The Strange Case of Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker
General Edwin A. Walker is known to most JFK assassination buffs as
the man whom Oswald allegedly shot at in April 1963. The general's
right-wing connections are often noted, as is the fact that he was
forced out of his command by the Kennedy administration for his
political indoctrination of his troops. His activities during the
race riots in Oxford, Mississippi in 1962 are also often mentioned,
when he was arrested on four federal charges including insurrection.
His public statement at Oxford was as follows:
This is Edwin A. Walker. I am in Mississippi beside Gov. Ross
Barnett. I call for a national protest against the conspiracy
Rally to the cause of freedom in righteous indignation, violent
vocal protest and bitter silence under the flag of Mississippi
at the use of Federal troops.
This today is a disgrace to the nation in 'dire peril,' a
disgrace beyond the capacity of anyone except its enemies.
This is the conspiracy of the crucifixion by anti-Christ
conspirators of the Supreme Court in their denial of prayer
and their betrayal of a nation.
[source NYT, 9/30/62]
The Army ordered General Walker to undergo psychiatric testing.
The general's case is strange indeed. But another fact, not often mentioned,
makes his activities in 1961-3 even stranger. Going back to 1957, we find
him in charge of *enforcing* the desegregation order in Little Rock,
Arkansas. His public statements on the matter were limited to exhorting
the public to uphold the will of the courts and desegregate peacefully.
The following article details his biography up to that time.
New York Times, September 25, 1957, page 18
HE GUARDS THE PEACE
Edwin Anderson Walker
LITTLE ROCK, Sept. 24 -- Maj. Gen. Edwin Anderson Walker, who will be
responsible for maintaining peace in Little Rock, was described by staff
officers today as "tough, but fair." A tall, lean-visaged Texan,
General Walker came to Little Rock only seven weeks ago as commander of
the Arkansas Military District. He is still a stranger to the city.
Today, General Walker was at his desk in a downtown office building at
7 A.M. He had not yet received formal orders to take over the Arkansas
National Guard, but he knew what was coming. Already orders carrying
his signature were being processed for the deployment of National Guard
units. He will command a combined force of regulars and Federalized
He stands 6 feet 3 inches in height. He is a bachelor and has been
considered a prize for hostesses wherever he has been stationed.
He was born in Center Point, Texas, on Nov. 10, 1909.
General Walker's favorite expression is "check," a word he snaps to
indicate a mission has been accomplished or that he understands his
As a member of the Special Services group, he was required to be a
paratrooper. At his test, he approached a subordinate and asked:
"How do you put this thing on?"
He received a fast five-minute briefing and climbed into an airplane.
He jumped, landed safe and snapped to the test officer: "Check."
General Walker is a combat officer. He has seen action in World War II
and in Korea. He has carried out a number of unusual and hazardous
assignments, particularly during World War II.
He started his military career as an artillery officer after he
graduated from West Point in 1931. But he switched to commando
operations during the war and led a special force of Canadians and
Americans, in Italy and in France.
This outfit, trained for airborne, amphibious, mountain and ski
operations, was called the Special Services Force.
General Walker led the Third Regiment, First Special Service Force,
in its initial operation at Kiska during the Aleutians campaign. When
the commandos were transferred to the Italian campaign, General Walker
led the first Special Service Force in tough mountain fighting up the
Italian peninsula and at Anzio beachhead.
A Surprise Landing
In August, 1944, his men made a surprise landing on the Hyeres Islands
off the French Riviera and killed or captured a strong German garrison
that could have jeopardized the Seventh Army landings on the mainland
With the Hyeres occupied, his troops rejoined the main invasion force
and moved up the Rhone Valley. Toward the end of the war he was detached
from the commandos and placed in command of the 417 Infantry Regiment,
a separate force attached to the Third Army. At V-E Day he was commanding
a special task unit in Oslo.
