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Lt. Col. Roger Walden

Pioneering paratrooper Roger Stanley Walden was born on May 21, 1922 in Des Moines, Iowa. Attending St. Anselm’s School in Chicago and Barber Intermediate School, Munger School, and Chadsey Schools in Detroit, Walden graduated from Eastern High School in 1941.

A tool apprentice at Ford at the onset of World War II, Walden enlisted on December 7, 1942. Assigned to the 365th Infantry Regiment, Walden volunteered for the first black test platoon of 20 paratroopers. At Parachute School in Fort Benning, Georgia, Walden and fifteen others earned their parachute wings as the Sweet Sixteen in February of 1944, becoming the first African American paratroopers in United States military history. Promoted to sergeant in the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, Walden and his group were transferred to Camp Mackall, North Carolina. Walden received his commission as a second lieutenant of infantry in March of 1945 when he finished Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning. After receiving special training to combat Japanese balloon bombs at Camp Pendleton, Oregon, the 555th was soon deployed as Army fire jumpers. Shipped to Gifu, Honshu, Japan in 1949, Walden served as commander of Company A of the 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division of the Far East Command. In 1950, Walden as a captain commanded Company F in Pusan, Korea and he was made a Battalion S4 before being rotated back to the United States. Promoted to Major, Walden served in Europe from 1957 to 1960 with the 3rd Armored Rifle Battalion, 51st Infantry, 4th Armored Group.

Earning his B.A. degree in social studies from San Francisco State University under the Army’s Bootstrap Program, Walden was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He taught military science at Central State University until his retirement in 1966. Walden worked as manager of the City of Detroit’s Vacant Housing Rehabilitation Program until 1984.

Walden passed away on September 17, 2013.

Accession Number

A2005.102

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/8/2005

6/29/2007

Last Name

Walden

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Eastern High School

St. Anselm's Catholic School

Barbour Magnet Middle School

Munford High School

Chadsey High School

Martin Luther King Jr. Sr High School

Munger Middle School

San Francisco State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Roger

Birth City, State, Country

Des Moines

HM ID

WAL07

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Iowa

Favorite Vacation Destination

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Favorite Quote

Do The Best You Can.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/21/1922

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Eggs

Death Date

9/17/2013

Short Description

Paratrooper Lt. Col. Roger Walden (1922 - 2013 ) was a member of the “Sweet Sixteen,” the first African American paratroopers in United States history. He also served in the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the “Triple Nickel," and was later promoted as a Major.

