Go to contents

The leadership of Gen. Walton Walker

Posted April. 07, 2020 07:36,   

Updated April. 07, 2020 07:36


Gen. Walton Walker was the commander of the U.S. Eighth Army during the Korean War, and the eponymous hero of Seoul’s Walker Hill Hotel. His nickname was – as your intuition would tell you from a glimpse at his photo – the “bulldog.” He was never a genius or an intellectual type. While he got promoted faster than anyone under the leadership of Gen. George S. Patton, people remembered him as a commander of courage and tenacity rather than a strategist.

During the early phase of the Korean War, there were too many incompetent, unqualified commanders in the U.S. military. Gen. Walker visited the front military units, pointing out mistakes and correcting them. While he might come across as a shouting, throwing-books type of a leader, Walker was cool-headed. Instead of yelling at a commander struggling with troops deployment, Walker would calmly give a tactics lecture. He would teach the commanders the principles of military tactics and ask them how they would apply them in an actual battle. Gen. Walker’s approach to the tasks of urgency was the subject of either skepticism or wonder.

The answer can be traced back to his superior. When Ge. Patton was getting ready to cross the Rhine River, Gen. Manton Eddy of the XII Corps visited him to discuss the sacking of a division commander. The rationale was that the commander would meddle in the leadership of his regiments and battalions too often. Ge. Patton agreed that it was a valid ground for sacking, but he suggested the division commander should be reeducated as it was hard to find his replacement fast enough. That awoke the division commander to his own mistakes, which made him a competent leader afterwards.

Gen. Patton had a faith that a good commander should never interfere with his subordinate units. Gen. Walker learned this lesson, which is why he gave an off-the-cuff tactics lecture to a division commander, who didn’t even know where his regiments were deployed when the defense line of the Nakdong River was about to collapse. South Korea has a legion of highly competent experts. But still there are so many people teaching the experts how to drive from the back seat. They avoid responsibilities but rather take the credit. And in this thicket of shadows, our country’s true heroes and experts are dying out.