Friday, August 26, 2011

Smart People Saying Crazy Things: Admiral Richard E. Byrd

(photo @ wikipedia)

Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd was a famous explorer and highly decorated war veteran during the first half of the 20th century.  He was given multiple commendations for his service in World War I and World War II (including being a peace time recipient of the distinguished Medal of Honor).

In World War I, he showed an unusually high level of skill as a pilot that earned him a great deal of recognition before his discharge due to an injury in 1916.  In World War II, he helped survey islands in the Pacific as airfields to help the Allies stage attacks on the Japanese.

 He is also largely responsible for the exploration and mapping of Antarctica.  His fascination with the south pole even nearly killed him during one of his expeditions; he turned his harrowing ordeal into a book, 'Alone,' the story of which was commemorated by a United States postage stamp.

The 'Forever Alone' stamp, however, is still in preproduction

One of his most famous missions to Antarctica was a military operation called Operation Highjump.  This was mission conducted by the United States Navy which commenced in 1946 after World War II had ended.

The primary goal of the mission was said to be for exploration purposes and to test equipment and train personnel for extremely harsh and frigid conditions.

For this year long exploration mission, a substantially large millitary force was gathered, which included 4,700 men, 13 ships, and a large contingent of air crafts.  This all seemed like a bit much for an exploration and field testing mission, but I guess that it's better to be too well prepared than not.

                                                             swatters are for pansies.

This voyage to Antarctica was to last until August of 1947.  The fleet arrived in the Ross Sea on December 31, 1946 and began their mission.  After multiple losses of life, including 3 servicemen who's bodies were never found, the entire armada hastily returned back to the United States in late February, 6 months before they were scheduled to do so.

The official reason given for cutting the mission short was "worsening weather conditions."

Apparently, there was quite a bit of snow and ice.

While on board the USS Mount Olympus, Admiral Byrd gave an interview to Lee Van Atta of the International News Service that can be seen here.  It was published by El Mercurio, a Chilean newspaper, on March 5, 1947.  

In the interview, Richard Byrd discussed many of the accomplishments and discoveries that his expedition had made while surveying the south pole.  He then gave a surprisingly stern warning to his home country:

"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."


         Just a lump of coal for making the 'Naughty List'?
Yeah...I'm kicking things up a notch.

So either Santa decided to go medieval on bad children, or maybe some of those wacko Nazi base on Antarctica conspiracy theories aren't as crazy as they first sounded.  

It's already a bit strange that such a huge military force was sent down there under the pretense of being a scientific discovery and testing mission.  But there are a few other anomalies that add some spice to this theory.

The Germans had already attempted to lay claim to parts of Antarctica in the 1930's.  They had dubbed it "Neuschwabenland," (which would actually make an awesome name for a Q-tip company), and had even invited Admiral Byrd to help them explore it, which he declined to do.

But awesome name aside, why the heck would anyone actually want to set up a base in Antarctica?

It's not really the heat, but the humidity that'll kill ya.

Well, if you were a Nazi and the Allies were beating down your door, fleeing to a place with no other people (and that you had already laid claim to and explored) sure as heck beat the Nuremberg Trials.  

South America, a known place that fleeing Nazis were found after World War II, was relatively close to Antarctica from it's southern most point.

Near the war's end, two large German supply submarines, U-977 and U-530, were captured near Argentina, which is the closest country to the south pole.  Combine that with multiple reports and speculations about the Nazis working on all types of unusual aircraft prototypes, and things have officially gotten weird with a dash of plausibility.

Time to start mass producing these bad boys!

So is it true?

Even though Richard Byrd seems like a pretty straight forward and non crazy source, there is some evidence that the man may have liked to stretch the truth a bit.  

It seems his accomplishment of being the first to reach the North Pole by air (for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor) may have not actually been completed.

I got my shotgun and told that punk that he better not even get near my lawn!

That being said, the man was still a war hero, an incredibly skilled aviator, and someone who had a history of well documented and successful explorations.  Maybe he was just speculating on the north and south pole's strategic capabilities...though it seemed to be a bit of an oddly stern warning to give directly after World War II had officially ended and before the Cold War with the U.S.S.R. had really ramped up.

But if there was a Nazi base down there, than the folks who try to say that it may still exist today (and somehow survived Admiral Byrd's massive strike force) would be hard pressed to prove it.   There are currently 30 research bases scattered around the continent with a fluctuating population of 1,000-4,000. 

Unless the Nazi's have become incredibly adept at hiding against bleak, white backgrounds, masking their heat signatures and electrical outputs, and never needing any food or supplies, then it's probably a pretty safe bet that the south pole is third reich free.

 Why does that snowman keep giving me a murderous glare?

So if it wasn't the remnants of the Nazi military that Admiral Byrd was warning us about, then what was it?  Why issue such a stern warning about aerial attacks from such remote locations right after a major enemy had been officially defeated?  

Remember that he also said the North Pole was an area from which we should an expect an attack; maybe Santa really is just getting tired of our crap.

And maybe Futurama really is predicting our unfortunate future.