ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — More than 70 years after a mysterious World War II disappearance, the nation's highest ranking military officer listed as missing in action is receiving honors in his birth-state of New Mexico as the search continues for his body.
Brig. Gen. Kenneth Walker, an officer who helped create an air plan to defeat Hitler in World War II, will be celebrated starting Friday in the city of Roswell where a now-closed based once carried his name. The city will have a Walker Air Force Base Historic Marker thanks to the New Mexico Department of Transportation.
The Walker Aviation Museum Foundation also will host Friday evening a banquet at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center and author Richard Dunn will present "The Search for General Walker" — a talk that covers Gen. Walker's last mission and the efforts to find the missing B-17 and its crew.
"Some of us in Roswell know about General Walker but there are many who don't," said Judy Armstrong, treasure of the foundation. "He was a very important figure needs to be remembered."
Born in Los Cerrillos, New Mexico, Walker was one of four officers who developed the Air War Plan No. 1. Historians believe it was the first plan for deploying Army Air Forces against Germany.
He later became commanding general of the 5th Bomber Command in the Southwest Pacific that initiated a series of strikes against key Japanese convoy, according to foundation.
But Walker and his crew, which consisted of men from California, New York and Texas, went missing after a mission over eastern New Britain Province, New Guinea in January 1943.
Their bodies and their plane were never found.
They are among the more than 73,000 Americans still listed as MIA in World War II.
The now-closed air base in Roswell was later renamed after Walker in 1948.
Walker's son, Douglas Walker of New Canaan, Connecticut, is expected to be in Roswell for the dedication of the historical marker. He maintains a website on his father and believes the work should continue to find his father and his crew.
"They still matter to me and the other surviving family members and friends," Douglas Walker writes on the website. "We still care."
The honor comes as volunteer groups and at least one Japanese organization search through World War II records with the hopes of finding the burial sites of American servicemen still listed as missing in action. Those efforts have led some missing servicemen to finally earn recognition in their hometowns.
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