Australia over the Pole to McMurdo... Sept. 1964..
from Leo "Soupy" Campbell, AT1 ( plus yummie grilled cheeses')
Attached is the only picture I have of this historic Transcontinental flight to McMurdo, Antarctica via the South Pole. I can remember the flight took a total of 16 hours in the air, with radar shooting craps about an hour off of Avalon RAAF base just outside of Melbourne, Australia. McMurdo at the time of our ETA was socked in due to a raging storm. The flight proceeded to Byrd Station after dropping mail over the Pole Station. The crew rested and refueled at Byrd and proceeded to McMurdo after the storm had cleared. The crew, (standing) Lt. Dick, C/P: Lt. Hitchcock, P/C; Del Nelson F/E; CDR. Gallup CO; Sgt. Hester, NAV; J. Zimmer, Loadmaster; Berth, AE; Al Cox F/E; and LCDR B. Taylor. (Front Row) Bob Owler F/E; Lt. Wright NAV; Bowman, Metalsmith; Campbell, Radioman: and Blumer AD2 F/E.
June 2002 - - - The following is a
cyber interview with Art Herr, C-130 pilot of VX6
Yes, I was the co-pilot on the Capetown to McMurdo flite on September
30, 1963 and have many memories and evidence of that adventure. We flew to South Africa on a route starting in Quonset Point RI, on to Andrews
AFB in Washington DC to pick up the Admiral, then to the Azores, on to Cairo, then to Nairobi, Kenya, then to Johannesburg and finally to
Capetown, where the Admiral attended the Scientific Conference on Antarctic Research. We had a few days "liberty" in all those exotic
places and more than two weeks in Capetown.
The lead aircraft was 318 (which was later lost at Williams Field when it taxied over a berme). The other aircraft was 320 and it was the "back-up" for 318 and was only assigned by CNSFA, Rear Admiral Reedy, at the last moment. LC-130F 320 was piloted by LCDR Bill Kurlak, who is still living. Kurlak was at first very unhappy about this assignment but later, like the rest of us, saw as it a once in a lifetime opportunity. The lead aircraft, 318, had LCDR Richard Dickerson (now deceased) as Aircraft Commander, the squadron CO, Commander George Kelly (still living and a great resource person) and RADM "Sunshine Jim" Reedy (now deceased) onboard as "mission pilots" and me as the official Co-pilot. I was a "lowly" USN Lieutenant and had to defer to all the brass as far as "seat time", but did get my share and one of the Air Medals that were subsequently awarded, plus membership in the Explorers Club. The complete story is a chapter in the famous newscaster Lowell Thomas's book. We also had on-board a great crew including superb navigators who were USMC enlisted men. We had a Navy MD, an NY Times reporter, a NG Society photographer and Lowell Thomas himself (now deceased) with us on 318. Mr. Thomas's book is "The Last Great Flights".... we are also in the March 1964 National Geographic magazine ( I could mail you copies of these).
Dickerson was one of my heroes whose entire life was worthy of a book---- truly a great man for adventure and an intrepid naval aviator. By-the-way, the famous flites of 318 and 320 are not given much attention by the various VXE-6 yearbooks nor by the memories of other OAE's.... I suppose there have been too many other notable adventures. Also the flights were 14.5 non-stop hours long from Capetown to McMurdo (4700 miles) and only continued on to Christchurch the following day, and then on to Australia. I was left behind in McMurdo Ops to monitor the flight to Christchurch since the rest of the squadron had not yet deployed to the "Ice". At the time, another disappointment for me as the junior officer who got the "short end"!
I hope this very brief description of the event wets your appetite to hear more and for those of us involved to once again relive a small episode in many of the adventures shared by all our shipmates in that marvelous squadron.
To my Friends on the Cc. address line. perhaps, you too would like to read a little bit of past history, that this New Zealand fan of our VXE-6 squadron is trying to recapture in a book he is writing about "Courage, Devotion, and Sacrifice"
Art Herr Proud to be an OAE
This letter from Phillip Law, former director of the Australian Antarctic Program (ANARE) was published in the 4/90 issue of the Polar Record (Scott Polar Research Institute), page 129. Phillip was a passenger on this flight.
For the sake of further clarification and trivia I'll quote his entire
>>quoted letter follows------------------------------
Your October issue (Polar Record 25 (155) 359) [October 1989] stated that Giles Kershaw and Dick Smith made the first direct flight from Australia to Antarctica in 1988. I realize this is repeated from the "ANARE News" but thought I should correct it. The first flight was made from Melbourne to Byrd Station by a US Hercules aircraft under the command of Rear Admiral James Reedy, USN, on 30 September 1964. The flight departed from Avalon Airfield, near Melbourne, at 1756 hours. James Reedy had been keen to make the last inter-continental flight that remained unaccomplished and had planned and directed it. Captain of the aircraft was CDR Fred S. Gallup, USN, Commander of Operation Deepfreeze Squadron VX6. He had a crew of six. Two Australians had been invited to participate, the journalist David Burke and myself. Some other US servicemen brought the total to 18.
I had expected the flight to be a routine affair but it turned out to be quite eventful. Arriving over the South Pole but being unable to land because of the low temperature (-85°F) the Hercules dropped mail and fruit to the station and headed for McMurdo. However, the sliding door, opened for the air-drop, jammed and would not close. We shared the inhalation of oxygen from a couple of cylinders as the plane crossed the Queen Maud Mountains.
A radio message then informed us that the weather had closed in at McMurdo, so we changed course for Byrd Station. Arriving there, the nose-ski could not be lowered, and after a half-hour struggle to release it, Gallup decided to land without it.
Putting down the heavy Hercules and balancing it on two skis for the length of the runway was a fine job of flying, and it was a very relieved group of men that emerged when, after slewing around when the nose was finally dropped onto the snow, the aircraft came to rest.
The distance flown, 4420 miles, had taken 15 hours 39 minutes, the longest duration in Antarctic aviation history up to that time.
>--------------------end of quoted letter-------------------------------
On Sept. 1st 1963 318 and 320 took off from Capetown, South
Africa for McMurdo Station on the other side of the Antarctic continent.
Fourteen and one half hours later, with less than an hours fuel
remaining they safely landed in near "white out" conditions. The
mile flight, never since repeated, was featured in the March 1964
National Geographic Magazine and in a book by then famous newscaster,
Lowell Thomas. Both crews subsequently received the rarely given (for
non-combat) Navy Air Medal. They were also inducted into The Explorer's
Club. Skipper of the squadron, and pilot of 320,was Cdr. George Kelly.
This is just another example of the truly extraordinary feats accomplished by the men of VX-6 ---the continuing legacy..
Submitted by Art Herr, Copilot on board 320. 318 PC was Lcdr Bill Kurlak.
BUNO 148318 was the test bird filled with 1500 strain gauges that were
installed during construction (built into the aircraft) and were used to test
the airframe at the increased weights from the A model. It deployed to the
Ice September of 1960. All aircraft, 318, 319, 320, and 321 were accepted
by the squadron 1 Aug 60. NOT 62. Some of us "O"
OAE's are still around that flew those first four. 318 was taxied off the runway
in a whiteout at McMurdo, 15 Feb 71, a wing ruptured, causing a fire and the
aircraft was destroyed. It was the only one of the original four that is
not in existence today. 321 had a recess of 17 years while buried in the
snow.....but, eventually, it got back in business.
I know whereof I speak because I was the first Navy pilot qualified in a C-130 on 31 Mar 60 and my log book indicates that I flew all four of the originals by Oct 60 the first year of their deployment. As you "young" OAE's say, "the rest is history"....