Thomas Walker (naval officer)

Last updated
Thomas Jackson Walker III
Born(1919-08-06)August 6, 1919
Edgartown, Massachusetts
Died May 6, 2003(2003-05-06) (aged 83)
AllegianceFlag of the United States (Pantone).svg United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Navy (official).svg  United States Navy
Years of service 19391981
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Vice admiral
Commands held Fighter Squadron 17
Fighter Squadron 5-B
Fighter Squadron 61
Air Development Squadron 5
Fleet All-Weather Training Unit
Nitro (AE-23)
Constellation (CV-64)
Naval Air Forces Pacific Fleet
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Navy Commendation Medal (2)

Vice Admiral Thomas J. Walker (6 August 1916 – 6 May 2003) was an officer of the United States Navy, who served as first commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Constellation.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second largest and second most powerful air force in the world.

Aircraft carrier Warship that serves as a seagoing airbase

An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is currently not possible to land them. By its diplomatic and tactical power, its mobility, its autonomy and the variety of its means, the aircraft carrier is often the centerpiece of modern combat fleets. Tactically or even strategically, it replaced the battleship in the role of flagship of a fleet. One of its great advantages is that, by sailing in international waters, it does not interfere with any territorial sovereignty and thus obviates the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries, reduce the times and transit distances of aircraft and therefore significantly increase the time of availability on the combat zone.

USS <i>Constellation</i> (CV-64) Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier

USS Constellation (CV-64), a Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the "new constellation of stars" on the flag of the United States. One of the fastest ships in the Navy, as proven by her victory during a battlegroup race held in 1985, she was nicknamed "Connie" by her crew and officially as "America's Flagship".


Early life and education

Thomas Jackson Walker III was born in Edgartown, Massachusetts (on the island of Martha's Vineyard), on 6 August 1919, into a family with long maritime connections—three of his great-grandfathers had been whaling ship captains. After attending schools in Massachusetts and Florida, he attended the Marion Military Institute in Alabama. He then entered the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, with the class of 1939, and while there was stroke of the Academy crew and vice-president of his class for four years.

Edgartown, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Edgartown is a town located on Martha's Vineyard in Dukes County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 4,067 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Dukes County.

Marthas Vineyard island in the United States of America

Martha's Vineyard is an island located south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts that is known for being an affluent summer colony. Martha's Vineyard includes the smaller Chappaquiddick Island, which is usually connected to the Vineyard, though storms and hurricanes have separated them, as in 2007. It is the 58th largest island in the United States, with a land area of 100 square miles (260 km2), and the third-largest on the East Coast of the United States, after Long Island and Mount Desert Island. Martha's Vineyard constitutes the bulk of Dukes County, Massachusetts, which also includes the Elizabeth Islands and the island of Nomans Land.

Massachusetts State of the United States of America

Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The state is named after the Massachusett tribe, which once inhabited the east side of the area, and is one of the original thirteen states. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. Over 80% of Massachusetts's population lives in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.

World War II

Following his commission as an ensign in June 1939, he joined the cruiser Minneapolis. In August 1941, he was detached for flight training at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. Designated Naval Aviator in March 1942, he joined the battleship New York as Senior Aviator. In this position, Walker spotted shore bombardment during the North African invasion at Safi, French Morocco and Casablanca and later participated in anti-submarine flights over convoys. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal "for his performance of duty on November 8, 1942, during the bombardment of Safi, French Morocco. Despite heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire he kept his ship supplied with accurate and timely reports without which the effect of the bombardment may not have been so effectively executed...."

USS <i>Minneapolis</i> (CA-36) New Orleans class heavy cruiser

USS Minneapolis (CL/CA-36) was a New Orleans-class cruiser built for the United States Navy before the outbreak of World War II, the second ship named for Minneapolis, Minnesota. She served in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Naval Air Station Pensacola airport

Naval Air Station Pensacola or NAS Pensacola, "The Cradle of Naval Aviation", is a United States Navy base located next to Warrington, Florida, a community southwest of the Pensacola city limits. It is best known as the initial primary training base for all U.S.Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard officers pursuing designation as Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers, the advanced training base for most Naval Flight Officers, and as the home base for the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the precision-flying team known as the Blue Angels.

Florida State of the United States of America

Florida is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Florida is the 22nd-most extensive, the 3rd-most populous, and the 8th-most densely populated of the U.S. states. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. The Miami metropolitan area is Florida's most populous urban area. Tallahassee is the state's capital.

