ROBERT FRANCIS WALKER
Robert Francis Walker was born on July 31, 1926, to parents Hubert Perry and Helen Elizabeth (Weber) Walker in Van Nuys, California. He was one of four children which included two brothers, Raymond and Timothy, and a sister Lorraine. At some unknown point, the Walker family moved from Van Nuys to North Hollywood, California, where Robert attended North Hollywood High School into the 10th grade. It was here that he met his future wife, Marguerite Frances Donner.
Robert enlisted in the U.S. Navy on February 18, 1944, at Los Angeles, California. He attended boot camp at San Diego and, following graduation, he was assigned to the Naval Receiving Station at Los Angeles, the Naval Training Station at San Diego, and the Naval Receiving Station at San Diego. He was next sent to the Naval Receiving Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he reported aboard the USS KIDD (DD-661) on September 13, 1944, with the rate of Seaman 2nd class. On December 01, 1944, Robert advanced to a new rate in the Engineering Division, making Fireman 2nd class. At some point in the following four months, he was promoted to Fireman 1st class.
When the kamikaze plane struck the KIDD off of Okinawa on April 11, 1945, Robert was at his post in the forward fireroom where the plane hit. The bomb that the plane carried did not detonate inside of the ship but rather was catapulted through that space, holing the destroyer and exploding outside the port side hull. The crash, however, ruptured the Number One boiler, releasing steam that was 800° F in temperature and killing every man in the compartment. Robert was buried at sea at 1030 the following day on Thursday, April 12, 1945, along with his shipmates while the KIDD was en route back to Ulithi Atoll from the front lines.
After many years of searching, researcher and former KIDD crew member Richard E. Ammon, Jr., finally located the family of Robert Francis Walker. His widow, Marguerite Willis, and son Larry S. Walker, attended the annual memorial service for KIDD's fallen shipmates on April 11, 2000, and brought with them several of Robert's personal possessions, including the photo shown above. Below, Marguerite Willis shares her memories of Robert.
April 22, 2000
In response to your [Tim NesSmith's] request of some background on Robert Francis Walker, I'll do the best I can.
Bob was born on July 31, 1926, in Los Angeles, California. From the little he told me of his life before I met him, I'll relate all that I can remember. He wanted to enlist in the Navy in early 1942, but his parents wouldn't sign the consent papers. He left North Hollywood, California, and went to Tonopah, Nevada, where he worked for a mining company—driving a truck. Again, he tried to enlist by lying about his age, but it didn't work. Bob returned to North Hollywood in late summer of 1942 and worked at Universal Studios part-time while attending North Hollywood High School.
I met him in October of 1942, as I was also attending North Hollywood High. Our first date was a "Sadie Hawkins Day" dance. We dated on and off until we were married on November 25, 1943, in Las Vegas, Nevada. We returned to California and lived in Rosemead. Bob got a job at Lyon Van and Storage Company in Alhambra, crating Hudson bombers for delivery to England. He still wanted to go in the Navy, so in February 1944, I signed the papers and off he went to San Diego Naval Training Station. After he joined the Navy, I moved back to North Hollywood to live with my folks. After finishing boot camp and whatever else he did, he eventually reported on board the USS KIDD on September 13, 1944, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Our son, Lawrence Stephen Walker, was born on August 14, 1944; however, Bob had already shipped out of San Diego at this time because I distinctly remember sending a telegram addressed to the USS KIDD (DD-661), telling him of the birth of our son.
In December, the KIDD returned to Mare Island Naval Shipyard for a major overhaul and also leave for the crew. The sailors whose homes were on the West Coast were given leave first, so as to be able to spend Christmas with their families. Bob received a two-week leave, came home to North Hollywood, and saw his son for the first time on Christmas Day 1944.
The rest of the crew went on their leave when the first crew returned. The ship left Mare Island for a shakedown cruise to San Diego in February 1945. While in San Diego, Bob had liberty, and my infant son and I went down there to spend a few days with him in San Diego. A short time later, still in February, the KIDD departed San Diego for the war in the Pacific.
I was born on January 23, 1928, married at fifteen, had a baby at sixteen, and became a widow at seventeen. At the time of Bob's death, his father [Hubert P.], a fireman, and mother [Helen E. (Weber)] lived in North Hollywood with his siblings—Raymond, nine; Lorraine, six; and Tim; one.
My husband, Bob Willis, and I were very impressed with the Louisiana Naval War Memorial, especially the KIDD museum and the Memorial Plaza. God bless, and keep up the good work with all of your programs.