BG KENNETH N. WALKER (Air Mission)
Commander of V Bomber Command.
U.S. Army Air Corps,
Rabaul, New Britain,
5 January 1943.
BG Walker was unique in the fact that he led from the front. (only one US General actually made the D-Day invasion). The risk of losing a General officer forced Fifth Air Force boss George Kenney to order Walker not to go on the bombing raids.
That was an order Gen. Walker could not obey.
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. BG Walker was unique in the fact that he led from the front. (only one US General actually made the D-Day invasion). The risk of losing a General officer forced Fifth Air Force boss George Kenney to order Walker not to go on the bombing raids.
On 5 January 1943, in the face of severe antiaircraft fire and determined opposition by enemy fighters, he led an effective daylight bombing attack against 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.
Being the “Lead from the Front” officer who he was, Walker disobeyed orders and climbed into the cockpit of B-17 San Antonio Rose of the 64th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group, for a mission against Rabaul on January 5, 1943.
When Kenney learned that Walker had disobeyed orders, he remarked to MacArthur, “When Walker gets back here, I’m going to officially reprimand him and send him to Australia on leave for a couple of weeks.” MacArthur replied to the effect that if Walker did not return, he’d receive the Medal of Honor.
Walker would not receive Kenney’s reprimand, as his plane was shot down by enemy fighters defending Rabaul, but neither the wreckage nor his body was ever found. However, evidence has recently been uncovered, which suggests that Walker may have survived the crash and been taken captive by the Japanese. This has never been confirmed and he was officially listed as “Missing in Action.”
MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION
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 5th Bomber Command during the period from 5 September 1942 to 5 January 1943, Brig. Gen. Walker repeatedly accompanied his units on bombing missions deep into enemy-held territory.