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I Pledge Allegiance: The True Story of the Walkers : An American Spy Family Hardcover – October, 1987

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The author writes of Johnny Walker, the flamboyant mastermind of one of the most damaging spy rings in U.S. history, "His only loyalty was to the elaborate game he was playing." Unlike John Barron's Breaking the Ring ( LJ 4/1/87), Blum's extensively documented account concentrates on the personalities involved. Most attention is devoted to Johnny, a former Navy warrant officer who sold top secret codes and technical manuals to the Soviets for 17 years before his ex-wife exposed the operation, which by that time included their son Mike, Johnny's brother Art, and a friend. This astonishing tale of treachery is highly recommended for general collections. Kenneth F. Kister, Pinellas Park P.L., Fla.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 438 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671626140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671626143
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #511,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Having started out my career as a reporter for the NY Times, I've moved on to being an author. And while I'm still writing non-fiction, I'm now more focused in writing books that are driven by characters and a sustained narrative. I live in Connecticut and am the father of 3 teenagers - one in college, one starting next year, and one still struggling through high school geometry. My tenth book will be published by Crown/Random House April 26. It's entitled THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN and its a true story about a cowboy turned Pinkerton detective who goes off to the Yukon Gold Rush to pursue a puzzling and suspenseful case. Twentieth Century Fox just bought the film rights, and I find the prospect of a movie based on the book to be exciting - as do the bursars at the colleges attended by my kids.

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Format: Paperback
The 1980s have been judged as an age of backstabbing greed and flashy, free-spending avarice where they with the most pricey toys win. The June, 1985 arrest of retired Navy chief warrant officer John A. Walker, Jr., his older brother James, only son Michael and close Navy friend Jerry Whitworth on federal espionage charges meshed perfectly with the era's predominantly materialistic values, especially after it was learned that in an incredible 17 years as a Soviet spy, Walker had earned and frivolously spent $1 million, his chief, if not sole, motivation.

Howard Blum's "I Pledge Allegiance" is a detailed, exhaustively researched and powerfully written chronicle of not only the rarefied, shadowy world of traitors, intelligence officers and spies, but a disturbing critique of American social values and how all too easily they are warped to serve selfish if not highly dangerous ends. Walker and associates over the years had handed over tons of highly-classified US Navy communications material, which, in the eyes of many defense experts, enabled the Kremlin to seriously damage if not completely neutralize our submarine and surface forces if it had so wished. Walker's spying had been so effective that it was also believed by some to have led to the unprecedented elevation of former KGB director Yuri Andropov to Soviet leader in 1982 and Moscow's downing of Korean Airlines Flight 007 less than a year later.

Blum's strength as an author rests in his extensive knowledge of defense, foreign policy and intelligence matters as well as naval history, regulations and communications.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the most horrifying aspects of this tale, a horror story, is the apparent blitheness with which these ordinary people entered into an enterprise that ultimately yielded them hundreds of years in prison.
It goes like this: you meet an old navy buddy for drinks and he tells you he's got a business proposition for you. He admits it's a little illegal, but notes too the chances of getting caught are slim. So it makes good business sense-low risk/reward ratio, opportunity galore, and anyway you've sort of been at loose ends since retiring from the navy. Heck, you've got to be bold and take some risks to get anywhere in this world.
Or it might go like this: you're a young man and you admire and respect your dad. Nothing unusual in that-he's your dad! He was in the navy and he wants you to follow in his footsteps, so you do. And he says he'll pay you good money for classified documents-sure it's a little risky, but if you want to be a Man you have to take a risk now and then. Or, you could live your life as a wimp. It's your choice. So that leads to the most bone-chilling scene in the horror story: Dad smirking and wise-cracking while his son, his own and only son, is gets life in prison. Well, 25 years, but to a 22-year-old, that's life.
Howard Blum did a lot of research for this book: countless interviews, reams of technical documents on law and espionage and naval procedure, letters. But it doesn't read like some legal tract or academic research project. It reads like a B movie script, tawdry and melodramatic, with much attention given to the day-to-day problems of international spies and their families: the alcoholic wife, the wayward children, the ... struggle for respect.
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides a more thorough and thus a more honest picture of John Walker than did his own self-serving book "The Life of a Spy." For those like myself in search of answers to what produces traitors like Walker, this book comes as close as one is ever likely to get to answering that question. Even though he did not mention it in his own book, in this one it is clear that at an early age, John Walker saw himself as "a nobody." It was a thought that would continuously invade his consciousness and haunt him for the rest of his life.

During his formative years, John was well "below average" as a student, poor in sports, un-liked, and thus had few friends. Mean while his older brother Art, was an honor roll student, "lettered" in sports; had pretty girl friends, cars, many friends and a job. At the earliest opportunity Art, went off to college and then thought better of it and joined the navy. John Walker, on the other hand, could not measure up in any of these areas and always knew with a certainty that he could not. He always needed an artificial advantage.

He thus developed, at an early age, compensatory behavior that took on a life of its own, turning him into an almost congenital "wannabe" personality. He wanted so desperately to belong, but never did. He wanted a beautiful refined girl friend but ended up marrying "Boston trailer trash." He wanted to become a war hero, but ended up becoming a notorious spy. As a result of his congenitally poor self-image, he saw himself as having no choice but to puff up his persona and enlisted others to join him in his fantasies at every turn of his life. What he lacked in talent and abilities, he made up through a false realty of fantasy, subterfuge, wholesale lying and exaggeration.
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