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HISTORY OF ANTARCTIC DEVELOPMENT SQUADRON SIX
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VXE-6 has its roots in "Operation High Jump", the fourth Antarctic Expedition conducted by Rear Admiral (USN) Richard Byrd. In December 1946, this expedition, involving sea-based Martin PBMs and land-based Douglas R4Ds, set out to conduct an extensive aerial survey of Antarctica. Based in the Ross Sea ice pack, they eventually mapped about 1.5 million square miles of the interior and 5,500 miles of coastline.
Established as Air Development Squadron SIX (VX-6) at Naval Air Station (NAS), Patuxent River, Maryland on 17 January 1955, the squadron's mission was to conduct operations in support of U. S. Department of Defense responsibilities in connection with the United States Antarctic Program.
That first season, VX-6 completed nine long range exploratory flights, and transported people and materials necessary for the construction of Little America Base Camp, the Naval Air Operations Facility on Hut Point (Ross Island) and South Pole Station, and assisted in the location of four other base sites on the continent. Following ifs return from DEEP FREEZE I in February, 1956, VX-6 was relocated to NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island (this was also the home of Naval Construction Battalion 200, which had been formed to do the construction of facilities in the Antarctic). VX-6 made its first deployment, DEEP FREEZE 1, in November 1955, as part of "Task Force 43". In January 1969, VX-6 was re-designated as Antarctic Development Squadron SIX (VXE-6). Since it's establishment, VXE-6 has logged more than two hundred thousand flight hours in direct support of United States' interests in the Antarctic. To date, the squadron has transported more than 195 thousand passengers, delivered over 240 million pounds of dry cargo and nearly 10 million gallons of fuel to numerous sites throughout the continent.
In support of OPERATION DEEP FREEZE, the squadron has operated a variety of aircraft, including the P2V-2 Neptune, UC-1 Otter, R4D & C-47 Dakotas, R5D & C-54 Sky Masters, R7V Super Constellation, and LH-34 and HUS-lA helicopters.
DEEP FREEZE '61 marked the arrival of the ski-equipped C-1 30 Hercules, then dubbed the "work horse of the future", due to its long range and heavy load capability. During DEEP FREEZE '72, the UH-1 N Huey was introduced to the continent, with VXE-6 being the first Navy recipient of this now world famous twin-engine helicopter. Providing an additional means of direct scientific support, the Huey had the capability of rapidly transporting field teams and cargo to otherwise inaccessible locations within a 150-mile radius of McMurdo Station.
Since its establishment, VXE-6 has had many aviation firsts. On 20 December 1 955, two P2V-2 Neptune's and two R5D Sky Masters forged the first air link with the continent of Antarctica with a flight from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Sound. During DEEP FREEZE II, "Que Sera Sera", an R4D Dakota (BUNO 12418), became the first plane to land at the South Geographic Pole on 31 October 1956. Also in DEEP FREEZE II, R4D (BUNO 17274) delivered the first group of 11 Seabees and 11 dog sleds, together with tents and other equipment to the South Pole, to begin construction of the first South Pole Station. By January 1958, a VX-6 Otter made the first wheels-on-dirt landing in Antarctica at Marble Point. On 9 April 1961, the first midwinter fly-in was accomplished to rescue a seriously ill Russian scientist from Byrd Station. In February 1963, VX-6 completed the first delivery of bulk fuel (3000 pounds) by a C-1 30 aircraft. In 1964, VX-6 conducted the first-ever flight from Capetown South Africa to McMurdo Station Antarctica, first-ever flight of U.S. aircraft to the Russian-operated Antarctic Station Vostok, and the first successful demonstration of Trimetrogon photography, used extensively to map the Antarctic continent.
FIFTY Americans have died in Antarctica in support of Operation DEEP FREEZE.
Twenty Four of these were Sailors and Marines assigned to VX-6/VXE-6.
