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Operation Highjump

USS Sennet (SS-408) participating in Operation Highjump

Operation Highjump, officially titled The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program, 1946–1947, was a Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd Jr., USN (Ret), Officer in Charge, Task Force 68, and led by Rear Admiral Richard H. Cruzen, USN, Commanding Officer, Task Force 68. Operation Highjump commenced 26 August 1946 and ended in late February 1947. Task Force 68 included 4,700 men, 13 ships, and 33 aircraft. Operation Highjump's primary mission was to establish the Antarctic research base Little America IV.[1][2]

Highjump’s objectives, according to the U.S. Navy report of the operation, were:

  1. Training personnel and testing equipment in frigid conditions;
  2. Consolidating and extending the United States' sovereignty over the largest practicable area of the Antarctic continent (This was publicly denied as a goal even before the expedition ended);
  3. Determining the feasibility of establishing, maintaining, and utilizing bases in the Antarctic and investigating possible base sites;
  4. Developing techniques for establishing, maintaining, and utilizing air bases on ice, with particular attention to later applicability of such techniques to operations in interior Greenland, where conditions are comparable to those in the Antarctic;
  5. Amplifying existing stores of knowledge of electromagnetic, geological, geographic, hydrographic, and meteorological propagation conditions in the area;
  6. Supplementary objectives of the Nanook expedition (a smaller equivalent conducted off eastern Greenland).[3]


  • Timeline 1
  • Human losses 2
  • Afterwards 3
  • Participating units 4
  • In popular culture 5
    • Books 5.1
    • Film 5.2
    • Documentaries 5.3
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


The Western Group of ships reached the Marquesas Islands on December 12, 1946, whereupon the Henderson and Cacapon set up weather monitoring stations. By December 24, the Currituck had begun launching aircraft on reconnaissance missions.

The Eastern Group of ships reached Peter I Island in late December 1946.

On January 1, 1947, Lieutenant Commander Thompson and Chief Petty Officer Dixon utilized "Jack Browne" masks and DESCO Oxygen rebreathers to log the first dive by Americans under the Antarctic.[4] Paul Allman Siple, Ph.D. was the senior U.S. War Department representative on the expedition. Dr. Siple was the same Eagle Scout who accompanied Admiral Byrd on the previous Byrd Antarctic expeditions. [5] [6]

Human losses

On December 30, 1946, aviation radiomen Wendell K. Hendersin, Fredrick W. Williams, and Ensign Maxwell A. Lopez were killed when their crashed during a blizzard. The surviving six crew members, including aviation radioman James H. Robbins and co-pilot William Kearns, were rescued 13 days later. A plaque was later erected at the McMurdo Station research base, honoring the three killed crewmen, and Mount Lopez, on Thurston Island, was named in honor of killed airman Maxwell A. Lopez.

In December 2004, an attempt was made to locate the remains of the plane.[7] There are ongoing efforts to repatriate the bodies of the three men killed in the crash.[8]

Sometime after December 30, 1946, Vance N. Woodall died during a "ship unloading accident". In a crew profile, deckman Edward Beardsley described his worst memory as "when Seaman Vance Woodall died on the Ross Ice Shelf under a piece of roller equipment designed to 'pave' the ice to build an airstrip."


Father William Menster served as chaplain during the expedition, and in a service in 1947 he consecrated Antarctica.

The Central Group of ships reached the Bay of Whales on January 15, 1947, where they constructed temporary runways along the glaciers, in a base dubbed Little America IV.

Naval ships and personnel were withdrawn back to the United States in late February 1947, and the expedition was terminated due to the early approach of winter and worsening weather conditions.[2]

Admiral Byrd, in an interview with Lee van Atta of International News Service aboard the expeditions command ship, the USS Mount Olympus, discussed the lessons learned from the operation. The interview appeared in the Wednesday, March 5, 1947 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. The fantastic speed with which the world is shrinking – recalled the admiral – is one of the most important lessons learned during his recent Antarctic exploration. 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.[9][10]

After the operation ended, a follow-up Operation Windmill returned to the area, in order to provide ground-truthing to the aerial photography of Highjump, from 1947-1948. Finn Ronne also financed a private operation to the same territory, until 1948.

As with other U.S. Antarctic expeditions, interested persons were allowed to send letters with enclosed envelopes to the base, where commemorative cachets were added to their enclosures, which were then returned to the senders. These souvenir philatelic covers are readily available at low cost.

Participating units

Helicopter landing on icebreaker USCGC Northwind during Operation Highjump
Task Force 68

Rear Admiral Richard H. Cruzen, USN, Commanding

Eastern Group (Task Group 68.3)[11]

Capt. George J. Dufek, USN, Commanding

Western Group (Task Group 68.1)

Capt. Charles A. Bond, USN, Commanding

Central Group (Task Group 68.2)

Rear Admiral Richard H. Cruzen, USN , Commanding Officer

Carrier Group (Task Group 68.4)

Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd Jr. USN, (Ret), Officer in Charge

Base Group (Task Group 68.5)

