Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

“For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. As commander of the V Bomber Command during the period from 5 September 1942, to 5 January 1943, Brigadier General Walker repeatedly accompanied his units on bombing missions deep into enemy-held territory. From the lessons personally gained under combat conditions, he developed a highly efficient technique for bombing when opposed by enemy fighter airplanes and by antiaircraft fire. On 5 January 1943, in the face of extremely heavy antiaircraft fire and determined opposition by enemy fighters, he led an effective daylight bombing attack against the shipping in the harbor at Rabaul, New Britain, which resulted in direct hits on 9 enemy vessels. During this action his airplane was disabled and forced down by the attack of an overwhelming number of enemy fighters.”
(Medal of Honor citation G.O. No.: 13 on March 11, 1943)


After Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker went Missing In Action (MIA) on January 5, 1943, General Douglas MacArthur recommended him for the Medal of Honor (MOH) with the citation approved by his headquarters under General Order No. 13 (G.O. No. 13) March 11, 1943.

On March 25, 1943, at 11:30 am at the White House, U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to his eldest son, Kenneth N. Walker, Jr.  then age sixteen.

According to the President’s Appointment Index, the event was noted as:
“Posthumous award of Congressional Medal of Honor to Brig. Gen. Kenneth N. Walker: Kenneth N. Walker, Jr., Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, Maj. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, Maj. Gen. Muir S. Fairchild, Brig. Gen. James Drain, Rep. Carl Hinshaw (CA)”

An official photograph was taken of the President seated in front of a large globe handing the Medal of Honor inside the presentation case to Kenneth N. Walker, Jr. standing beside him.

President F. D. Roosevelt presents the Medal of Honor to Kenneth N. Walker, Jr.
President Roosevelt presents the Medal of Honor to Kenneth N. Walker, Jr. in the White House.

The ceremony was also attended by Lt. General George C. Kenney, Major General George E. Stratemeyer, Major General Muir S. Fairchild, Brig General James A. Drian, and Congressman John Carl Hinshaw (R-CA).  Fifteen minutes previously, the President met with Admiral William D. Leahy and it is likely he remained present. Afterward, the guests departed and the President remained for his next appointment at 11:45 am with Honorable Paul V. McNutt, chairman of the War Manpower Commission.

White House Calendar March 25, 1943
White House Calendar March 25, 1943, for President F. D. Roosevelt with 11:30 am meeting with Kenneth N. Walker, Jr. and guests (F. D. Roosevelt Library & Archives White House Stenographer’s Diary (STE) digitized.

Earning the Medal of Honor, Walker became the 43rd American to earn the Medal of Honor during World War II. He was one of 38 flying personnel from the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) to earn the nation’s highest military medal for valor.

Interviewed on December 7, 2001, Kenneth N. Walker Jr. recalls in MIA General Walker  the visit to the White House:

“Our local Republican, our member of Congress [U. S. House of Representatives John C. Hinshaw (R-CA) 20th Congressional District of California] anyway, arranged for me to go to Congress and meet Senators. He was with me on this trip to the White House and he joined me there. I know that when I entered [the White House] I, at that age you are not really aware of what you are going to see. Roosevelt was sitting behind the desk. But I recall looking back the main impression that I had was of a man who was worn out with his endeavors to the war which were unbelievable.

He read the statement [Medal Of Honor citation]. Then I think, as I recall, our only personal interaction was he asked me what I would like to do after the war. I had been talked to by the Republican, sorry the Representative [Hinshaw] wanted to pass a bill, put a bill through Congress which would allow any son or daughter of the recipient of the Medal of Honor to have a fast track to West Point or Annapolis. So, of course, I said without thinking, “Oh, I wanted to go to West Point!”. He said, “Good. Good for you” or something like that. I never did, I didn’t take advantage of it. I didn’t really want to. That was the one, one interpersonal connection I could say, other than my general impression.”

Kenneth N. Walker, Jr. interview 2001
Kenneth N. Walker, Jr. interview 2001 (still frame via MIA General Walker DVD)

Today, Walker’s original Medal of Honor remains with the Walker family. The Medal of Honor is the Department of the Army version. The front of the medal is a gold five pointed star, each point tipped with trefoils surrounded by a green laurel wreath and suspended from a gold bar inscribed “VALOR” surmounted by an eagle. In the center of the star, Minerva’s head surrounded by the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”. On each ray of the star is a green oak leaf. Above is a suspension ribbon with white stars on a blue. On the reverse is a bar engraved “THE CONGRESS TO” and the rear of the star is engraved with: “Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker United States Army Rabaul, New Britain January 5, 1943”.

References

United States Army Air Force Brigadier General