The New Mexico Military Junior Officers’ Training Corps presents the colors at the beginning of the banquet honoring the men and woman who served at Walter Air Force Base and all American POW/MIA. (Christina Stock Story and Photos)
Richard Dunn presents “The Search for General Walker.” A presentation that ends with a mystery and many questions.
John Stites of the Hagerman Color Guard, left, visits with Doug Walker, Brig. Gen. Kenneth N. Walker’s son.
Sept. 18 is now Brig. Gen. Kenneth N. Walker day. The celebration started early Friday with the ribbon-cutting and dedication of the new Walker Air Force Base historical marker by the New Mexico Department of Transportation. A reception at the Walker Aviation museum at the Roswell International Air Center followed.
The day concluded with a banquet at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center and an introduction of Brig. Gen. Walker’s son, Douglas Walker, who shared his thoughts with the audience and thanked the town and the board of the Walker Aviation museum, who organized the event.
Walker pointed out how rare it is for a town to honor a shut down military airport and its history. The event also included a proclamation by Mayor Dennis Kintigh and a presentation, “The Search for General Walker,” by keynote speaker Richard L. Dunn.
The presentation covered four branches of the search for Gen. Walker and his men on board of the bomber “San Antonio Rose.” Gen. Walker was an air power pioneer, Medal of Honor recipient, and is the highest ranking MIA from World War II. He was lost in the first and biggest air attack on the Japanese Empire over New Guinea. In the presentation Dunn laid out the background of the mission.
Dunn explained the first efforts of trying to find the crew of the “San Antonio Rose” during the ongoing air and sea battle over the Bismarck Sea to keep the Japanese from getting control over the support route between the U.S. and Australia. The presentation also described the last military efforts taken directly after the war and the difficulty of the mountain terrain with high snow-covered mountain ranges that reach an average 14,700 feet, with almost constant cloud cover over and deep jungles.
The end of the presentation triggered a negative response from the audience, many of them Air Force Veterans, but also from the Navy, Army and the Marine Corps. The reaction came when Dunn explained, that after 70 years still nothing has been done by the U. S. government to recover the men who were left behind.
The team around Brig. Gen. Walker’s sons, Doug and Kenneth Jr. have many leads and evidence that pinpoints the region where the plane went down. They even have press releases and propaganda material from two survivors of the crash who were broadcasted by the Japanese empire as POW’s. Dunn explained that the U.S. government entity in charge of POW/MIA cases has the theory that the plane crashed in the sea, based on a report from that time that the plane was last seen with engines on fire diving into thick clouds. Dunn points out that reports of the same time from the Japanese military states that it had rained all night and morning, and started clearing later in the morning. In this area, south of the equator, clouds are consistently over the islands and mountain region. Clouds do not form over the open sea. “Just look for yourselves at Google Earth,” Dunn said.
“What can we do?” shouted one guest seated in the back after Dunn asked if anyone had any questions. “Write to your congressman and senator,” said Dunn. “We are keeping it up.” Other questions were about the POW’s who had survived the crash of the bomber plane. Dunn explained that it was at that time common for POW’s to not reach a POW camp. “They were likely to have been interviewed and then murdered,” Dunn said.
The evening ended with presents given to Walker and Dunn and a hopeful note by Brig. Gen. Murray, “The history represented in the museum will inspire the youth in air, space and science. … We all can be part of it, too. It is our legacy and also our destiny.”