ANTARCTICA (INTELLIHUB) — Operation Highjump (OpHjp) put nearly 5000 U.S. military personnel along with every resource available to the Navy’s disposal in the hands of Admiral Richard Byrd, the Operations Leader of the U.S. Naval mission into the Antarctic. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. Every resource in the entire U.S. Navy was made readily available for Admiral Byrd’s team’s use.
Although Byrd was chosen to lead the mission for a rather specific reason, which I will later explain, he was quite qualified and a favorite amongst the American public–the perfect candidate of choice by U.S. Navy and Top Brass. Additionally to Byrd’s recruitment another man, Rear Admiral RichardCruzen, was selected to head-up the task force. And make no mistake, this was an unusually bold move for the American military at the time as people, nations, and even world economies were still volatile from war’s aftermath.
So we have to ask the following questions:
Why would the U.S. military be seeking to expend so many resources at the risk of great collateral loss to explore such a harsh region of the Planet Earth as Antarctica?
What was the rush?
What did they know?
What we find is that a lot of the details regarding Operation Highjump have been carefully tucked away over the years. Wikipedia explains little about the mission officially titled The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program, 1946-1947:
A United States Naval operation organized by 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 multiple aircraft. The primary mission of OperationHighjump was to establish the Antarctic research base Little America IV.
Highjump’s objectives, according to the U.S. Navy’s report on the operation were as follows:
training personnel and testing equipment in frigid conditions;
consolidating and extending United States sovereignty over the largest practicable area of the Antarctic continent (This was publicly denied as a goal even before the expedition ended);
determining the feasibility of establishing, maintaining and utilizing bases in the Antarctic and investigating possible base sites;
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;
amplifying existing stores of knowledge of hydrographic, geographic, geological, meteorological and electro-magnetic propagation conditions in the area;
supplementary objectives of the Nanook expedition. (The Nanookoperation was a smaller equivalent conducted off eastern Greenland.)
Interestingly enough many of the actual mission details were shrouded by secrecy, hidden from the American public, which leads us to where we are now.
An excerpt from a report entitled The Antarctica Enigma reads:
Little other information was released to the media about the mission, although most journalists were suspicious of its true purpose given the huge amount of military hardware involved.
The US Navy also strongly emphasized that Operation Highjump was going to be a navy show; Admiral Ramsey’s preliminary orders of 26th August 1946 stated that,“The Chief of Naval Operations only will deal with other governmental agencies” and that “no diplomatic negotiations are required. No foreign observers will be accepted.”
Not exactly an invitation to scrutiny, even from other arms of the government.
Admiral Byrd, was a strategic choice as he was a national hero to the Americans. He had pioneered the technology that would be a foundation for modern polar exploration and investigation, had been repeatedly decorated and had undertaken many expeditions to Antarctica and was also the first man to fly over both poles.
However, the task force itself, remained strictly under the military command of Rear Admiral Richard Cruzen
Unfortunately, the ships central group entered the ice pack off the Ross Sea on 31st December 1946 and found conditions as bad as had been noted for over a century.
Cebreakers such as the USCGC Burton Island, a ship that had only recently been commissioned and was still undergoing sea trials off the Californian coast when Operation Highjump was launched, fought to cut a way through the ice to help the men land.
Richard Cruzen was one of a few men to have located at several ‘oases’ which were actually the real reason the expedition team was sent there in the first place, although at the time only those with a top-secret clearance would truly know the mission’s true objective.
An excerpt from the Daviess County Historical Society reads:
According to a Navy report, 1,000 miles of new coastline was discovered on exploratory trips by the Bear and Byrd’s sea plane. Commended by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox for his “superior seamanship, ability, courage, determination, efficiency and good judgment in dangerous emergencies,” Cruzen was one of the 16 members of the 1939-41 expedition who received the Antarctic Expedition Medal, presented in November 1946.
On Dec. 2, 1946, Cruzen once more set sail for the Antarctic continent. This time, as Task Force Commander under Admiral Byrd of the Navy’s Antarctic Developments Project also known as “Operation Highjump” Cruzen led a force of 13 ships carrying some 4,000 men, including meteorologists, zoologists, physicists and experts from oceanography institutes into the adventure of a lifetime.
Besides looking for new scientific data, another purpose of the expedition was to train Navy personnel and to test standard Navy ships and other equipment in cold weather operations.
Cruzen navigated through an ice pack of several hundred miles before reaching Little America. Icebergs and unpredictable weather were formidable foes during the course of the expedition.
Among the discoveries made during the 1946-47 expedition was the sighting of two “oases,” one a region of ice-free lakes and land. More than 300,000 square miles of unpathed territory were charted on aerial mapping operations. Their observations proved that radical changes would have to be made on existing maps of the Antarctic.
Why would warm spots, with warm water exist in the Antarctic?
What does this mean?