THE DISMISSAL OF MAJ. GEN. EDWIN A. WALKER
A Special Report by
Congressman Morris K. Udall
So many of you have written me regarding the dismissal of Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker that I have decided to write this report as a partial answer to your questions.
As you know, Gen. Walker was commander of the 24th Infantry Division in West Germany last April, when charges were made that his troop education and indoctrination program was following the pattern of the right-wing John Birch Society. He subsequently was relieved of his command following an Army investigation. Since then charges have been made that Gen. Walker was disciplined because he was a zealous anti-Communist.
Considerable light now has been shed on this case. During the week of September 3-9 Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and answered the questions of Senator Strom Thurmond and other critics of the Army action. From his testimony and the subsequent release of the 973-page transcript of the Army's hearings on the case it now becomes clear that Gen. Walker was dismissed, not because he was a zealous anti-Communist, but because he engaged in political activity.
Two facts stand out: first that Gen. Walker advised his troops and their families to consult the so-called "A.C.A. Index" before voting in congressional elections last fall, and second, that Gen. Walker pleaded the military equivalent of the Fifth Amendment (Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) when questioned about this. This article, like the Fifth Amendment, may be invoked when one believes his own testimony might "tend to incriminate" him.
For your information, the "A.C.A. Index" is a voting guide published by one particular faction on the American political scene. It can lay no more claim to infallibility or correctness than the "A.D.A. Index", published by the opposite extreme of the political spectrum. For Gen. Walker to urge his troops and their families to consult this guide before voting was to engage in overt political activity in clear violation of the spirit of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government personnel from participating in politics other than voting.
There were other points brought out, as well. For example, the testimony revealed that Gen. Walker is a member of the John Birch Society, an organization whose leader says former President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and other high officials of our government have been Communist dupes. Also, it was revealed that Gen. Walker made public statements which were derogatory of other present and former officials of our government. Such statements, of course, are wholly out of keeping for a military officer.
Three days before he left office last January former President Eisenhower said in a nation-wide television address, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." I believe Mr. Eisenhower's warning is pertinent to this situation. In the course of our history we have always maintained civilian control of our government by elected officials responsible to the electorate. I firmly believe that this must continue.
Everyone will agree, I think, on two propositions: 1) that military leaders have a right and duty to indoctrinate their troops in broad, basic principles of American history and government so they will know why they are asked to serve their country and fight for it if necessary, and 2) that military leaders have absolutely no business taking any part in political campaigns or seeking to influence their troops in matters which are partisan or political. One need only look at some of the South American and Asian nations to see that real democracy and liberty are missing when military leaders participate in elections or political decisions.
A non-political military establishment is one of the most vital, indispensable ingredients of the kind of democracy which distinguishes the United States, Britain and other nations of the free world.
This whole thing can be seen in true focus, I believe, if we suppose for a moment that the situation had been reversed. Imagine that Gen. Walker had called his troops together to "indoctrinate" them on Americanism. Suppose he had advised them that our country was in great danger of losing the cold war to the Communists, and that we could strengthen our nation for the future only if we had more federal aid to education, more urban renewal to eliminate crime and poverty in the cities, larger aid for undeveloped countries, etc. These are views which have been expressed by President Kennedy, ex-President Eisenhower and other Americans whose sincerity and patriotism cannot be questioned. Had this been the case, I think you would have joined me in expressing outrage at such military interference in these political questions. Yet, if what Gen. Walker did is right, another commander holding the views I have mentioned could properly "indoctrinate" his troops along those lines. On the basis of the facts presented I think there can be no doubt that the reprimand given Gen. Walker was warrented.