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FBI and Marine Corps vets wish 102nd Happy Birthday to one of their own

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Date published: 5/6/2009


Walter Walsh, the FBI's oldest retired special agent, didn't have to blow out 102 candles yesterday for his birthday at Globe & Laurel in Stafford County.

In a room filled with former Marines and FBI agents, someone else blew out the candles for him as he relaxed in a chair at the restaurant south of Quantico Marine Base. He smiled wide as old friends shook his hand and patted his back.

Retired Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Medal of Honor winner H.C. "Barney" Barnum Jr. gave Walsh a hardcover copy of "The Medal of Honor" book.

As usual, Walsh, a former Marine and expert marksman, was as cool as a cucumber.

"He's a real American hero," said Roger Depue, former chief of behavioral sciences for the FBI. "This guy has seen combat on both sides of the ocean."

Walsh graduated with a law degree from Rutgers University in 1934. He then joined the FBI and became one of the first armed agents. That year he discovered in a ditch the body of Chicago gangster Baby Face Nelson, who earlier had fatally shot two FBI agents.

In 1935, he apprehended Doc Barker, the infamous criminal son of Ma Barker, who was wanted for kidnapping. Barker would later complain about being arrested by a "baby-faced kid."

But Walsh's heroics didn't end there. In 1937, Walsh was part of a small number of FBI agents tasked with finding Alfred Brady, the mastermind behind more than 200 robberies and at least four murders.

Brady and two of his associates tried to get some semiautomatic pistols and other guns from a shop in Bangor, Maine. Their requests made the owner suspicious.

The FBI sent Walsh and a team of agents to Maine. Walsh said he posed as a store clerk when Brady and his associates went to pick up the weapons. Once the gangsters got to the store, one was immediately arrested. Clarence Shaffer, a Brady gang member, started shooting.

Walsh said yesterday that all he remembers of the incident was shooting Shaffer through a large plate-glass door with a .357-caliber Magnum. Outside, Brady was involved in a shootout with the FBI agents. Walsh was struck twice, once in the hand and once in the right chest.

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