Returning to the United States in January, 1946, General Walker served as
assistant director of the combined arms department, Field Artillery
School, Fort Sill, Okla. He was in charge of the Greek desk at the
Pentagon during the Greek civil war and made an official visit to Greece
During the Korean War, General Walker commanded the Seventh Regiment
of the Third Infantry Division and later was senior adviser to
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. His last assignment before coming to
Little Rock was as commanding general at the Twenty-fifth Artillery
Division in Hawaii.
He holds the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster.
This is the man arrested on four federal charges in Mississippi in 1962?
Those charges were:
Section 111-- For assault and resisting or other opposing Federal
officers, including marshals, in the performance of their duty.
Section 372-- For conspiracy to prevent a Federal officer from
discharging his duties.
Section 2383-- For inciting or engaging in an insurrection
against the United States.
Section 2384-- For conspiracy to overthrow or oppose by force
the execution of the laws of the United States.
A conspiracy is defined legally as including two or more persons.
On October 7, 1962, Walker posted $50,000 bond and returned home to
Dallas amid 200 cheering supporters carrying signs like "Welcome
Home, General Walker," "Win With General Walker," and "President '64."
On January 21, 1963, a federal grand jury in Oxford, Mississippi adjourned
without indicting Walker on any of the four counts against him.
The Justice Department dismissed the charges "without prejudice" after
the grand jury failed to indict. The dismissal "without prejudice"
meant that the charges could be reinstated before the five year statute
of limitations expired.
Walker and his supporters then went on the offensive. On April 2, 1963,
a group called the Citizens Congressional Committee filed a petition
with the Senate Judiciary Committee requesting an investigation of the
treatment of "America's fearless patriot on the occasion of his
incarceration at the instigation of the Department of Justice."
Nine days later, on April 9, Walker was sitting at his desk at home when
the famous shooting incident occurred.
Meanwhile, the American Medical Association was receiving "a volume of
letters from individual physicians" charging Dr. Charles E. Smith, the
Army psychiatrist -- who commented on Walker's mental state at the time
of the Oxford violence -- with unethical conduct: that he made an improper
diagnosis without a personal examination. Dr. Smith was cleared by the
AMA on July 4, 1963. He said that news stories of Walker's "reported
behavior reflects sensitivity and essentially unpredictable and seemingly
bizarre outbursts of the type often observed in individuals suffering
with paranoid mental disorder." The society had received 2,500 letters
from physicians alleging unethical conduct by Dr. Smith. Nevertheless,
the board unanimously ruled in Smith's favor.
Walker then took his case to court, filing a total of $23 million dollars
in libel damages against numerous media outlets alleging that they had
made "false statements" and that their "suppression of truth was motivated
by malice and a desire to hurt and harm him in his good reputation and
blacken his good name." The statements in question were that he "led a
charge of students against Federal marshals on the Ole Miss campus"
and various other statements attributing to him a very active role in leading
the insurrection such as "Walker assumed command of the crowd." A jury
in Fort Worth awarded an $800,000 judgment against the Associated Press,
ruling that malice was intended.
The offensive was also being taken up by Republicans in Congress in an
alliance with Southern Democrats, who wanted to embarrass Attorney
General Robert Kennedy because of his civils rights activities. The House
Judiciary Committee voted on September 1, 1964 by a margin of 18 to 14 to
open an investigation of the Justice Department's handling of cases
including, but not limited to, those of Jimmy Hoffa, Roy M. Cohn, and
former Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker. The vote among Republican and Southern
Democratic committee members was 16-2; that of non-Southern Democrats
Meanwhile, a Louisiana jury awarded Walker $3 million in damages in another
one of his libel suits.
His luck started to turn sour however, and finally on June 12, 1967, the
Supreme Court ruled 9-0 extending the constitutional protection of
freedom of the press to libelous falsehoods about private individuals
who willingly take part in public affairs. Such protections were already in
place concerning libel against political officials, but this was a landmark
case extending the applicability to private individuals who willingly
venture into the public arena. Walker's awards were overturned.
Chief Justice Warren explained, "Our citizenry has a legitimate and
substantial interest in the conduct of such persons... Freedom of the
press to engage in uninhibited debate about their involvement in public
issues should be subject to derogatory criticism, even when based on
Walker's name occasionally surfaced in the press after this, usually
in connection with anti-UN activities or in connection with the
presidential campaign of George Wallace.