LCDR Bruce Bailey, USN
AK2 Donald M. Beatty, USN
LCDR Joseph D. Cerda, USN
AD2 Nelson R. Cole, USN
LT David W. Carey, USNR
LTJG Romauld P. Compton, USN
AMH1 William W. Chastain, USN
LCDR William D. Counts, USN
LCDR Stephan B. Duffy, USN
LTJG Lawrence, J. Farrell, USN
LT William D.Fordell, USN
LT Harvey E. Gardner, USN
ADR2 James L. Gray, USN
CAPT Rayburn A. Hudman, USMC
ADJ3 Charles C. Kelley, USN
SCPO Kevin M. Kimsey, USN
AN Eric J. Kugel, USN
AD1 Marion 0. Marze, USN
AMS1 Benjamin Micou, USN
AT1 Charles S. Miller, USN
LT Harold M. Morris, USN
LCDR Ronald Rosenthal, USN
ADR3 Wayne M. Shattuck, USN
AT1 Richard S. Simmons, USN
To these gallant men, and to all our comrades who paved the way for those of us in Antarctica now, and in the future, the final crew of VXE-6 would like to say "Thanks. Well Done!"
"Courage - Sacrifice - Devotion"
This farewell reception for Antarctic Development Squadron Six (VXE-6) was made possible through the support of the United States National Science Foundation, Air New Zealand, and the Christchurch International Airport Ltd.
17--Development Squadron VX-6 was established at NAS Patuxent River for operations with Task Force 43 on Operation Deep Freeze. This squadron provided services for parties based ashore on Antarctica and made courier flights between that continent and New Zealand.
1--Task Force 43, Captain G. J. Dufek commanding, was activated to plan Antarctic operations scheduled to begin in the fall under the code name Operation Deep Freeze. The mission of the Force, on its first expedition was to build facilities and airstrips and deliver supplies in support of U.S. participation in the International Geophysical Year 1957-58.
14--The flagship of Rear Admiral George Dufek, Commander Task Force 43, sailed from Norfolk for New Zealand, to rendezvous with the ships of the force for the southward voyage to Antarctica. Operating under the code name Operation Deep Freeze the mission of this force was to establish bases on Antarctica for geophysical studies during the coming year.
20--Two P2V Neptunes and two R5D Skymasters of VX-6 forged the first air link with the continent of Antarctica with a flight from Christchurch, New Zealand, to McMurdo Sound.
31--Seven Navy men landed in an R4D Skytrain on the ice at the South Pole--the first to stand at the spot since Capt. Robert F. Scott of the Royal Navy reached it in January 1912. The seven men were: Rear Admiral G. J. Dufek, CTF 43 and ComNavSupFor, Antarctica, Captain D. L. Cordiner, C.O., Air Development Squadron 6, Captain Wm. M. Hawkes, co-pilot, Lieutenant Commander C. S. Shinn, pilot, Lieutenant John Swadener, navigator, J. P. Strider, AD2, crew chief, and William Cumbie, AT2, radioman. The party remained at the pole for 49 minutes setting up navigational aids to assist the future delivery of materials and equipment for constructing a scientific observation station at the spot.
30--Deep Freeze IV began as Rear Admiral G. J. Dufek, Commander Naval Support Force, Antarctica, and four of his staff arrived at McMurdo Sound aboard an R5D of VX-6.
1--An R5D Skymaster, piloted by Lieutenant Commander J. A. Henning of VX-6 arrived at NAF McMurdo Sound after a flight from Christchurch, New Zealand.
The arrival of Rear Admiral D. M. Tyree, Commander Naval Support Force Antarctica on this first flight of the season marked the operational implementation of Operation Deep Freeze 60
In 1961, in 1964, and again some years later, the Navy....flying for the National Science Foundation.....made landings during Winter to perform rescue/evacuations.
In 1961: (from Operation Deep
Freeze 61) "six weeks after Antarctica had begun its winter isolation
a mercy flight brought two VX-6 Hercules from Quonset Point, RI to
Christchurch, NZ. One then flew on to Byrd Station to pick up ailing
Russian scientist Leonid Kuperov, while the other stood by in
Christchurch. The total distance flown the rescue was just under 13000 miles [ from Christchurch].
