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First Name: Sam

Last Name: Walker

Birthplace: West Point, NY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Sims

Date of Birth: 31 July 1925

Rank: General

Years Served: 1946-1978
Sam Sims Walker

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1946

•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Sam Sims Walker
General, U.S. Army

Sam Sims Walker was born on 31 July 1925 at West Point, NY. He is the son of General Walton Harris Walker, also a four-star U.S. Army general. They are one of only two pairs of fathers and sons to achieve the rank of four-star general in U.S. Army history.

Military Career

Walker enrolled in the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1941, but transferred to the U.S. Military Academy the next year. Upon graduation from West Point in 1946, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry. His initial assignment was with the 11th Airborne Division on occupation duty in Japan.

Korean War

He served in the Korean War and, as a company commander in the 24th Infantry Division, he earned a Silver Star. During his time in Korea, his father, then commanding the Eighth Army, was killed in a vehicle accident, and Walker escorted his body back to the U.S. He returned to the U.S. at the end of his combat tour in 1951 and was assigned to the U.S. Army Infantry School as an instructor.

After graduating in 1957 from the Command and General Staff College, Walker served in a variety of assignments that included serving as aide-de-camp to the Chief of Staff of the Army; tactical officer at the USMA; and Secretary of the General Staff of the United Nations Command/US Forces, Korea. He was a Distinguished Graduate from the National War College in 1963, and then assumed command of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment.

Vietnam War

Walker volunteered for duty in Vietnam, serving as G-3 of the 1st Infantry Division, and took command of a brigade as a Lieutenant Colonel, earning a second Silver Star.

Post-War Life

After Vietnam, Walker attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard, followed by an assignment in the Office of the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army as Chief of Force Readiness, Force Planning, and Analysis. After that position, he was chosen to represent the Army on the Council of Foreign Relations.

He received his first star as a Brigadier General in 1968, and became the Assistant Division Commander, 82nd Airborne Division, before being selected as the 54th Commandant of Cadets at West Point in 1969. Promoted to Major General, he took command of the 3rd Infantry Division, followed by selection as the U.S. Commander in Berlin.

As a Lieutenant General, Walker served as the Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, GA from 1975 to 1977. In 1977 he was selected for promotion to full general becoming, at the time, the youngest four-star general in the Army. He was then appointed to his final position as Commanding General, Allied Land Forces Southeast, headquartered in Turkey.

His time in Turkey was a tumultuous one, coinciding with the U.S. arms embargo against Turkey for deploying troops to Cyprus in 1974. At the end of this assignment he was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal of the Turkish Armed Forces. The Army was either unable or unwilling to place him in another four star slot, so facing a non-punitive demotion to three-star rank, he opted to retire from the army in 1978. The following article appeared in the Monday, October 9, 1978 issue of TIME magazine in the Nation section.

Case of the Fallen Star

Caught in a Pentagon crossfire, a general resigns.

He led his troops into combat in Korea and Viet Nam with such gallantry that he was twice awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest combat medal. He moved easily from battlefield to classroom, from Pentagon desk to international command, gathering ribbons and rank along the way and, last year, becoming the youngest four-star general in the Army. Then, last spring, Sam Sims Walker became trapped in a bureaucratic Pentagon crossfire, and last week he resigned from the Army after more than 32 years of service-at the same time bringing into the open a battle between generals and the Army's highest ranking civilians.

It was the end of the only life Sam Walker had ever known. Born at West Point, he was the son of General Walton H. ("Bulldog") Walker, who fought across Europe under George Patton and died in a 1950 jeep accident while commanding the Eighth Army in Korea. Sam Walker became an expert infantryman, master parachutist, and even learned to pilot a helicopter.

Fourteen months ago, Walker was given his fourth star and his toughest assignment: commander of NATO's land-based forces in southeastern Europe, with headquarters at Izmir, Turkey. This command used to have 600,000 troops, but the Greeks pulled out their 150,000-man contingent after Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974. Walker thus found himself in the unenviable role of being an American general leading a Turkish army on Turkish soil at a time when the U.S. Congress was punishing Turkey with an arms embargo.

Walker knew that a Turkish general would soon replace him. "I supported it," he told TIME Pentagon Correspondent Don Sider last week. "I thought the Turks were right to want one of their own people in the job." In February, Walker received an "eyes only" message from an old friend, Army Chief of Staff General Bernard W. Rogers. The communication assured him that Rogers was working to line up another "four-star slot" for him and implied that there would be no problem in finding one.

In May, about a month before Walker was scheduled to leave Turkey, he received another "eyes only" message. In it, Rogers confessed that he had "struck out." There would be no new four-star billet for Walker. He could take a demotion and an assignment as a lieutenant general. Or he could retire. All three-and four-star generals hold temporary rank and are subject to losing as many as two stars if suitable assignments cannot be found for them. It is a rare reality of military life, not one likely to happen to a Sam Walker.

