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Richard Evelyn BYRD, Jr.

Male 1888 - 1957  (68 years)

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  • Name Richard Evelyn BYRD 
    Suffix Jr. 
    Born 25 Oct 1888  Winchester, VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 11 Mar 1957  Boston, Suffolk County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • (1) "Richard E. Byrd," Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, 2011, ??2011 Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Inc.:

      Richard E. Byrd, in full Richard Evelyn Byrd (born Oct. 25, 1888, Winchester, Va., U.S. - died March 11, 1957, Boston), U.S. naval officer, pioneer aviator, and polar explorer best known for his explorations of Antarctica using airplanes and other modern technical resources.


      After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912, Byrd was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy. He learned flying at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla., and served in the navy with distinction until the end of World War I. After the war he developed navigational methods and equipment for NC flying boats, one of which made the navy's first transatlantic airplane flight in 1919. He also assisted with dirigibles built for transatlantic crossings. His polar career began in 1924 when he had command of a small naval aviation detachment with Commander D.B. MacMillan's Arctic expedition to western Greenland, based at Etah.

      The experience of flying over sea ice and glaciers in western Greenland had fired Byrd with the ambition to fly over the North Pole. On May 9, 1926, Byrd, acting as navigator, and Floyd Bennett as pilot made what they claimed to be the first airplane journey over the North Pole, flying from King's Bay, Spitsbergen, Norway, to the Pole and back. The flight lasted 151/2 hours, with no mishaps beyond an oil leak from the starboard engine of their Fokker trimotor airplane. For this feat they were both awarded the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor and were acclaimed as national heroes. Some doubt always lingered over whether their plane had actually reached the North Pole, and one of Byrd's early associates, Bernt Balchen, even claimed after Byrd's death that the flight to the North Pole had been a hoax. The discovery in 1996 of the diary that Byrd had kept on his famous flight shed new light on this question. Byrd's diary entries suggest that the airplane was still about 150 miles (240 km) short of the North Pole when Byrd decided to turn back because of his concern over the oil leak. (If this is true, then credit for the first flight over the North Pole actually belongs to Roald Amundsen of Norway, Lincoln Ellsworth of the United States, and Umberto Nobile of Italy, who made a well-documented flight over the Pole in a dirigible three days after Byrd's flight.)

      Byrd next aided the American aviator Charles A. Lindbergh with navigational training and the use of the specially extended runway for Lindbergh's transatlantic solo flight in May 1927. Byrd then decided to make an attempt to fly the Atlantic from west to east; and in June 1927, with three companions, he made the flight in 42 hours, crash-landing in bad weather at Ver-sur-Mer on the coast of Brittany, France. For this successful flight he was made a Commandant of the French Legion of Honour.

      In 1928 he announced his decision to explore the unknown regions of the Antarctic from the air. With large financial backing from such wealthy Americans as Edsel Ford and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., his fame was such that he could inspire the American public to contribute liberally to the estimated cost of the venture, which was about $400,000.

      Antarctic expeditions

      Byrd's first Antarctic expedition (1928-30), the largest and best-equipped that had ever set out for that continent, sailed south in October 1928. A substantial and well-supplied base, called Little America, was built on the face of the Ross Ice Shelf, a wide plain of shelf ice fronting the Ross Sea near an indentation in the ice cliff named the Bay of Whales. Flights were made from this base over the Antarctic continent. A range of high mountains, named the Rockefeller Mountains, was discovered; and a large tract of hitherto unknown territory beyond them was named Marie Byrd Land, after Byrd's wife. On Nov. 29, 1929, Byrd, as navigator, and three companions made the first flight over the South Pole, flying from Little America to the Pole and back in 19 hours with no mishap. Byrd was afterward promoted to rear admiral for this achievement.

      In 1933-35 a second Byrd expedition visited Little America with the aim of mapping and claiming land around the Pole; he extended the exploration of Marie Byrd Land and continued his scientific observations. During the winter of 1934 (from March to August) Byrd spent five months alone in a hut at a weather station named Bolling Advance Base, buried beneath the ice shelf face 123 miles (196 km) south of Little America, enduring temperatures between -58?? and -76?? F (-50?? and -60?? C) and sometimes much lower. He was finally rescued in a desperately sick condition, suffering from frostbite and carbon monoxide poisoning. This was perhaps his most controversial exploit.