Returning to the United States in 1943, he attended the Post Graduate School at Annapolis, where he completed the course in Aviation Ordnance in December 1944. He next reported to the Fire Control Desk in the Bureau of Aeronautics and remained there until July 1945. He was then assigned as Prospective Bomb Commander for the fourth atomic bomb at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. That bomb was never dropped due to the cessation of hostilities in August 1945.

The Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) was the U.S. Navy's material-support organization for naval aviation from 1921 to 1959. The bureau had "cognizance" for the design, procurement, and support of Naval aircraft and related systems. Aerial weapons, however, were under the cognizance of the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd).

Post-war career

Immediately after World War II, Walker served as Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadrons 17, 5-B and 61, during which time he was embarked with his respective squadrons aboard the newly commissioned carriers Valley Forge and Coral Sea. After service as Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Special Weapons Facility at the Sandia base, Albuquerque, New Mexico. In July 1951, he assumed command of Air Development Squadron 5. A group engaged in developing tactics for the delivery of special weapons from light aircraft at the Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake, California. In 1955 he became a student at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

USS <i>Valley Forge</i> (CV-45) Essex class aircraft carrier

USS Valley Forge was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during and shortly after World War II for the United States Navy. The ship was the first US Navy ship to bear the name, and was named after Valley Forge, the 1777–1778 winter encampment of General George Washington's Continental Army. Valley Forge was commissioned in November 1946, too late to serve in World War II, but saw extensive service in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. She was reclassified in the early 1950s as an attack carrier (CVA), then to an antisubmarine carrier (CVS), and finally to an amphibious assault ship (LPH), carrying helicopters and marines. As a CVS she served in the Atlantic and Caribbean. She was the prime recovery vessel for an early unmanned Mercury space mission. After conversion to an LPH she served extensively in the Vietnam War. Valley Forge was awarded eight battle stars for Korean War service and nine for Vietnam War service, as well as three Navy Unit Commendations.

USS <i>Coral Sea</i> (CV-43) Midway-class aircraft carrier

USS Coral Sea (CV/CVB/CVA-43), a Midway-class aircraft carrier, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named for the Battle of the Coral Sea. She earned the affectionate nickname "Ageless Warrior" through her long career. Initially classified as an aircraft carrier with hull classification symbol CV-43, the contract to build the ship was awarded to Newport News Shipbuilding of Newport News, Virginia on 14 June 1943. She was reclassified as a "Large Aircraft Carrier" with hull classification symbol CVB-43 on 15 July 1943. Her keel was laid down on 10 July 1944 in Shipway 10. She was launched on 2 April 1946 sponsored by Mrs. Thomas C. Kinkaid and commissioned on 1 October 1947 with Captain A.P. Storrs III in command.

Walker then began his association with the Polaris missile program as head of the Test Branch of the Fleet Ballistic Missile Program. He was temporarily assigned as Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations, working on a classified project until June 1957. He then spent a year as Commanding Officer of the Fleet All-Weather Training Unit where he was concerned with training of carrier pilots for all weather flying and in the air defense of southern California.

UGM-27 Polaris A two-stage solid-fuel nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile

The UGM-27 Polaris missile was a two-stage solid-fueled nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile. The United States Navy's first SLBM, it served from 1961 to 1996.

Chief of Naval Operations statutory office held by a four-star admiral in the United States Navy

The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) is the highest-ranking officer and professional head of the United States Navy. The position is a statutory office held by a four-star admiral who is a military adviser and deputy to the Secretary of the Navy. In a separate capacity as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the CNO is a military adviser to the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, and the President. The current Chief of Naval Operations is Admiral John M. Richardson.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second and fifth most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 8.8 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

In July 1958 Walker was back in Washington working with the Polaris as head of Ship Operations and Test Branch and Systems Development Analysis Chief. For his work with Polaris Captain Walker received the Navy Commendation Medal with Citation, which reads in part, "Captain Walker carried out his responsibilities with outstanding leadership and resourcefulness. Through his untiring efforts and high level of technical skill, he made a major contribution to the success of the Fleet Ballistic Missile System...."

In April 1960 Walker assumed his first ship command, the ammunition ship USS Nitro (AE-23). Six months later he was ordered detached from Nitro as Prospective Commanding Officer of Constellation, which was under construction at the New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, New York. Walker assumed command of Constellation on 27 October 1961.

On 9 November 1963, Walker was promoted to Rear Admiral (lower half) and was relieved of command of Constellation by Captain Stanley W. "Swede" Vejesta. Walker retired from the Navy as a Vice Admiral, after serving as Commander of Naval Air of the Pacific Fleet (COMNAVAIRPAC).

Admiral Walker died on 6 May 2003 at the age of 86 from pneumonia.

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