These articles concern the controversy about right-wing extremism in the
military in the early Sixties, specifically related to General Walker and
the Kennedy administration.
New York Times, June 18, 1961, page 1
Right-Wing Officers Worrying Pentagon
by Cabell Philips
WASHINGTON, June 17 -- The Pentagon is having its troubles with
right-wingers in uniform.
A number of officers of high and middle rank are indoctrinating their
commands and the civilian population near their bases with political
theories resembling those of the John Birch Society. They are also
holding up to criticism and ridicule some official policies of the
United States Government.
The most conspicuous example of some of these officers was Maj. Gen.
Edwin A. Walker, who was officially "admonished" for his activities
by the Secretary of the Army earlier this week.
General Walker's offense was in saying that a number of prominent
Americans, as well as elements of the newspaper and television industries,
were tainted with Communist ideology.
He did this in the course of a continuing effort that the general said
was "designed to develop an understanding of the American military and
civil heritage, responsibility toward that heritage and the facts and
objectives of those enemies who would destroy it."
General Walker was the commander of the Twenty-Fourth Infantry Division
in Germany at the time...
The problem for the Pentagon arises out of the fact that a number of its
higher ranking officers have participated in or publically lent their
support to a variety of so-called forums, schools, and seminars,
ostensibly focused on the issues of national security. However, many of
those groups -- at least incidentally -- are preoccupied with radically
right-wing political philosophies.
Stress on Anti-Communism
The chief ingredient of these philosophies is often a militant
anti-communism. The argument is that Communist subversion today is rife
among the schools, the churches, labor unions, Government offices, and
In this argument, liberalism is equated with socialism and socialism with
communism. Thus it opposes most welfare legislation, many programs for
international cooperation such as foreign aid and disarmament
The genesis of this program goes back to the so-called "cold war policy"
evolved by the National Security Council in the summer of 1958...
Cold War Widened
President Eisenhower and his top policy leaders decreed that the "cold
war" could not be fought as a series of separate and often unrelated
actions, as with foreign aid and propaganda. Rather, it must be fought
with a concentration of all the resources of the Government and with
the full understanding and support of the civilian population. It was
decided, in particular, that the military should be used to reinforce
the "cold war" effort.
This was the substance of the still-classified "cold-war policy" paper
of the National Security Council...
Of the hundreds of military bases here and abroad, only a score have
become involved in these programs to the point that they have caused
alarm among the new civilian team in the Pentagon. Officials suspect,
however, that the trend is somewhat more widespread than their reports
currently indicate. They are quietly trying to find out how widespread
A typical example about which they do know is a seminar labeled Project
This was held at the Naval Air Station, Wold-Chamberlain Field,
Minneapolis, on April 28 and 29 of this year. Capt. Robert T. Kieling
is the commanding officer of the station. He was a co-sponsor of the
program in collaboration with a committee of the Minneapolis-St. Paul
Chamber of Commerce.
The official announcement described the program as follows:
"The purpose of Project Action is to inspire the citizens of this area
to take an active part in the war against the danger that threatens our
freedom and American way of life."
"The program of talks and presentations by nationally-known leaders for
the cause of democracy will bring to light facts and figures concerning
the rising crime rate, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, the general
degradation of morals, the complacent attitude toward patriotism, and
the tremendous gains the Communist conspiracy is making in this
The United States Naval Air Station is making facilities available for
the seminar at the request of the Twin Cities Council for American
Among the scores of letters concerning Project Action that reached the
Pentagon in the following days was one from a newspaper editor. It said
"Perhaps someone can clear up for us our lack of understanding as to just
how co-sponsorship of such activities fits in with the Navy mission, or
the overall military mission, for that matter. It must be admitted that
the local Project Action is politically partisan in a very real sense,
although the partisanship is not that of the party label type." ...