      At the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Byrd took command of the U.S. Antarctic service and led a third expedition to Antarctica in 1939-41, this one financed and sponsored by the U.S. government. Bases were located at Little America and Stonington Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula. Byrd's discovery of Thurston Island greatly decreased the length of unexplored coast of the continent.

      During World War II Byrd served on the staff of the chief of naval operations and, among other duties, evaluated Pacific islands as operational sites. After World War II Byrd was placed in charge of the U.S. Navy's Operation High Jump. This Antarctic expedition, his fourth, was the largest and most ambitious exploration of that continent yet attempted and involved 4,700 men, 13 ships (including an aircraft carrier), and 25 airplanes. Operation High Jump's ship- and land-based aircraft mapped and photographed some 537,000 square miles (1,390,000 square km) of the Antarctic coastline and interior, much of it never seen before. Byrd flew into Little America from the deck of the aircraft carrier Philippine Sea north of the ice pack, about 700 miles (1,100 km) from the camp. He made a second flight over the South Pole and took part in several other flights.

      In 1955 Byrd was made officer in charge of the United States' Antarctic programs and became the senior authority for government Antarctic matters. In this capacity he helped supervise Operation Deep Freeze, a major scientific and exploratory expedition sent to the Antarctic under navy auspices as part of the program of the International Geophysical Year (1957-58). Byrd accompanied the expedition aboard the icebreaker Glacier and took his last exploratory flight over the South Pole on Jan. 8, 1956.

      Byrd's accomplishments

      Byrd was one of the world's foremost aviators and displayed extraordinary gifts in organizing successful expeditions to Antarctica. His major achievement was to apply the airplane, radio, camera, and other modern technical resources to these polar explorations. His five Antarctic expeditions made progressively greater use of ski-planes, ship-based seaplanes, and even helicopters (in 1946-47) to transport men and equipment and to carry out systematic reconnaissance and mapping programs using aerial photography. The expeditions yielded a wealth of new information about the continent, and operations High Jump and Deep Freeze in particular were milestones in the history of sustained, permanent scientific polar research. The aerial sextant and wind-drift instruments that Byrd invented in the years following World War I considerably advanced the science of aerial navigation and were of great use in his own explorations.

      Byrd wrote several books about his adventures. His first book, Skyward (1928), contains descriptions of his 1928-30 expedition to Antarctica, his flight to the North Pole, and his flight across the Atlantic. Little America (1930) is an official account of his aerial exploration in the Antarctic and his flight to the South Pole, and Alone (1938) describes his experiences at Bolling Advance Base. Byrd was extremely competent in public relations, and his expeditions were surrounded by a glare of publicity that made him a national hero and an internationally famous figure.

      Francis D. Ommanney


      Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr
      Birth: Oct. 25, 1888
      Death: Mar. 11, 1957