Walker flew home and spent 30 minutes face to face with Rogers, seeking an explanation. But Rogers had none. "He said I'd done a great job over there in Turkey, but there weren't enough four-star slots," Walker recalls. He then appealed his case directly to Army Secretary Clifford Alexander Jr., who makes the final decisions on reassigning generals: "I asked him why. He wouldn't answer. Finally he said, 'I'll let you know.' Later he sent a colonel to tell me he had not changed his mind."

Walker carried his appeal up through the chain of command to Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and then, in a seven-page message, to Commander in Chief Jimmy Carter. After talking with Brown, the President endorsed the demotion in a crisp, one-page letter to Walker.

Last week, camped temporarily in a modest office at Fort Bragg, his desk flanked by a general's flag and a pile of cardboard boxes stuffed with his personal papers, Sam Walker sounded like a soldier suffering from battle fatigue. "I've thought time and time again: What did I ever do wrong?"

In fact, he had been caught in a bitter Pentagon squabble that pitted Army Secretary Alexander against Chief of Staff Rogers. Several months ago, Rogers outmaneuvered Alexander on a key general's assignment by appealing the secretary's verdict to Harold Brown. This time, it appeared to Walker and some other generals, Secretary Alexander was determined to show Rogers who is really running the Army.

Alexander's background and style have upset many old-line generals. He is the first black secretary of an Army still overwhelmingly commanded by whites, many of whom have not yet adjusted fully to the concept of a color-blind military. Alexander was educated at Harvard University and Yale Law School, not West Point. Actually, his military experience was six months' active duty as a National Guardsman. As Secretary of the Army, he asks hard questions about the treatment of black soldiers. He also is a strong advocate of a greater role for women, to the distress of many generals, including Rogers, who think too many women too soon may damage the Army's combat readiness.

Many officers suspect that Alexander's uncompromising attitude toward uniformed subordinates may reflect Secretary of Defense Brown's determination to recapture control of the Pentagon from the admirals and generals who for several years have been operating relatively free from civilian interference. Thus some old soldiers are dismayed at the direction the command at the Pentagon seems to be taking, as illustrated by Walker's fate. "It's a goddamned travesty," says one general who retired recently.

Says another: "There's a sort of cavalier attitude that everyone's expendable." A former secretary of the Army says of Walker's plight: "It's just unthinkable." Walker quotes even Rogers as confessing to him, "It's incomprehensible." Rogers was so upset that he briefly considered handing in his own resignation in protest.

Some generals maintain that Walker made a bad choice. He could have accepted his demotion, with another shot at his fourth star next summer, when other top slots will open. At 53, Walker had plenty of time for a comeback. Instead, he will try for the first time to make a life outside the Army, helped by retirement pay of $38,000 a year, just $15,000 less than his general's pay. "I'm not embittered," he said. "I'm young enough. I can do something else. I'm not going out to pasture."

Post-Military Career

After retiring from the Army, Walker accepted the position of Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, where he served from 1981 to 1988. He has also served as a board member of the Advisory Council of the U.S.-Korea Foundation, the Council on U.S.-Korea Security Studies, the National D-Day Museum, and American Friends of Turkey. He received the 2005 Distinguished Graduate Award from the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy.

Medals and Awards

Walker's badges include:

Combat Infantryman Badge
Aviator Badge
Master Parachutist Badge

His major medals include:

Silver Star Medal (2 Awards)
Legion of Merit (3 Awards)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal (14 Awards)

Final Remarks

When a situation occurs like the one in which General Sam Walker found himself, it is not only a great injustice . . . it is a real tragedy. In the business world a circumstance like this would not be fatal to the person's career. Although it might take some time, an extraordinarily talented person like Walker would be able to find an equivalent, or even better, position with another company.

But when something like this happens to a general officer in the armed forces, the career and 'life' he has known for most of his years is brought to an abrupt and brutal end. General Walker couldn't get on the phone to the Air Force, Marines, or Navy and inquire if he could be a four-star general, or admiral, in their branch.

What is especially sad is that General Walker didn't do anything wrong - he was 'collateral damage.' He was simply 'done in' by the petty actions of an unqualified, inept bureaucrat with an agenda. Read a summary of (former Army secretary) Alexander's bio and you will quickly, and clearly, learn his agenda. You will also see that, unlike General Walker, there aren't any accomplishments cited; just a list of bureaucratic positions in which he has served. Alexander's petty 'power' game cost a top general his job and denied our country the continued benefit of the massive amount of experience he had acquired in his 32-years of service. One can only hope that the old adage that "you reap what you sow" is true.

General, we thank you for your great service in preserving our country's freedoms. May you be comforted in knowing that you truly exemplify the ideals of "Duty, Honor, Country."

Honoree ID: 352   Created by: MHOH




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