- Birth Place
- Scanton, Pennsylvania
- Date of Birth
- 28 July 1937
Walker’s father undertook a string of jobs before eventually abandoning his wife and children. Coming from a poor family home it was not surprising that John did poorly at school. He dropped out of high school and was soon involved in petty crime and came to the attention of the law. In June 1955, after being arrested by the police, he and a number of friends confessed to a string of petty thefts.
When the case came before a judge John’s elder brother spoke up on his behalf talking the judge into allowing John Jr to join the US Navy rather than go to jail. Bearing in mind his background he did well in the Navy. After promotion he was posted to the Submarine School, New London, Connecticut. After the completion of training he was given top secret security clearance for submarine duty. He continued to be promoted and eventually reached the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.
In 1957 Walker married but by the mid 1960s the marriage was on the rocks. Walker and his brother decided to go into business owning a bar but by late 1967 the business faced bankruptcy and the Walkers were broke.
By December 1967 his job was as watch officer in the communications room of the US Navy’s submarine operations. He was expected to read every communication sent to or received from US submarines operating in the Atlantic against the Soviet threat.
Two months later in February 1968 he walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC and sold his first document. Walker soon became financially successful from his espionage. He also recruited friends and members of his own family (his wife, his older brother Arthur and his son, Michael) to join in his spying activities.
One of his friends and fellow spies was Navy senior chief radioman Jerry Whitworth. He had access to highly-classified satellite communications data. John Walker retired from the US Navy in 1976 but the Walker Spy Ring that he had established continued to provide important intelligence to the Soviets.
It is estimated that Walker earned more than US$1 million from nearly two straight decades of spying. Walker's activities went completely unsuspected by US authorities until his wife, who was owed alimony, finally turned him in. The FBI began to tap his phone and in May 1985 they pounced, arresting him and the rest of his ring.
In November 1986 Walker received a life sentence; his older brother Arthur also received life. His son got three concurrent terms, but because he had turned state’s evidence he was released on parole in February 2000; his friend Jerry A Whitworth got 365 years in prison.
In his time Walker’s spy ring helped the Soviets decipher over one million classified encrypted naval messages. Most observers agree that he was one of the most effective Soviet spies in US history. The Soviets considered him so valuable they made him an Admiral in the Soviet Navy for his outstanding contribution to the cause of peace.
I am too important of a spy to be prosecuted...They can use me as a double agent. I know more about espionage than the FBI and CIA combined!
What real evidence do they have against me? The KGB isn’t going to testify.
The most important spy ever recruited by Russia (KGB General Boris Aleksandrovich Solomatin)
John Walker gave away the keys to your most secret code machines (KGB General Boris Aleksandrovich Solomatin)
[He gave] us the equivalent of a seat inside your Pentagon where we could read your most vital secrets. (KGB General Boris Aleksandrovich Solomatin)
Walker was the greatest case in KGB history. We deciphered millions of your messages. If there had been a war, we would have won it. (KGB officer Vitaly Yurchenko)
In prison, Walker has remained unrepentant. “It’s all a game, man....history has proved me right. How much damage did John Walker do? None. Absolutely none. The Russians never invaded. (Walker Jr in prison. The Pentagon disagrees. To date, it has spent nearly one billion dollars to replace code machines and make other changes in military hardware because of the secrets that Walker’s spy ring disclosed.)
« back to all biographies