry Regiment.

In 1914, he was transferred back to the United States, where he was stationed in Eagle Pass, Texas and also took a part in Pancho Villa Expedition under the command of Brigadier General John Joseph Pershing (later destined to achieve the highest rank in the United States Army, that of General of the Armies).

After the American entry into World War I (in April 1917) Walker was sent overseas and served with the 30th Infantry Regiment, part of the 3rd Division, into the trenches of the Western Front. The division was part of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). Walker, as a 31-year old major, commanded the 1st Battalion of his regiment during the Second Battle of the Marne in the summer of 1918 and distinguished himself during heavy combat. In July 1918, Walker received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his service during the battle. In addition, he also received a Silver Star and was wounded twice.

Distinguished Service Cross Citation[edit]

For his actions, Fred L. Walker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The official U.S. Army citation for Walker's Distinguished Service Cross reads:

General Orders: War Department, General Orders 89 (1919)
Action Date: 15-Jul-18
Name: Fred L. Walker
Service: Army
Rank: Major
Regiment: 30th Infantry Regiment
Division: 3d Division, American Expeditionary Forces
Citation: The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Major (Infantry) Fred L. Walker, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 30th Infantry Regiment, 3d Division, A.E.F., near the Marne River, France, 15 July 1918. Holding a front of more than 4 1/2 kilometers along the Marne River, Major Walker commanded a front-line battalion, which received the principal shock of the German attack on the French Army Corps front, but inflicted great losses on the enemy as the latter crossed the river. Those who succeeded in crossing were thrown into such confusion that they were unable to follow the barrage; and, through the effective leadership of this officer, no Germans remained in his sector south of the river at the end of the day's action. When one platoon had been cut off by an entire enemy battalion near the river, he sent other units to its relief and captured the entire German battalion, numbering 200 soldiers and 5 officers, including the battalion commander.[3]

World War II[edit]

Remaining in the army during the interwar period, in September 1941, during World War II (although the United States was still officially neutral), Walker was appointed Commanding General (CG) of the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division stationed in Brownwood, Texas. In this capacity, Walker replaced Major General Claude V. Birkhead, the previous commander. Walker commanded the division during the Carolina Maneuvers in the summer of 1942.[4]

In April 1943, the 36th Infantry Division deployed from the New York Port of Embarkation to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Walker commanded the division in training operations in North Africa, near Rabat, Morocco and Arzew, Algeria. The 36th Division first saw combat in the Italian Campaign in September 1943, when, under the command of Major General Ernest Dawley's VI Corps (later replaced by Major General John Lucas) of the U.S. Fifth Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Mark Clark, it took part in Operation Avalanche, part of the Allied invasion of Italy. The assault landings were successful, although the division suffered heavy casualties when the German troops launched numerous counterattacks in an attempt to push the Allies back into the sea.

Walker was 56 years old in 1943, making him the oldest divisional commander in the United States Army at the time. He suffered from medical problems, including an elevated heart rate, arthritis and bouts of temporary blindness. While in Italy, one of his sons served as his operations officer and another as his personal aide.[5]

Walker commanded the 36th Division during the whole of its service in the grueling slog up Italy, crossing the Volturno Line in October, and by late November/early December, by which time the division was part of Major General Geoffrey Keyes' U.S. II Corps, were fighting in front of the Bernhardt Line, part of the formidable Winter Line defenses, suffering heavy casualties in the Battle of San Pietro Infine, later participating in the Rapido river crossing, part of the First Battle of Monte Cassino, and Mount Artemisio on the drive north through Rome and beyond. The fighting in the early months of the Allied campaign in Italy proved very costly for the 36th Division, due to determined German resistance, the mountainous terrain, and the worsening winter weather. Walker was critical of the leadership in Italy, writing, "The Italian campaign will not be finished this week, nor next. Our wasteful policy or method of taking one mountain mass after another gains no tactical advantage, locally. There is always another mountain mass beyond with the Germans dug in on it, just as before. Somebody on top side, who control of the required means, should figure out a way to decisively defeat the German army in Italy, instead of just pushing, pushing, pushing."[6]

Unfortunately, the crossing of the Rapido that took place on January 20-22, 1944 was a total failure, which resulted in heavy losses for the 36th Division, suffering approximately 1,681 casualties–143 killed, 663 wounded and 875 missing. After the war, the Thirty-sixth veteran Division Association called for a Congressional investigation of this battle, due to the inefficiency and inexperience of General Clark. However, no action was taken against General Clark.[1] Walker had been pessimistic about the operations' chances of success from the start, writing on 17 January "It appears to me that the defeat of the Germans on the Marne on July 15th 1918, is about to be repeated in reverse on the Rapido in January 1944."[7] He blamed his superiors, Keyes, commanding II Corps, and Clark, commanding the Fifth Army, attempting to convince them to launch the attack further north, without success, "They do not understand the problems and do not know what I am talking about."[8]

In July 1944, Major General Fred Walker was transferred back to the United States and appointed as Commander of the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He served in this capacity until April 30, 1946, when he retired from the U.S. Army.

In September 1944 Major General Walker was awarded with his second Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership of the 36th Infantry Division.[9]

Decorations[edit]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster
Mexican Service Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
World War I Victory Medal with five battle clasps
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Service Stars
World War II Victory Medal

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b ""WALKER, FRED LIVINGOOD," Handbook of Texas Online". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  2. ^ "DIVISION COMMANDERS". Texas Military Forces Museum. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Valor Awards for Fred L. Walker". militarytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  4. ^ "Biography of Major-General Fred L. Walker (1887 - 1969), USA". generals.dk. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  5. ^ Atkinson, Rick (2 October 2007). The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (The Liberation Trilogy Book 2). 6640: Henry Holt and Co. 
  6. ^ Jon B. Mikolashek, p. 74, General Mark Clark, Commander of America's Fifth Army in World War II and liberator of Rome
  7. ^ Jon B. Mikolashek, p. 88, General Mark Clark, Commander of America's Fifth Army in World War II and liberator of Rome
  8. ^ Jon B. Mikolashek, p. 87, General Mark Clark, Commander of America's Fifth Army in World War II and liberator of Rome
  9. ^ "Valor Awards for Fred L. Walker". militarytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-08-18.