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Richard E. Byrd

Rear Admiral U.S.N.

Polar Explorer

Born Winchester, Virginia

October 23, 1888 - March 11, 1957

Richard Evelyn Byrd graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1912 and became a Naval Aviator in 1918. His career as a polar explorer spanned more than 20 years. On May 9, 1926, he commanded the first aircraft flight over the North Pole. In June 1927, he made the first West-East trans-Atlantic flight in a multiengined aircraft with a payload, a feat for which the Congress awarded him a special Medal of Honor.

His greatest explorations and triumphs took place in Antarctica commencing in 1928 with the establishment of the permanent scientific base, Little America. His flight over the South Pole on November 25-26 was another historic first. Under sponsorship of the National Geographic Society and U.S. Navy, he led five major expeditions to the Southern Continent, adding significantly to man's knowledge of this polar region. In 1946 Byrd organized and led "Operation Highjump," the largest expedition ever sent to the Antarctic, composed of 4000 men, 23 aircraft and helicopters, and 13 ships. This operation mapped 75 percent of the coastline and flew long range flights into the interior. For this achievement, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom.

History records his crowning achievement as the development in 1939 of the Antarctic Treaty naming Antarctica the first "Continent of Peace", the world's first instrument of international scientific cooperation. Under the terms of this protocol no nation may claim sovereignty over any portion of this continent nor introduce nuclear weapons or industry thereon.

Invested 1957 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984


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Updated: March 12, 2004