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.
MARK W. CLARK
Lieutenant General, USA,Commanding