PDF Explorer: The Life of Richard E. Byrd

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Byrd, the Antarctic explorer, with the Medal of Freedom. Byrd was only 68, but in failing health with a heart ailment and confined to his house on Brimmer Street. The medal's award was being pushed through as something to cheer him up. Burke and his party, which included Byrd's brother Harry, the Virginia senator, arrived at the appointed hour and were asked to wait until Byrd got dressed.

The process required frequent applications of oxygen, but when it was completed, and the party was ushered into the upstairs office, they found Byrd a shrunken figure, but in the full dress uniform of a rear admiral. Byrd, writes Edmonds author Lisle A. Rose in his biography, "Explorer," "loved not only heroic adventure, but also power, politics, and influence. Rose's unsparing and fully sourced account tracks those "heroic adventures" — exploring the Arctic by air in and probably reaching the North Pole — and marooning himself for three solitary months in the frozen Antarctic in But ultimately, he writes, Byrd "oversold himself and his always uncertain profession.

Byrd's exploits came in the era of ticker-tape parades down New York's Fifth Avenue. He was a contemporary and rival of Col. Charles Lindbergh, losing out to him in the race to fly the Atlantic nonstop. Rose, who went to the Antarctic himself as a seaman in , provides a critical account of Byrd's solitary experience in a chapter that he chillingly titles "Breakdown.

While there was some suggestion that the expedition would lay the groundwork for American territory claims on the continent, Byrd was "[planning] to pull off the greatest polar coup of all," as Rose puts it, by living alone "amid the dark, howling, frigid South Polar wasteland In his own, best-selling account, "Alone," Byrd described the adventure in near-mystic terms. In the stillness, he sensed "a gentle rhythm, the strain of a perfect chord, the music of the spheres, perhaps.

It was a feeling that transcended reason; that went to the heart of a man's despair and found it groundless Byrd was taking daily weather observations of some scientific value, but he was being "slowly worn down" and had to call for rescue. And when the rescue team arrived from Little America, the base camp some miles away, it was two months before "he was in shape" to be brought back.


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There would be two more expeditions to the Antarctic after the war, but Byrd had "tarnished his reputation," Rose writes, with forays into anti-communist politics and, driven by a constant need for money, into a bizarre Fashion Panorama at Madison Square Garden at which Byrd, in dress uniform, appeared surrounded by mink-clad models. By the time Byrd died, the era of the great explorers of the unknown was long over — with the unknown, whether Everest or the Antarctic, becoming all too known — and the charismatic leader of a sled team replaced by the technical support crew of space exploration.

Rose suspects that for anyone who grew up in the s and afterward, Byrd will "always remain unknowable. Bristol Palin has book deal. This assignment brought Byrd into contact with high-ranking officials and dignitaries including then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt. On March 15, , Byrd was medically retired for a foot injury he suffered on board Dolphin.

He was immediately promoted to the rank of lieutenant junior grade and assigned as the Inspector and Instructor for the Rhode Island Naval Militia in Providence, Rhode Island. Shortly after the entry of the United States into the First World War in April , Byrd was recalled to active duty and was assigned to the Office of Naval Operations and served as secretary and organizer of the Navy Department Commission on Training Camps and trained men in aviation at the aviation ground school in Pensacola, Florida.

He qualified as a Naval Aviator number in June In that assignment he was promoted to the permanent rank of lieutenant and the temporary rank of lieutenant commander. For his services during the war, he received a letter of commendation from Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels , which was later converted to a Navy Commendation Medal. After the war, Byrd's expertise in aerial navigation resulted in his appointment to plan the flight path for the U.

Navy's transatlantic crossing. Of the three flying boats that attempted it, only Lieutenant Commander Albert Read 's NC-4 aircraft completed the trip, becoming the first ever transatlantic flight. Byrd commanded the aviation unit of the arctic expedition to North Greenland led by Donald B. MacMillan from June to October The flight went from Spitsbergen Svalbard and back to its take-off airfield, lasting fifteen hours and fifty-seven minutes including 13 minutes of circling the pole.

When he returned to the United States from the Arctic, Byrd became a national hero. Congress passed a special act on December 21, , promoting him to the rank of commander and awarding both him and Floyd Bennett the Medal of Honor. Since , there have been doubts raised, defenses made, and heated controversy over whether or not Byrd actually reached the North Pole. In , Norwegian-American aviator and explorer Bernt Balchen cast doubt on Byrd's claim on the basis of his knowledge of the airplane's speed.

However, Bennett had started a memoir, given numerous interviews, and wrote an article for an aviation magazine about the flight before his death that all confirmed Byrd's version of the flight. The release of Byrd's diary of the May 9, flight revealed erased but still legible sextant sights that sharply differ with Byrd's later June 22 typewritten official report to the National Geographic Society. Byrd took a sextant reading of the Sun at GCT. Accepting that the conflicting data in the typed report's flight times indeed require both northward and southward ground speeds greater than the flight's eighty-five mph airspeed , a Byrd defender posits a westerly-moving anticyclone that tailwind-boosted Byrd's ground speed on both outward and inward legs, allowing the distance claimed to be covered in the time claimed the theory is based on rejecting handwritten sextant data in favor of typewritten alleged dead-reckoning data [21] [22].

