ALPINE At 86, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Franklin Walker enjoys working in his yard and shoveling the snow from his walks.
But life for the former Naval officer and fighter pilot hasn't always been so sedate. A two-time Nobel Prize nominee and developer of a bunker-busting bomb for the U.S. Air Force, Walker fought in three wars: World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.
He still remembers Nov. 2, 1943, when as a young pilot, he flew under the Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate.
It wasn't a lark or a stunt. "There was so much fog I couldn't see," he said.
He also remembers another near miss, when a Japanese plane flew so low to Walker's ship he could see the whites of the pilot's eyes. The pilot dropped his bomb, which went into the sea next to the ship and splashed water on Walker. Fortunately, it was a dud and didn't go off.
Walker was born Aug. 15, 1921, in Salt Lake City and graduated from Granite High School at the age of 16. He immediately took flying lessons and had two years of piloting under his belt when he joined the Navy in 1939 at the ripe, old age of 18.
"He could already fly so they were glad to have him," said Barbara Walker, his wife of 59 years.
He started flying seaplanes, then moved on to bombers, fighters and jets. He flew more than 30 types of warplanes before he retired in 1966.
During the Korean War he flew transports, moving wounded soldiers out of Korea to hospitals. He also trained other pilots.
His crew was always eager to fly with him, said his wife, because they knew they'd come back.
The couple married in the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1948. They met in 1946 when she was still attending Granite High.
They had four children and have eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
After retirement from the military, Walker, who held a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Utah, launched a second career as a scientist at the Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. There he worked on non-nuclear explosives during the Cold War.
As a senior scientific advisor Walker also worked with the government in monitoring Soviet compliance of nuclear testing. By monitoring the supplies that were being purchased, he was able to tell what kind of weapons the Soviets were building.
As for that bunker-busting bomb, "It was for the Air Force so he didn't get any credit for it," Barbara Walker said.
The bomb, which was really two bombs, has an explosive that breaks into the bunker and another that blows it up.
For his work between December 1983 and April 1986, he received a commendation from the Central Intelligence Agency.
Twice Walker was nominated for the Nobel Prize in chemistry, both times in the last decade, Barbara Walker said. However, the names of the nominees cannot be publicly revealed by the Nobel Committee until half a century has passed.
"He's the hardest working man I know, both physically and mentally," his wife said. "He was taught to work. He wasn't just taught, he wanted to."
Other adventures include Walker helping to rescue a P-38 pilot under fire, making ice patrols over the Arctic Ocean and flying around the world.Despite a half century of service with the federal government, Walker chronicles alleged harassment from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in his self-published book, "An American Patriot versus the Renegade FBI." (Published in 2006 and available online at www.amazon.com.)
E-mail: [email protected]