Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Walter R. Walsh
Colonel - USMC

In 1945, Lt. Colonel Walter Walsh was my commanding officer in combat on the island of Okinawa and later North China, while serving with the First Marine Division. Walsh could often be seen on the frontline with his weapon blazing as if he was one of us. This very brave officer did not waste ammunition. Each round he fired, a dead Japanese would fall. On one occasion, Walsh picked up a Japanese rifle after killing the Jap, and at a later time, he asked me to have it mailed to his former boss, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Colonel Walter Rudolph Walsh (born May 4, 1907) is a former FBI agent, USMC shooting instructor and Olympic shooter. Walsh joined the FBI in 1934, serving during the Public enemy era, and was involved in several high-profile FBI cases, including the capture of Arthur Barker and the killing of Al Brady. He served in the Pacific theatre during World War II with the Marine Corps and, after a brief return to the FBI, served as a shooting instructor with the Marine Corps until his retirement in the 1970s

A high profile shooter, Walsh won numerous tournaments within the FBI and the Marine Corps, as well as nationally, and participated in the 1948 Summer Olympics. He received awards for his marksmanship until the age of 90 and served as the coach of the Olympic shooting team until 2000. At the FBI's 100th anniversary celebration he was recognized as the oldest living former agent and noted as being a year older than the organization itself. Aside from some hearing and memory loss, he remained physically fit at his 105th birthday.

Early life and FBI career

Walsh was born in Union City, New Jersey. He joined the Civilian Military Training Corps at age 16, and the New Jersey Army National Guard in 1928.

After graduating from Rutgers Law School, Walsh joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1934. Later that year, he discovered the body of gangster Baby Face Nelson, who died of injuries sustained in a gun battle with the police in Barrington, Illinois on November 27, 1934. Nelson had killed two FBI agents prior to fleeing the scene, wounded, and later died at his wife's side. The FBI, unaware of Nelson's death, continued a broad search for him, which included several home raids, through the night and into the following day. The search was not called off until a tip led them to Nelson's body, which was lying in a ditch in what is now Skokie, Illinois.

Walsh was on the team that captured criminal Arthur Barker, son of gangster Ma Barker, in Chicago in 1935 and was later involved in tracking Public Enemy Number One Al Brady in 1937. On October 12 of that year, he was with the group of FBI agents who ambushed and killed Brady in a shoot-out at a Bangor, Maine sporting goods store. While waiting for Brady to arrive, he acted as a clerk in the store for several days and arrested Brady Gang member James Dalhover. As the operation leader, Walsh's job was to alert thirteen other agents, as well as over 30 other state and local policemen, of any gang member's arrival by pulling a cord on the window. As they were interrogating Dalhover in the story Clarence Lee Shaffer, Jr., another gang member, entered the building and began firing at the agents. While arresting Dalhover, Walsh took bullets to his hand, shoulder and right chest, but quickly returned to work.

Walsh was employed with the FBI until 1942 when, as a Reserve Marine Lieutenant, he took a leave to serve with the United States Marine Corps during World War II. After he left, Hoover refused to allow any more active agents to be members of any military reserve. He fought in the Pacific Theater, specifically on Okinawa and in North China. In one incident, he and his comrades were pinned down by a sniper, which Walsh was able to kill from 90 yards away with a single shot to the torso from a M1911 pistol. He earned the rank of Colonel and returned to the FBI for two years from 1946–1947. In total, during his tenure with the agency, he killed between 11 and 17 bandits.

Shooting and the Olympics

Walsh got his start with firearms shooting clothespins off of his aunt's laundry line. In 1935 he joined the FBI pistol team. Within three years of joining the FBI, he had been presented with two marksmanship trophies from director J. Edgar Hoover. In 1939, at Camp Ritchie, he set the world record in pistol shooting with 198 points out of a possible 200 and won the individual eastern regional pistol championships in 1939 and 1940 and placing second in 1941 after leading for most of the tournament. He placed 12th in the Men's Free Pistol, 50 metres competition at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England. At the 1952 ISSF World Shooting Championships, he won a gold medal with the United States team in the 25 m Center-Fire Pistol event and a silver in the individual version of that event. After winning many tournaments within the United States Marine Corps, he became commander of their marksmanship training, a position that he held for many years, until he retired in the 1970s. In total, he was selected five times for the All-American Pistol Shooting Team.

Later life

Walsh had three daughters, two sons and several grandchildren. As late as 1997, he was still receiving awards for his marksmanship, winning the Outstanding American Handgunner of the Year. Until 2000 he served as a coach for the Olympic shooting team, able to see without the aid of glasses even at the age of 92. At the age of 100 he was present at a re-enactment of the Al Brady shoot out in Bangor, Maine. At this event, he was presented with a plaque and the key to the city. At the age of 101, he was the FBI's oldest living former agent and was in excellent physical shape, aside from some hearing and memory loss. He credits his longevity to luck, listening to his parents, and blessings from God. At the 100th anniversary celebration of the FBI, it was noted that Walsh was older than the agency itself. He celebrated his 103rd birthday in 2010 and was still able to use the stairs in his three-story home in Arlington County, Virginia.