Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring

Free Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring by Pete Earley

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Authors: Pete Earley
rosary, Peggy prayed.

Chapter 9
    Navy life was hard on the new family.
    Six months after Margaret was born, John had to report to the U.S.S. Forrestal , an aircraft carrier in Norfolk. The transfer sounded terrific at first. Arthur and Rita were in Norfolk and John was eager for Barbara to meet them.
    And the Forrestal was not just any aircraft carrier. It was the newest carrier in the fleet, the first ever designed to accommodate jet aircraft, and the largest ship in the world. It was longer than ten football fields placed end to end, and it reached thirteen stories above the water. Capable of holding ninety aircraft, it could move at an astounding speed of thirty-three knots. Assignment to the 5,499-man crew of the Forrestal reinforced John’s belief that he was one of the Navy’s rising stars.
    “I was really developing good self-esteem and self-confidence. By this time, I had aced the high school GED and had no difficulty passing a two-year college equivalency test. I was studying like a maniac and making every rank at the absolute minimum time. The thing I liked about the Navy was that promotions were based upon how well you did on exams, not how well you kissed ass. Your commanding officer might despise you, but if you did a good job, the Navy had to promote you, and I was thriving on that kind of competition.”
    Unfortunately, John’s transfer to the Forrestal was a disaster. John and Barbara had assumed they could all stay with Arthur and Rita in Norfolk until they could find an apartment, but when they arrived, they discovered that Arthur and Rita were away on vacation. “We had to rent the first apartment that we saw, and we slept on the floor that night because we didn’t have enough money for a motel room and didn’t have any furniture,” said John. “We were really pissed at Art and Rita.” A few days later, John learned that the Forrestal was about to leave on a seven-month cruise of the Mediterranean. Barbara was unnerved. What would she and the baby do while John was at sea? She didn’t know anyone in Norfolk. John telephoned his parents in Scranton and made arrangements for Barbara and Margaret to move in with them.
    John and Barbara were both miserable during the separation. John had promised her that he wouldn’t go ashore when the Forrestal docked in foreign ports because they wanted to save his pay to buy furniture and rent a nice apartment. John was also afraid he would be tempted by hookers if he left the ship. So when his shipmates went carousing, he stayed aboard and studied for his next promotion. At first, he received long, passionate letters from Barbara, but suddenly she stopped writing, and after four months of silence, John sent an angry telegram. Barbara replied with a curt: “Everything fine. Love you.”
    “The reason I stopped writing,” Barbara claimed later, “was because I didn’t want him to know what his mother was doing to me, the hell that she was putting me through. Pop [johnny] and I did all the housecleaning and I did all the cooking and she didn’t do anything but go to work and come home and bitch, bitch, bitch.”
    Peggy recalled Barbara’s stay differently, describing her daughter-in-law as lazy. “She expected to be waited upon.” Perhaps it was jealousy over John, but Barbara and Peggy couldn’t stand each other. As soon as John’s cruise was over, he and Barbara returned to Norfolk. “I’m quitting the Navy as soon as I can,” John suddenly announced one afternoon to Barbara and to his brother Arthur. “I can’t stand these goddamn aircraft carriers anymore.”
    Arthur urged John to reconsider. “Try to get on subs once again,” he pleaded. But John had already tried and been rejected once more. “There might be a way for you to get assigned to a submarine through the back door,” Arthur volunteered. The next morning, Arthur drove to the personnel office at the Norfolk Naval Base, headquarters for the entire Atlantic fleet, and with luck was

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