This suggestion has been challenged by Dennis Rawlins who adds that the sextant data in the long unavailable original official typewritten report are all expressed to 1", a precision not possible on Navy sextants of and not the precision of the sextant data in Byrd's diary for or the flight, which was normal half or quarter of a minute of arc.

In , Byrd announced he had the backing of the American Trans-Oceanic Company , which had been established in by department-store magnate Rodman Wanamaker for the purpose of building aircraft to complete non-stop flights across the Atlantic Ocean. Byrd was one of several aviators who attempted to win the Orteig Prize in for making the first nonstop flight between the United States and France.

During a practice takeoff with Tony Fokker at the controls and Bennett in the co-pilot seat, the Fokker Trimotor airplane, America , crashed, severely injuring Bennett and slightly injuring Byrd. As the plane was being repaired, Charles Lindbergh won the prize by completing his historic flight on May 21, Coincidentally, in , then Army Air Service Reserve Corps Lieutenant Lindbergh had applied to serve as a pilot on Byrd's North Pole expedition, but, apparently, his bid came too late. Byrd continued with his quest to cross the Atlantic non-stop, naming Balchen to replace Bennett, who had not yet fully recovered from his injuries, as chief pilot.

On board was mail from the US Postal Service to demonstrate the practicality of aircraft. Arriving over France the next day, they were prevented from landing in Paris by cloud cover; they returned to the coast of Normandy and crash-landed near the beach at Ver-sur-Mer known as Gold Beach during the Normandy Invasion on June 6, without fatalities on July 1, Wilbur at the dinner.

Byrd wrote an article for the August edition of Popular Science Monthly in which he accurately predicted that while specially modified aircraft with one to three crewmen would fly the Atlantic non-stop, it would be another 20 years before it would be realized on a commercial scale. A base camp named " Little America " was constructed on the Ross Ice Shelf and scientific expeditions by snowshoe , dog-sled , snowmobile , and airplane began. Photographic expeditions and geological surveys were undertaken for the duration of that summer, and constant radio communications were maintained with the outside world.

After their first winter, their expeditions were resumed, and on November 28, , the first flight to the South Pole and back was launched. They had difficulty gaining enough altitude, and they had to dump empty gas tanks, as well as their emergency supplies, in order to achieve the altitude of the Polar Plateau, but they were ultimately successful. As a result of his fame, Byrd was promoted to the rank of rear admiral by a special act of Congress on December 21, As he was only 41 years old at the time, this promotion made Byrd the youngest admiral in the history of the United States Navy.

After a further summer of exploration, the expedition returned to North America on June 18, Unlike the flight, this expedition was honored with the gold medal of the American Geographical Society. This was also seen in the film With Byrd at the South Pole which covered his trip there. Byrd, by then an internationally recognized, pioneering American polar explorer and aviator, served for a time as Honorary National President — of Pi Gamma Mu , the international honor society in the social sciences.

He carried the Society's flag during his first Antarctic expedition to dramatize the spirit of adventure into the unknown, characterizing both the natural and social sciences. In order to finance and gain both political and public support for his expeditions, Byrd actively cultivated relationships with many powerful individuals. Rockefeller, Jr. As a token of his gratitude, Byrd named geographic features in the Antarctic after his supporters. On his second expedition in , Byrd spent five winter months alone operating a meteorological station, Advance Base, from which he narrowly escaped with his life after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning from a poorly ventilated stove.

Unusual radio transmissions from Byrd finally began to alarm the men at the base camp, who then attempted to go to Advance Base. The first two trips were failures due to darkness, snow, and mechanical troubles. Finally, Thomas Poulter , E. The men remained at Advance Base until October 12 when an airplane from the base camp picked up Dr. Poulter and Byrd.

The rest of the men returned to base camp with the tractor. It is also commemorated in a U. Byrd's third expedition was the first one financed and conducted by the United States Government. The project included extensive studies of geology, biology, meteorology and exploration. The expedition continued in Antarctica without him. From to he joined the South Pacific Island Base Inspection Board, which had important missions to the Pacific, including surveys of remote islands for airfields. On one assignment he visited the fighting front in Europe. Byrd's fourth Antarctic expedition was codenamed Operation Highjump.

The total number of personnel involved was over 4, The armada arrived in the Ross Sea on December 31, , and made aerial explorations of an area half the size of the United States, recording ten new mountain ranges. The major area covered was the eastern coastline of Antarctica from degrees east to the Greenwich meridian.

The interview appeared in the Wednesday, March 5, edition of the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio , and read in part as follows:. Admiral Richard E. Byrd warned today that the United States should adopt measures of protection against the possibility of an invasion of the country by hostile planes coming from the polar regions.

The admiral explained that he was not trying to scare anyone, but the cruel reality is that in case of a new war, the United States could be attacked by planes flying over one or both poles. This statement was made as part of a recapitulation of his own polar experience, in an exclusive interview with International News Service. Talking about the recently completed expedition, Byrd said that the most important result of his observations and discoveries is the potential effect that they have in relation to the security of the United States.

