Back in 1978 I was posted to the DDCEW Cell, Naval Staff, Wellington (HMNZS Wakefield).
In November 1978, the RNZN conducted a “Longex” exercise which included USS NIAGARA FALLS. Before the exercise began, the USS Niagara Falls and HMNZS Otago were berthed in Suva, Fiji. I was tasked with delivering a classified bag each in Suva. I delivered Otago’s bag, then I delivered Niagara Falls bag which was berthed behind Otago to a Radioman Chief (RMC) Jerry Whitworth who was the Niagara Falls communications officer. I duly returned to Auckland on the Niagara Falls as the communications liaison officer. RMC Whitworth was the perfect host and it was a great experience for me. I had access to their “Radio Central” (BWO/MCO). The only thing I was not allowed to look at was any signal that had a classification “NOFORN” written on it, which meant “No Foreign Eyes”.
After arrival back in Auckland, I disembarked USS Niagara Falls, and subsequently hosted RMC Jerry Whitworth during his stay. It was the least I could do after the hospitality shown by him and other Niagara Falls crew, including their Captain.
Now the interesting part, a USN Chief Warrant Officer and communications specialist, a John A Walker was the number 1 KGB asset during much of the Cold War. Walker befriended Jerry Whitworth, who would become a Navy senior chief petty officer/senior chief radioman, agreed to help Walker access highly classified communications data in 1973. A transfer had stopped Walker’s access to the data the Soviets wanted, but he recruited Whitworth to keep the data flowing—softening the idea of espionage by telling him the data would go to Israel, an ally of the United States.
This espionage ring was all happening, and had been so for a number of years, even while I was being hosted by Whitworth onboard his ship, and later in Auckland while I was his host in 1978.
To me Whitworth was just like anybody else you come in contact with. There was absolutely nothing to suspect that was suspicious during our time together. In fact he gave me his home address in San Francisco where his family lived if I ever wanted to visit him.
John Walker has since died 2014 in a Federal Prison in North Carolina.
Jerry Alfred Whitworth was sentenced to 365 years for his part in the Walker family spy ring, which, at the time of Whitworth’s arrest, US authorities described as “the most damaging espionage ring uncovered in the United States in three decades.
Whitworth (now 77) is located at Atwater, US Penitentiary , and his release date is 15 March 2196. For his Federal Prison link click HERE and type in 78095-011
Thanks John B for the interesting tale. Remember Communicators BE VILIGENT!