Memorial Day Remembrance of John Thornton Walker

John Thornton Walker — General Clark’s Letter to his Wife

On this Memorial Day May 25, 2015, I’m working on my book about a Springfield liaison pilot who never came home. Among the wonderful collection of documents Connie Ann Walker, his and wife Geraldine’s (Gerri’s) only child  shared with AeroKnow Museum was a scan of the letter JTW’s commander, General Mark W. Clark wrote to her following his unexpected death. This transcription will be included in my book “Story of a Hero Who Never Came Home.”

Headquarters 15th Army Group
Office of the Commanding General
APO 777, U.S. Army
February 23, 1945

Dear Mrs. Walker:

It is with deep sorrow that I write you of the death of your husband Lieutenant Colonel John T. Walker. I know you will have received the telegram from the War Department now.

As you know, Jack had served as a member of my personal staff as my pilot for seventeen months. He had told me so much of you and your daughter that I feel I was acquainted with you both, a fact which makes this letter even more difficult to write. He had made many plans or his homecoming; plans that were about to be realized, when destiny intervened.

As a reward for the superior manner in hwich Jack had performed his duties with me, I had arranged for him to return to the United States on a twenty-three day leave of absence. He was to make the trip by air. Jack boarded the plane, a twin motored bomber, on the morning of February 19th, on the first leg of his journey home. The plane took off from the field, then, when  only five hundred feet above the ground, was seen to shudder violently and go into a spin.  It crashed about half a mile from the field, instantly killing all aboard. I went immediately to the scene of the crash, but nothing could be done except mourn the loss of a gallant soldier and comrade.

No definite cause for the crash has been established. However, from the reports of several of Jack’s friends who were at the field to see him off, it is believed that one motor failed, the resultant drag on the other motor causing the plane to turn over.

Funeral services were conducted on February 20th at an American cemetery near here, and a memorial service was held at my headquarters at 11:00 A.M., February 22nd. I attended both services, along with  his many other close friends on my staff. I know how much it would have meant to you, had you been able to be present. As this was impossible, I made arrangements to photograph the ceremonies. The photographs are enclosed with this letter.

I am also enclosing a photograph of Jack receiving his Legion of Merit, awarded in recognition of this outstanding service with me, on February 10th. As far as I know, it was the last photograph taken of him.

I know that there is nothing I could say that would in any way temper your grief in your great loss. Knowing Jack as I did, however, I can more closely share your grief. He was one of my finest officers, loved by all who knew him. His memory lives on in the hearts of his many friends.

Please accept my most heartfelt sympathy.

(signed)
MARK W. CLARK
Lieutenant General, USA,Commanding

About Job Conger

I am a freelance aviation, business and tourism writer, poet, songwriter. My journalism appears regularly in Springfield Business Journal and Illinois Times. I am author of Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing and available everywhere. As founder/director of AeroKnow Museum (AKM) and a volunteer with American Aviation Historical Society (AAHS), I created this blog to share news about AKM activity and aviation history.
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3 Responses to Memorial Day Remembrance of John Thornton Walker

  1. Pam Miller says:

    Job,
    Congratulations on this worthy project. I know you’ll write an excellent. However, you could foster more interest in your book, now, by only publishing your post plus a small part of the letter: ending with “a fact which makes this letter even more difficult to write.”
    Then I would be hounding you to finish this man’s story so I could read the rest of the letter and more. BTW, your recent photos of the well-organized museum rooms are a testament to your dedication. Continued best wished- The Millers

    • Job Conger says:

      Excellent point, Millers! I’m hoping good people will be hounding me to finish the rest of the BOOK. There is so much too say, loads of pictures. Thanks to the Strouse family, particularly Connie, JTW’s daughter, this will be a story like no other I have encountered in aviation literature. Thanks for your kind remarks and best wishes.

  2. Pam Miller says:

    oops, so sorry to have omitted “book” at the end of the first sentence. Feel free to edit comment.

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