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Walker I (Destroyer No. 163)


(Destroyer No. 163: dp. 1,284; l. 314'4V2"; b. 30'11Ms"; dr. 9'2" (mean); s. 34.92 k.; cpl. 101; a. 4 4", 2 1-pdrs., 12 21" tt.; cl. JFicfces)

John Grimes Walker, born in Hillsborough, N.H., on 20 March 1835, was appointed a midshipman on 5 October 1850 and graduated at the head of his class at the Naval Academy in 1856. He served in Falmouth and St. Lawrence in 1858 and 1859; in Susquehanna in 1860 and 1861; in Connecticut in 1861; and in Winona in 1861 and 1862.

He distinguished himself under Farragut during the Mississippi River campaigns while serving in Winona, Baron de Kalb (which he commanded), and Saco. He participated in the engagements with Forts St. Philip and Jackson, as well as the Chalmette batteries during the operations which resulted in the fall of New Orleans. He later took part in the Navy's operations against Vicksburg. During the winter of 1862 and 1863, Walker participated in the thrusts against Haines Bluff and Arkansas Post. He also took part in the Yazoo Pass expedition, the attack on Fort Pemberton, and the capture of Yazoo City. At the siege of Vicksburg, Walker commanded the naval gun battery attached to the 15th Army Corps. His subsequent war service included operations which resulted in the capture of Fort Fisher, and he participated in the ensuing bombardments of Forts Anderson and Caswell on the Cape Fear (N.C.) River and in the capture of Wilmington, N.C.

Promoted to commander in 1866, Walker served as Assistant Superintendent of the Naval Academy from 1866 to 1869. After commanding Sabine in 1869 and 1870, during which time he took the ship to Europe on a midshipman training cruise, he served as secretary to the Lighthouse Board from 1873 to 1878. From 1881 to 1889, Walker held the post of Chief of the Bureau of Navigation before he went to sea commanding the White Squadron in 1889, with his flag in Chicago. Appointed rear admiral in 1894, he took the White Squadron to Hawaii in 1895 when a coup d'etat posed a threat to American interests. He received a commendation for his attitude of watchful waiting and his squadron's posture of readiness to respond to a possible emergency.

Upon his return to shore duty in 1896, he headed the Lighthouse Board and concurrently chaired the committee investigating locations for deep water harbors in southern California. Soon after retiring as a full admiral in 1897, Walker was chosen to serve as President of the Nicaraguan Canal Commission. Two years later, in 1899, he was appointed President of the Isthmian Canal Commission to look into possible routes for a canal across the Central American isthmus.

Admiral Walker died on 16 September 1907, at the age of 72, at Ogunquit, Maine.


The first Walker (Destroyer No. 163) was laid down on 19 June 1918 at Quincy, Mass., by the Fore River Shipbuilding Co. under contract from Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 14 September 1918; sponsored by Mrs. Francis Pickering Thomas; and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 31 January 1919, Lt. Comdr. Harold A. Waddington in command.

Walker got underway on 20 February to rendezvous with transport George Washington as it returned from France with President Woodrow Wilson embarked. Upon completion of this duty, the new destroyer returned to Boston, where she was soon assigned to Division 18, Destroyer Force. She proceeded to Newport, R.I., and loaded her full allotment of torpedoes at the Naval Torpedo Station there. She sailed for the West Indies on 6 March and, soon after her arrival in the Caribbean, fell into the Fleet's regular schedule of exercises and maneuvers. Walker conducted tactical exercises off San Juan, Puerto Rico, and gunnery exercises out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the late winter and early spring of 1919 before she headed north.

After steaming into New York harbor on 14 April, the destroyer was sent to her base at Newport, R.I. Early the next month, she supported the Navy's NC-boat transatlantic nights. Initially stationed at Trepassy Bay from 6 to 8 May, she later operated at sea from the 10th to the 17th, serving as one of the chain of picket ships to provide the NC flying boats with position reports and bearings. When this mission was completed, she returned to Newport on the 20th.

After calling at Annapolis in early June for a two-day visit during Naval Academy graduation exercises, Walker headed south and transited the Panama Canal on 24 July. She called briefly at Acapulco, Mex., for two days before pressing on for southern California, arriving at Coronado on 8 August.

Based at San Diego, Walker conducted local operations off the west coast into late 1919, when she was assigned to the Reserve Destroyer Flotilla. She embarked naval reservists for an indoctrination cruise on 27 October 1920 and remained in "rotating reserve" duty, conducting periodic target practices, full-power runs, and undergoing overhauls at the Mare Island Navy Yard. Decommissioned on 7 June 1922, as part of an austerity program, Walker was placed in reserve at San Diego, where she remained into the 1930's.

After 16 years on "Red Lead Row," the ship was struck from the Navy list on 28 March 1938 and slated for disposal by sale. Logistics requirements of west coast naval districts, however, resulted in the former destroyer being placed back on the list and earmarked for conversion to a water barge. Redesignated YW-57 on 1 April 1939, the ship was undergoing conversion at the Mare Island Navy Yard when the Navy again decided to change the vessel's role. With the outbreak of war in Europe and the possibility of American involvement in the conflict, the ship was slated for use as a damage control hulk.

Designated DCH-1 on 11 July 1940, the vessel was based at the Destroyer Base, San Diego, and used for training exercises in formulating and evolving new damage control techniques. In the following year, as the Pacific Fleet's base had been moved from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, plans were made to tow DCH-1 (which had been stripped of propulsion machinery during the initial conversion work to YW-57) to the Hawaiian Islands. However, the ship-which had been redesignated IX-44 on 17 February 1941-remained at San Diego until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 filled the Pacific Fleet's need for practice damage control hulks. Accordingly, IX-44 was taken to sea and scuttled on 28 December 1941. She was struck from the Navy list on 24 June 1942.

Published: Mon Jun 13 19:01:47 EDT 2022