Employment

United States Army

City of Detroit

Ford Motor Company

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267586">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lt. Col. Roger Walden's interview, session 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267587">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267588">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267589">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden relates his memories of his mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267590">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267591">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden relates his memories of his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267592">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267593">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Des Moines, Iowa</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267594">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden recalls moving around during his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267914">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his relationship with his father during his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267915">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about being raised by his father's relatives as a young teenager</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267916">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his intermediate and high school experiences in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267917">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his experiences at Eastern High School in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267918">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about enlisting in the U.S. Army during World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267919">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his U.S. Army unit during his training</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267920">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden explains how he came to join the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion during World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267510">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden reflects on the pressure of being part of the 555th Parachute Infantry Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267511">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes the 555th Parachute Infantry Company's impetus for success</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267512">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden details the training regimen for the 555th Parachute Infantry Company, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267513">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden details the training regimen for the 555th Parachute Infantry Company, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267514">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden recalls the first time he jumped out of a plane</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267515">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about the first seventeen men who qualified for the 555th Parachute Infantry Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267516">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about his specialized training for the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267517">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes the specialized equipment he used as a U.S. Army paratrooper during World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267518">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about being assigned to the northwestern United States during World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267519">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about defending against Japanese fire balloon attacks on the United States during World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267520">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about his promotion to captain during the Korean War</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267521">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his combat experience in the Korean War, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267522">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his combat experience in the Korean War, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267900">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about his career in the U.S. Army during the late 1940s and early 1950s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267901">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden remembers being accused of communism during the Second Red Scare, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267902">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden remembers being accused of communism during the Second Red Scare, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267903">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden remembers being accused of communism during the Second Red Scare, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267904">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about serving in the U.S. Army's 4th Armored Group in Germany during the Cold War</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267905">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden recalls being one of the first black officers at the Sixth U.S. Army Headquarters in San Francisco, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267906">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about retiring from the U.S. Army in 1966</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267530">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Lt. Col. Roger Walden's interview, session 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267531">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about his job with the Detroit Housing Commission</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267532">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his work for the City of Detroit's Vacant Housing Rehabilitation Program</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267533">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about the impact of the Vacant Housing Rehabilitation Program on the Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267534">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about collaborating with community organizations while working for the Detroit Housing Commission</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267535">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden talks about his family life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267536">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden offers advice for future generations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267537">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/267538">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/264685">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden narrates his photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/264686">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Lt. Col. Roger Walden narrates his photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Lt. Col. Roger Walden recalls the first time he jumped out of a plane
Lt. Col. Roger Walden describes his combat experience in the Korean War, pt. 2
Transcript
Tell us about the first time you went up in a plane, and--$$Well, because my last name began with W, I think there was only one other W behind; I was usually the next to the last, or near the last to jump whenever we got ready to jump, and what they would do, you would line up and then you would stand in the door, get ready; the sequence of it was to stand up, hook up, check equipment, and when you checked equipment up there, the man in front of you would turn around and you would check him off, then you would pat him and then tell him he was over--you'd hit him on the leg. The last man had to turn around for this next man to--in front of him to have him check him out to be sure he was hooked up, be sure he had all his equipment on there, and he was ready to go. Then, they would come over and make--the initial jump was made on individual basis. The jump master would be on the floor of the plane, and he would tell you, "Stand in the door," while the rest of the people were sitting down. The first man, "Stand in the door," and had you throw your ankle line snap fastener, throw it past the door--this is the door here, and then you'd stand in the door--stand with your hand out, then you're ready, and you would exit when the green light came on. You'd look over here and--but only on the command of the jump master. Jump master would tap you on the inside of your--just below your knees there, and he'd say, "Go!" And you would go. Then, the plane would circle around, and then he would take the next man and he would say, "Stand up! Hook up!" So, it would make about twenty circles like that see? And so you jumped individually and--the idea being that this is the--will make or break; either he goes or he doesn't go, and if he doesn't go, he's gonna balk; he's gonna stand there, and maybe he says, "Go," and you don't wanna go, so you balk, and he'll just tell you, "Go on back in there and sit down on the right"--you're rejected (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Okay, so they never, they never push you out anyway, huh?$$No, don't push you out, they don't push you; not at this stage. This--pushing out is--usually is caused by an individual who hesitates; he hesitates in the door, and if he hesitates, then either the next man may push him out if the whole stick is going, or the jump master may push him out if they're jumping individual basis, as we did on the first one. Individual basis is, that's a part of breaking down the system of whether the guy is gonna really make a paratrooper, or not. That would--that's usually when--some of 'em may break down before that because of--allergic to heights or something like that and they didn't know it.$$Now, how did you feel when you first jumped out? Did you--were you glad to go, or--$$Oh, yeah, I was eager; I was an eager beaver, ready to go, 'cause I was going to, going to make it. There was no question in my mind about it, see? And plus, there's an incentive for it because fifteen or more had already gone out there; what am I gonna do? 'Course you can quit anyplace along the line, see, and some would quit that don't get up; they don't get up. They aren't gonna go, or they might say, "I'm not gonna go." They transfer those people out and get 'em out; they get orders that day.$Was this your first big combat, I mean, in the (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, this was my first combat there, the baptism of fire. We pulled down at Kunu-ri [Kaechon, North Korea], and at Kunu-ri, I remember running into a colonel, a battalion commander; I think he was white, he had commanded the Third Battalion. I can't think of that left element of the 2nd Infantry Division, and those people were catching hell, and he was--asked me the question, where was his battalion. I didn't know where his battalion was, I didn't--"Have I seen any of 'em?" (Laughter) I wouldn't know 'em if I saw 'em (laughter). Well, if I saw their patch up here; they had Indian [Native American] heads on their patches up here, but I could see he was kind of out of it; next thing he was gonna be is evacuated, but I had to leave him and go apart because I crossed the Chongchon River and regrouped to go join my unit [Company F, Second Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, 24th Infantry Regiment], and I was lucky to get back just myself (laughter), and the few men I had with me there.$$So, this--I know you read about Korea--the Korean War, you hear of human wave attacks where there's a lotta people coming at you at one time. Was this the kind of--$$Well, I guess it was, to a--up in that stage there, but they talked about--it was a human wave; machine gunners wouldn't fire because nothing but men did they see--enemy down there, but eventually, when he fired, it was just too much; he wasn't gonna knock out everything--well, it would have run over the top of him, see? Those things did happen like that. Now, I had that experience where they hid us after we pulled south, several lines--positions we'd pull to, but what it did to me, it caused a disruption of my company and so forth, down to the only thing I could control were the few men around me, and I got back with them, and I got a long route withdrawal, and we established blocking positions, and then we stayed there for a while and we moved back to the--further south to blocking positions, and this continued but it was a--really confusion, real confusion. Part of my element--they said, "Well, get on any transportation going out." Well, the infantry unit given a command to get on infantry--to get on any vehicle going out meant that they would get on trucks of this unit or that unit, get on artillery pieces. Some units were going way over to the coast. We were in a position; we were to go to the next route leading south. Well, I just had a band of people there, just a small band, and when I got back there, they were pulling people off of trucks and they set up check points and things, and they asked people, "What outfit are you in?" They'd tell 'em where they would go; it was confusion, real confusion. And when I got back to the regiment, I was given the assignment of protecting the CP [command post], the regimental CP, with the few men that I had, before we got down--as we got further and further back, we'd pick up more and more people, see--stragglers that said, "Check point,"--MPs [military police] and things, and check points would unload the people off the artillery, unload 'em off the trucks and things, check them and see where they were supposed to go because, in the initial confusion, there was no effort to try to keep people together, to keep a unit together--not until we got further south.