Among numerous other incidents that have been brought to the attention
of the Defense Department is the "Fourth Dimensional Warfare Seminar"
held in Pittsburgh on April 15. Among those listed as giving "assistance
and support" to the program were Lieut. Gen. Ridgely Gaither, Commanding
General, Second Army, and Maj. Gen. Ralph C. Cooper, Commanding General
of the Twenty-First Army Corps, and their respective staffs...
"This sort of thing, if carried far enough among susceptible people,
can breed a wave of vigilantism and witch-hunting," one Pentagon official
said. "Even Mr. Hoover of the F.B.I., whom nobody would call 'soft on
communism,' deplores these self-appointed counter-spies." ...
Reinforcing his point, he took from his desk a memorandum from Secretary
of Defense Robert S. McNamara, which has been circulated as "guidance"
throughout the services. In part, it said:
"After the President has taken a position, has established a policy, or
after appropriate officials in the Defense Department have established a
policy, I expect that no member of the department, either civilian or
military, will discuss that policy other than in a way to support it
before the public." ...
New York Times, September 8, 1961
McNamara Refuses to Identify Individual Censors in Pentagon
But He Gives Senators a List of Security Staff --
Thurmond Voices Criticism of Policy on Anti-Red Speeches
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 -- Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara refused today
to give the name of the person in the Pentagon immediately responsible
for deleting anti-Communist statements from speeches by an Army general.
He did provide a roster of the twelve-man security and review staff,
which clears speeches. But he declined to identify particular individuals
in the section who had made specific deletions.
The demand for this information was made by Senator Strom Thurmond,
Democrat of South Carolina, at the close of hearings before the Senate
Armed Services Committee on his resolution for a full investigation of
charges that military officers have been "muzzled." ...
It was also learned today that Gen. Edwin A. Walker, deposed last spring
from his command in Europe because of the nature of his troop
indoctrination program, had pleaded the military equivalent of the Fifth
Amendment's guarantee against self-incrimination during the investigation
of his case by the Army Inspector General...
The entire transcript of the proceedings involving General Walker, which
runs to more than 900 pages, is in the process of being declassified by
the Department of Defense...
Senator Thurmond's inquiry today related to a speech prepared for delivery
last March by Gen. Arthur G. Trudeau, Chief of Army Research. In
testimony today it was indicated that the excisions had the effect of
softening the general's blunt criticism of Soviet policies and tactics.
Mr. McNamara said that the justifications for the changes was that
negotiations were then going on with the Russians for release of the
downed RB-47. It was regarded as impolitic at the time, he explained,
to provoke the Russians unnecessarily...
New York Times, November 19, 1961, page 1
KENNEDY ASSERTS FAR-RIGHT GROUPS PROVOKE DISUNITY
Attacks Birch Society and 'Minutemen' at a Party Dinner in Los Angeles
Spread of Fear Scored
President Says Real Threat Comes From Without, Not Within
by Tom Wicker
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 18-- President Kennedy spoke out tonight against the
right-wing John Birch Society and the so-called Minutemen in a speech
at a Democratic Party dinner here.
The President mentioned neither group by name but left no doubt whom he
[In Atlanta, Senator Barry Goldwater, Arizona Republican, attacked
the "radicals in the White House." At a news conference, he called
President Kennedy the "wagon master" who is "riding on the left
wheel all the time."]
The President, in his talk at the Hollywood Palladium, also made his
first public response to Edward M. Dealey, publisher of the Dallas
Morning News. Mr. Dealey attacked the President at a White House
luncheon for "riding Caroline's tricycle" instead of being "a man on
Some 'Escape Responsibility'
"There have always been those fringes of our society who have sought to
escape their own responsibility by finding a simple solution, an appealing
slogan or a convenient scapegoat," Mr. Kennedy said.
Now, he continued, "men who are unwilling to face up to the danger from
without are convinced that the real danger comes from within."
"They look suspiciously at their neighbors and their leaders," he declared.
"They call for a 'man on horseback' because they do not trust the people.
They find treason in our finest churches, in our highest court, and even
in the treatment of our water."
"They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare
state with socialism, and socialism with communism. They object quite
rightly to politics' intruding on the military -- but they are anxious
for the military to engage in politics." ...
