Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Operation Highjump

Operation Highjump

USS Sennet (SS-408) participating in Operation Highjump
Operation Highjump (OpHjp), officially titled The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program, 1946-47, was a United States Navy operation organized by RADM Richard E. Byrd Jr USN (Ret) and commanded by CAPT Richard H Cruzen, USN. Operation High Jump began on 26 August 1946 and ended in late February 1947, six months earlier than planned. Task Force 68 included 4,700 men, 13 ships, and multiple aircraft. The primary mission of Operation High Jump was to establish the Antarctic research base Little America IV.
The stated claims of the operation were as follows:
  1. to train personnel and test material in the frigid zones
  2. to consolidate and extend American sovereignty over the largest practical area of the Antarctic continent
  3. to determine the feasibility of establishing and maintaining bases in the Antarctic and to investigate possible base sites
  4. to develop techniques for establishing and maintaining air bases on the ice, with particular attention to the later applicability of such techniques to operations in interior Greenland. (where, it was then believed, physical and climatic conditions resembled those in Antarctica)
  5. to amplify existing knowledge of hydrographic, geographic, geological, meteorological and electromagnetic conditions in the area.

The Western Group of ships reached the Marquesas Islands on December 12, 1946, whereupon the Henderson and Cacapon set up weather monitoring stations. By the 24th, 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, LCDR Thompson and Chief Dixon utilized Jack Browne masks and DESCO Oxygen rebreathers to log the first dive by Americans under the Antarctic.

Human losses

On December 30, 1946, aviation radiomen Wendell K. Hendersin, Fredrick W. Williams, and Ensign Maxwell A. Lopez were killed when their PBM Mariner George 1 crashed during a blizzard. The surviving six crewmembers, 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.
In December 2004, an attempt was made to locate the remains of the plane. There are ongoing efforts to repatriate the bodies of the three men killed in the crash Killed airman Maxwell A. Lopez had a mountain named in his honour after his death, Mount Lopez on Thurston Island.
Additionally, Vance N. Woodall died during a "Ship unloading accident" sometime after December 30, 1946. In a crew profile, deckman Edward Beardsley described his worst memory as "When Seaman Vance Woodall died on the Ross Ice Shelf under apiece of Roller Equipment designed to "pave" the ice to build an airstrip."


Father William Menster served as chaplain during the expedition. He became the first member of the clergy to visit the continent, 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 suddenly withdrawn back to the United States in late February 1947 and the expedition was terminated, six months early. No official explanation was given. The only known circumstances of the sudden termination were given by Admiral Byrd in an interview with Lee van Atta of International News Service aboard the expeditions command ship, the USS Mount Olympus, while at sea. The interview appeared in the Wednesday, March 5, 1947 edition of the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio. In the interview Byrd warned of an imminent attack on the United States and the necessity to "remain in a state of alert and watchfulness" and take defensive precautions against "the possibility of an invasion of the country by hostile aircraft proceeding from the polar regions". Byrd said, "I do not want to scare anybody but the bitter reality is that in the event of a new war the United States will be attacked by aircraft flying in from over one or both poles." Byrd also commented on the sudden termination of the expedition and explained that, "the most important of the observations and discoveries made was the of the present potential situation as it relates to the security of the United States...I can do no more than warn my countrymen very forcibly that the time has passed when we could take refuge in complete isolation and rest in confidence in the guarantee of security which distance, the oceans and the poles provide." Byrd said that the United States was now in a better position due to the "discoveries" made during the expedition, saying that he now, "realized perhaps better than any other person the significance of the scientific discoveries made in these explorations because I can make comparisons." Byrd finished the interview by stating, "We are abandoning the region after making important geographical discoveries."
After the operation ended, a follow-up Operation Windmill returned to the area, citing that a large percentage of the aerial photographs from the earlier mission had been poorly exposed, and needed to be re-shot. 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. Here commemorative cachets were added to their enclosures which were then returned to the senders. These souvenir philatelic covers are readily available at low cost.

Nazi UFOs

An artistic impression of a Nazi UFO.
Operation Highjump has become a topic among UFO conspiracy theorists, who claim it was a covert US military operation to conquer alleged secret underground Nazi facilities in Antarctica and capture the German Vril flying discs, or Thule mercury-powered spaceship prototypes. This has been the central theme of Robert Doherty's "Area 51" series of novels.
An esoteric Hitlerist legend recounts that Adolf Hitler did not commit suicide in 1945, but fled to Argentina, then to an SS base under the ice in New Swabia during the early 1950s where he resumed his career as a painter. According to this account, Operation Highjump, the largest expedition mounted to the Antarctic, is claimed to have been sent to wipe out the Nazi presence.

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