Richard E. Byrd - Wikipedia

I have to warn my compatriots that the time has ended when we were able to take refuge in our isolation and rely on the certainty that the distances, the oceans, and the poles were a guarantee of safety. In the U. The film shows live action footage of the operation along with a few re-enacted scenes. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. This was Byrd's last trip to Antarctica and marked the beginning of a permanent U. Byrd spent only one week in the Antarctic and started his return to the United States on February 3, Admiral Byrd died in his sleep of a heart ailment at the age of 68 on March 11, , at his Brimmer Street home in the Beacon Hill neighborhood in Boston.

Byrd was an active Freemason. He was a member of National Sojourners Chapter No. In , Byrd was awarded a gold medal by Kane Lodge. Byrd also was a compatriot of the Sons of the American Revolution and was a member of numerous other patriotic, scientific and charitable organizations.

By the time he died, Byrd had amassed twenty-two citations and special commendations, nine of which were for bravery and two for extraordinary heroism in saving the lives of others. Admiral Byrd is the only person to have three ticker-tape parades in New York City in , and given in his honor. Byrd was one of only four American military officers in history entitled to wear a medal with their own image on it. Pershing and Admiral William T. As Byrd's image is on both the first and second Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medals , he was the only American entitled to wear two medals with his own image on them.

Byrd received numerous medals from non-governmental organizations in honor of his achievements. This distinction was given to "American citizens whose achievements in outdoor activity, exploration and worthwhile adventure are of such an exceptional character as to capture the imagination of boys Byrd School was dedicated in Byrd's short wave relay broadcasts, from his second Antarctic expedition, established a new chapter of communication history. Byrd was the sixth individual to receive this award. Byrd's expeditionary records, personal papers and other memorabilia in from the estate of Marie A.

Byrd, the late wife of Admiral Byrd. Richard E. The name was changed to R.

Biography of explorer Richard E. Byrd details his heroic adventures and his Antarctic failure

Byrd Elementary School on April 5, Byrd used New Zealand as his departure point for several of his Antarctic expeditions. The fiftieth anniversary of Byrd's first flight over the South Pole was commemorated in a set of two postage stamps by Australian Antarctic Territory in Byrd Middle School, located in Frederick County, Virginia , was opened in , and is decorated with pictures and letters from Byrd's life and career. Admiral Byrd was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy.

He also was one of a very few individuals to receive all three Antarctic expedition medals issued for expeditions prior to the Second World War. Byrd was posthumously eligible for the Antarctic Service Medal , established in , for his participation in the Antarctic expeditions Operation Highjump to and Operation Deep Freeze to Byrd also received numerous other awards from governmental and private entities in the United States. Rank and organization: Commander, United States Navy. Born: October 25, , Winchester, Va.

Exploration from the Air

Appointed from: Virginia. For distinguishing himself conspicuously by courage and intrepidity at the risk of his life, in demonstrating that it is possible for aircraft to travel in continuous flight from a now inhabited portion of the earth over the North Pole and return. NSN: 0— , United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition I, in that on November 28, he took off in his "Floyd Bennett" from the Expedition's base at Little America, Antarctica and, after a flight made under the most difficult conditions he reached the South Pole on November 29, After flying some distance beyond this point he returned to his base at Little America.

This hazardous flight was made under extreme conditions of cold, over ranges and plateaus extending nine to ten thousand feet above sea level and beyond probable rescue of personnel had a forced landing occurred. Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, U. N, Retired, was in command of this flight, navigated the airplane, made the mandatory preparations for the flight, and through his untiring energy, superior leadership, and excellent judgment the flight was brought to a successful conclusion.

NSN: 0— , United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States, in demonstrating, by his courage and professional ability that heavier-than-air craft could in continuous flight travel to the North Pole and return.

Antarctic Service. Rear Admiral Byrd did much toward the difficult task of organizing the expedition, which was accomplished in one fourth of the time generally necessary for such undertakings. In spite of a short operating season, he established two Antarctic bases 1, miles apart, where valuable scientific and economic investigations are now being carried on.

With the U. BEAR , he penetrated unknown and dangerous seas where important discoveries were made; in addition to which he made four noteworthy flights, resulting in the discovery of new mountain ranges, islands, more than a hundred thousand square miles of area, a peninsula and miles of hitherto unknown stretches of the Antarctic coast. His qualities of leadership and unselfish devotion to duty are in accordance with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

NSN: 0— , United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States while in command of a Special Navy Mission to the Pacific from August 27, , to December 5, , when thirty-three islands of the Pacific were surveyed or investigated for the purpose of recommending air base sites of value to the United States for its defense or for the development of post-war civil aviation.

In this service Admiral Byrd exercised fine leadership in gaining the united effort of civilian, Army, and Navy experts. He displayed courage, initiative, vision, and a high order of ability in obtain data and in submitting reports which will be of great present and future value to the National Defense and to the Government of the United States in the post-war period.