Mr. Kennedy chose a region in which the John Birch Society has some of
its strongest support to make his third and sharpest attack on what he
called tonight "the discordant voices of extremism."
In the first two speeches, at Chapel Hill, N. C., and Seattle, he also
warned against left-wing and pacifist extremists. His remarks tonight
were directed to far-right groups and individuals.
The reference to "armed bands of civilian guerillas" appeared to be
directed at the Minutemen, individual groups of which are being
organized and armed in some parts of the country. The organization
is reputed to be particularly strong in California.
Los Angeles is regarded as almost the heartland of the Birch Society.
Two Republican Representatives from its urban districts, John H.
Rousselot and Edgar W. Hiestland, are avowed members. ...
New York Times, November 19, 1961, page 54
RIGHTISTS PICKET KENNEDY SPEECH
3,000 Parade in Los Angeles in Orderly Demonstration
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 18-- Raucous picketing took place outside the Hollywood
Palladium where President Kennedy spoke.
For nearly an hour, 3,000 persons paraded, carrying signs and chanting
and singing their protests over a variety of issues.
The demonstration, which started rather mildly five hours before the
President spoke, was suddenly stepped up by an apparent influx of
Some of the signs carried by men and women wearing red, white, and blue
paper hats, read: "Unmuzzle the Military," "Clean Up the State
Department," "Veto Tito," "Disarmament is Suicide," and "CommUNism is
The marchers sporadically chanted "Test the Bomb," and, "No Aid to Tito."
They sang, among other things, "God Bless America" and "The Battle Hymn
of the Republic."
A much smaller contingent of pacifist marchers was elbowed out. Most of
these carried signs urging the end of all atomic testing...
New York Times, November 19, 1961, page 54
Eisenhower Travels Aloft With Kennedy
SHERMAN, Tex. Nov. 18 (AP) -- President Kennedy and former President Dwight
D. Eisenhower rode together to Perrin Air Force Base near here by helicopter
today after attending the funeral of Sam Rayburn at near-by Bonham.
Senator Carl Hayden, Democrat of Arizona, was also on the helicopter.
Mr. Kennedy and General Eisenhower stood together talking by the side of
the aircraft for about two minutes. Mr. Kennedy gestured repeatedly with
his left hand and appearing to be explaining something to General
Eisenhower. General Eisenhower listened intently and shook his head
affirmatively several times.
They shook hands. Mr. Kennedy then walked briskly to his plane and General
Eisenhower got into an Air Force automobile.
New York Times, November 24, 1961, page 1
Eisenhower Says Officers Should Stay Out of Politics
Assails Extremists In TV Interview
Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower last night urged officers of the
armed services to shun partisan politics.
Speaking as a General of the Army, he declared it was "bad practice --
very bad" for an officer, even when testifying under oath before a
committee of Congress, to express opinions "on political matters or
economic matters that are contrary to the President's." ...
The former President was blunt in discussing the recent "rise of
extremists" in the country.
"I don't think the United States needs super-patriots," he declared.
"We need patriotism, honestly practiced by all of us, and we don't
need these people that are more patriotic than you or anybody else."
His definition of extremists embraced those who would "go back to
eliminating the income tax from our laws and the rights of people to
unionize... [and those] advocating some form of dictatorship." It
also included those who "make radical statements [and] attack people
of good repute who are proved patriots."
At that point, Walter Cronkite of the C.B.S. news staff, who conducted
the interview, asked about the "military man's role in our modern
political life." He did not cite, but obviously referred to, the case
of Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker, who stirred up a controversy that led to
his "admonishment" for the political nature of the indoctrination of
his troops. General Walker lated resigned from the Army.
"I believe the Army officer, Navy officer, Air officer," General
Eisenhower said, "should not be talking about political matters,
particularly domestically, and never in the international field, unless
he is asked to do so because of some particular position he might
The general declared there was hope for disarmament and better
East-West relations. As the Russian standard of living improves, the
Russian people will begin to understand that there is another way of
life, he said...