Capt. Clifford M. Campbell, USN, Commanding

In popular culture


  • Robert Doherty's Area 51 novel series portrays Operation Highjump as a cover for an expedition to excavate flying saucers buried under Antarctica's ice shelf by long-ago extraterrestrial visitors.[12]
  • Much of the action in James Rollins' novels Subterranean (1999) and The 6th Extinction: Sigma Force Book#10 (2014) takes place at the American base in the Antarctic. The novels liberally reference "Colonel Byrd" and other nations' bases, expeditions, equipment, and artifacts. For example, in The 6th Extinction, the characters investigate the remains of a Nazi U-boat and discuss cryptic statements by Admiral Karl Dönitz during the Nuremberg trials and his light prison-sentence; some escape using "Colonel Byrd"'s snow cruiser.[13]
  • Some supporters of the Hollow-Earth hypothesis believe that Admiral Byrd flew over the North Pole and into the hollow earth in February 1947, and that he kept a secret diary of the incident. This belief first appeared in print in F. Amadeo Giannini's book The Worlds Beyond the Poles: Physical Continuity of the Universe (1959). Giannini writes that Byrd encountered a humanoid being from another "world" who warned humanity to pursue peace and not war; he also reports that Byrd spotted a living woolly mammoth near the North Pole.[14]
Giannini's account has chronological issues: in February 1947 Byrd was leading Operation Highjump in Antarctica and was, consequently, nowhere near the North Pole. February is wintertime in the Arctic, and sunlight does not reach the North Pole: an aviator would have difficulty seeing something like a woolly mammoth from the air. Furthermore, Giannini quotes directly from the movie Lost Horizon (1937) [29] in the dialog with the humanoid Byrd allegedly encountered. Some Hollow-Earth theorists believe that "controllers" published The Worlds Beyond the Poles in order to discredit the Hollow-Earth theory.


A documentary about the expedition, "The Secret Land", was filmed entirely by military photographers (both USN and US Army) and narrated by Robert Taylor, Robert Montgomery and Van Heflin.[15] It won the 1948 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[16]

As of 2015 Christopher Brand has a film of Operation Highjump, entitled "Highjump", in development.


Nazi protectorate New Swabia
  • A highly controversial, hour-long Russian "documentary", UFO — Technology Secrets and the Third Reich, suggests at the end of the film that the real purpose for Operation Highjump was to seek out a secret German UFO station still operating in the Antarctic; to find Nazis who had fled to Antarctica at the end of World War II and had established a secret base with submarines, aircraft, and flying saucers. The U.S. vessels the film mentions do not correspond with the facts: the U.S. lists neither the USS Casablanca, which was already decommissioned at the time, nor the USS Murdoch, allegedly sunk by a flying saucer, among the naval ships that participated in the mission. The allegation that 100 German U-boats also disappeared right before the end of the war is also unsubstantiated. 46 U-boats have been reportedly listed as missing in action, during the War according to various sources. .[17]

See also


  1. ^ Kearns, David A. (2005). "Operation Highjump: Task Force 68". Where Hell Freezes Over: A Story of Amazing Bravery and Survival. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 304.  
  2. ^ a b Summerhayes, C. & Beeching, P. "Hitler’s Antarctic base: the myth and the reality".   doi:10.1017/S003224740600578X
  3. ^ Summerhayes, C. & Beeching, P. "Hitler’s Antarctic base: the myth and the reality".   doi:10.1017/S003224740600578X
  4. ^ Lang, Michael A. & Robbins, Ron (2009). "Scientific Diving Under Ice: A 40-Year Bipolar Research Tool.". In: Krupnik, I; Lang, MA; Miller, SE (eds). 2009. Smithsonian at the Poles: contributions to international Polar Year science.: 241–52. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  5. ^ "Paul A. Siple". Retrieved 2015-06-26. Paul Allman Siple saw the first light of day on December 18, 1908, in Montpelier, Ohio. ... 
  6. ^ Dubill, Andy (December 2008). "Paul Siple". International Scouting Collector's Association Journal (International Scouting Collector's Association) 8 (4): 45–46. 
  7. ^ "News Archives from Antarctica". Antarctic Connection. 2004. 
  8. ^ "Operation Highjump Crew Recovery". 
  9. ^ "A bordo del Monte Olimpo en Alta Mar".  
  10. ^ Summerhayes, C. & Beeching, P. "Hitler’s Antarctic base: the myth and the reality".   doi:10.1017/S003224740600578X
  11. ^ Kearns, David A. (2005). "Operation Highjump: Task Force 68". Where Hell Freezes Over: A Story of Amazing Bravery and Survival. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 304.  
  12. ^ Doherty, Robert (February 10, 1997 b). "Area 51 (Area 51 #1)". Mass Market Paperback.  
  13. ^ Rollins, James (August 12, 2014). "Author's Note to Readers: Truth or Fiction". The 6th Extinction (ebook ed.) (William Morrow). p. 9. 
  14. ^ Giannini, F. Amadeo (December 1, 1959). The Worlds Beyond the Poles: Physical Continuity of the Universe. Mokelumne Hill (December 1959).  
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ UFO - Technology Secrets and the Third Reich. Youtube. .

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Coast Guard.


  • Colin, Summerhayes; Beeching, Peter (2007). "Hitler's Antarctic base: the myth and the reality". Polar Record (full text) 43 (1): 1.  

Further reading

  • Navy Proudly Ends Its Antarctic Mission; Air National Guard Assumes 160-Year Task. Chicago Tribune; February 22, 1998.
  • Read the story of one of the survivors - James Haskin(Robbie) RobbinsAntarctic Mayday: The Crash of the George One
  • Operation Highjump: A Tragedy on Ice
  • Where Hell Freezes Over by David A. Kearns (son of one of the survivors of the George One crash); Published 2005
  • Operation Highjump photographic analysis
  • Article discussing enigma of operation highjump
  • Photos from Operation Highjump
  • George One Recovery Information
  • Families Urge Navy to Bring Sailors Home
  • Should Navy Recover Bodies of Sailors
  • Ship cover site with good history

External links

  • "Declassified Records on Operation Highjump". The Black Vault. 
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