      Aviator, Polar Explorer, Medal of Honor Recipient, Rear Admiral, United States Navy. Born in Winchester, Virginia, he attended the University of Virginia before entering the United States Naval Academy, graduating there in 1912. Because of a leg injury he received while captain of the academy gymnastics team, the Navy in 1915 determined that he was physically unable to serve, therefore he was forced to retire. Due to the United States' entry into World War I, he returned to serving in the Navy only this time with the aviation branch. In 1918 he earned his wings, having flown solo with only 6 hours of instruction. It was here while in flight school in Pensacola, Florida, that he met his future copilot and best friend, Floyd Bennett. He then served during the war, as commander of a Navy patrol squadron which was based in Canada. He and Bennett served in an expedition of western Greenland in 1924, with Commander D.B. MacMillan, he then set his sights on an airborne expedition to the North Pole. He and Bennett, left their base in Spitsbergen, Norway, on May 9, 1926, aboard their Fokker trimotor plane, Josephine Ford. Suffering no greater malfunction than a minor oil leak, the pair completed the 1,500 mile flight to the Pole. They returned to a heroes' welcome, and were each presented a Medal of Honor by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House. His citation reads: "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." Following their North Pole exploits, Byrd and Bennett were planning on a transatlantic flight. In April 1927, Byrd, Bennett and airplane engineer Tony Fokker took off on a test flight of Fokker's three-engine plane. The plane turned out to be nose-heavy and went crashing, nose-first, before flipping over on its side. While Byrd and Fokker escaped with minor injuries, Bennett broke several ribs, did serious damage to his back, and punctured a lung. The injury would prevent him from joining Byrd some months later in his attempt to transport mail over the Atlantic via airplane. In June 1927, with three companions, one of which was Bernt Balchen, he attempted the Atlantic crossing, reaching the coast of France; but was forced to crash-land the plane at Ver-sur Mer after 42 hours of flight. For this achievement he was named a Commandant in the Legion d'Honneur. He sailed in 1928 to the area known as Bay of Whales, Antarctica, and established Little America, a base that remains in operation today. He now set his sights on a world record flight to the South Pole. Sadly that year, Floyd Bennett, had died of pneumonia. Because of this, the flight had turned bitter-sweet for him. He was crushed by the death of his close friend and paid a visit to Bennett's grave at Arlington to talk to his lost companion. Before his visit was over, he put a rock from the grave into his pocket so that he could honor his friend properly. On November 29, 1929, in the Antarctic spring, Byrd, Balchen, and two other men took off from their base at Little America, and flew to the South Pole. At 1:25 in the morning, as the plane flew over the South Pole, he took the rock from Bennett's grave and tied a United States flag to it. He then opened the planes' trap door and drop the flag and stone together in a final tribute to Bennett. The plane, which he named Floyd Bennett, took 19 hours to complete the world record flight. For this feat he was promoted to Rear Admiral, retired. He headed another expedition to the Antarctic to map and explore new regions around the Pole in 1933. During the winter of 1934, he stayed by himself in a weather observation shed 125 miles from any other human being. During this time he noted that he could hear his breath freeze and the temperatures fell between -58 and -76 degrees Fahrenheit. During his time in observation, he became seriously ill, however he made no mention of it in his radio transmissions to Little America. Alarmed by his incoherent reports, crew members of base camp set out to investigate what the problem could be. They arrived to find him suffering from frostbite and carbon monoxide poisoning, a result of an improperly vented oil-burning stove. The team thought him too weak to travel and cared for him in the observation hut for 2 months before returning him to Little America. His injuries permanently impaired his health and restricted his future activities. He then spent his time working on a book of his adventure which he called "Alone." As director of the Antarctic Service, he led 3 more expeditions. During World War II, he served on the staff of the chief of naval operations. He was named head of "Operation Deep Freeze in 1955, the United States' contribution to the International Geophysical Year of 1957 to 1958. It was during this project that he took his last flight over the South Pole on January 8, 1956. He would die the following year. His other military awards include the Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with gold star, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Following his death, he was honored by the National Geographic Society in 1961 with a life-size statue created by Felix de Weldon. It was placed on Memorial Drive along the approach to Arlington's main gates. The base is inscribed "Upon this bright globe he carved his signature of courage." To avoid confusion, it should be noted that his son, who is interred beside him, also has a headstone which reads, "Richard E. Byrd, Jr." It should read, "Richard E. Byrd III." Lastly it should be noted that on the back of the son's stone, is his mother's name; however she rests in the adjacent grave with her husband. These errors are known by the cemetery staff and are to be corrected at some future date. To see the findagrave memorial page of the Admirals famous dog, click on Igloo. (bio by: Ugaalltheway)

      Family links: Parents: Richard Evelyn Byrd (1860 - 1925), Eleanor Bolling Flood Byrd; Spouse: Marie Donaldson Ames Byrd (1889 - 1974)

      Burial: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
      Plot: Section 2, Grave 4969-1, Map grid WX-32/33

      Maintained by: Find A Grave
      Record added: Jan 01, 2001
      Find A Grave Memorial# 156
    Person ID I25766  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 13 Jul 2020 

    Father Richard Evelyn BYRD, Sr.,   b. 13 Aug 1860, Austin, Travis County, TX Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Oct 1925, Richmond (Independent City), VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 65 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Eleanor Bolling FLOOD,   b. Mar 1866, Appomattox County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Sep 1957, Winchester, VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 91 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 15 Sep 1886  Austin, Travis County, TX Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F11259  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Marie Donaldson AMES,   b. 19 Jan 1889, Boston, Suffolk County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 Sep 1974, Boston, Suffolk County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 85 years) 
    Married 20 Jan 1915  Winchester, VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 13 Jul 2020 
    Family ID F11260  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart