The NKPA offensive began in earnest during the night of August 31. Most of the troops, responding to the do-or-die challenge, were fired up to an extraordinary degree. They attacked fanatically, showing little or no concern for losses.
These were trying days for Johnnie Walker worse than the fall of Taejon and the retreat to the Naktong River in July. Every morning he faced frantic messages from his division commanders reporting enemy breakthroughs and urgently requesting immediate help. He had to weigh carefully the threat of one enemy breakthrough against the other before committing his reserves. At the same time he had to exert every effort to rally the spirits of his troops, many of whom were in Korea much against their will and not yet convinced that South Korea was worth saving.
To accomplish these daily tasks, Walker was almost always in the field. Every morning at dawn he flew over the entire front line in his small plane. After returning to Taegu, he met briefly with his staff, issued orders, then took off again at terrifying speed in his siren equipped jeep, trailed by a small convoy of well armed vehicles, one carrying a powerful radio by which he maintained continuous contact with Eighth Army headquarters and the division CP's. His jeep had a custom-built steel handhold which enabled him to stand as he rode along, displaying himself to his troops (and to the enemy). He kept a shotgun close at hand in the jeep to defend himself should his convoy be ambushed.[9-4]
His personal pilot, infantryman Eugene M. ("Mike") Lynch, twenty-three, an enlisted tanker in World War II who won a battlefield commission and learned to fly in the postwar years as a sideline, remembered: "He was not an impressive individual. He did not have physical `command presence.' His chest had slipped; he was pudgy. He didn't talk much. All business. No chitchat. But he was a great man, a fighter. A fundamental fighter.
When we flew the front every morning to look at the enemy and our own troop deployments we'd fly very, very low, sometimes only fifty (50) feet up. He had no fear whatsoever of ground fire. It meant nothing to him. He was determined to find out for himself what was going on. After these flights he knew more than the Eighth Army staff knew. When he saw our troops bugging out, he'd get me to chop the throttle. We'd glide down over them, and he'd yell out the door: `Stop where you are! You're not under attack. You've got a good defensive position. Hold it.' "
The exec of Ned Moore's 2/19, Kenneth Woods, recalled Walker's presence on the battlefield:
Our very conscientious supply officer, Bob [9-Robert E.] Nash, went to the rear by jeep to check on some rations and ammunition. He came to a major crossroads, which was congested from all four directions by heavy traffic, with no one directing traffic. No MPs. Nash jumped out of his jeep to investigate the problem. Reaching the intersection, he heard someone say in a loud, authoritative voice, "Captain, come here." Nash looked around to face the Eighth Army commander, General Walker, who asked: "What's going on here? What are these units?" Nash replied: "I just arrived, sir. I don't know." Walker said: "Are you in command here?" Nash said: "No, sir." With that the general threw up his arms and shouted: "Then assume command!" Several hours later, when he got back to our CP, Nash was still shaking.[9-6]