"Request for the evacuation of the scientist was made by Lt. Joseph R. Walk, MC, USN, medical officer of Byrd Station, after diagnosing a duodenal ulcer. Kuperov was working side by side with his American colleagues when the symptoms developed. Although he was not in any immediate danger, the Navy did not consider it wise for him to spend the winter in the Antarctic.
"The mercy flight may prove to be one of the most significant flights in Deep Freeze history. It proved that lack of daylight and adverse weather do not preclude flying. The C-130, piloted by Commander Lloyd E. Newcomer successfully broke Antarctica's winter isolation for the first time."
Hercules of VX-6, piloted by Commander Lloyd E. Newcomer and carrying a
double crew of 16 and a special crew of five, landed at Christchurch,
New Zealand, completing the emergency evacuation from Byrd Station,
Antarctica, of Leonid Kuperov a Soviet exchange scientist who was suffering from an acute abdominal condition. The round trip flight out
of Christchurch was the first to pierce the winter isolation of the
7 The President of the United States signed the Antarctic Medal Bill.
27 First flight of personnel and cargo departed Quonset Point, Rhode Island, for Christchurch.
4 Navy accepted first C130BL aircraft
9 Icestrip runway construction begun.
10 U.S. Senate gave advice and consent to ratification of Antarctic Treaty.
16 First NAF, McMurdo Sound, aircraft flight of Deep Freeze 61.
9 USS Wilhoite (DER-3 97) changed operational control to Task Force 43 and departed Pearl Harbor for Dunedin (arrived 22 September).
10 Rear Admiral D.M. Tyree, USN, departed Washington for Christchurch (arrived 15 September).
12 1960 orientation session of the U.S. Antarctic Research Program convened at Skyland, Virginia.
18 First Navy C-130 departed Quonset Point for Christchurch (arrived 21 September); Detachments AirDevRon Six at Quonset Point and Christ-church activated.
23 Sunrise at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
26 Wilhoite departed Dunedin for Ocean Station, (arrived on station 29 September after stop at Campbell Island).
4 R7V arrived at McMurdo from Christchurch with Admiral Tyree and staff; flight delayed to this date from 30 September by poor weather and storm conditions at McMurdo.
11 NAAF Little Rockford CM2, in charge.
15 C-130 aircraft arrived with Peter Snow millers.
18 USS Glacier (AGB-4)changed operational control to Task Force 43.
20 USS Staten Island (AGB-5) changed operational control to Task Force 43.
25 USCGC EastWind (WAGB-279) changed operational control to Task Force 43.
28 USS Edisto (AGB-2) changed operational control to Task Force 43.
30 Navy C-130 makes first flight to South Pole for Deep Freeze 61.
31 Air drop operations begin at South Pole.
2 Navy C-130 makes first flight to Byrd for Deep Freeze 61.
3 NAAF Beardmore activated.
9 USNS Private John R. Towle (TAK-240) changed operational control to Task Force 43.
10 New site selected for Byrd Station 6.1 miles from present camp.
12 132-hour communications blackout between Deep Freeze stations begins (ended Oct 18).
14 Commander Griffith Evans, Jr., USNR, relieved Commander Bernard G. Fold, USN, as Commanding Officer of Edisto; Ellsworth Highland Traverse (Dr. Charles Bentley, leader) departed Byrd Station.
15 Commander J. J. Brosnahan relieved Commander L.W. Bertoglio as Commander, Antarctic Support Facility, McMurdo Sound.
23 USNS Alatna (TAOF-81) changed operational control to Task Force 43.
1 Final USAF C-124 arrived Christchurch; Deep Freeze 61 mission completed. Begin return to CONUS.
8 Byrd-Pole Tractor Train (TO 43.4, Major Antero Havola, US4, leader) departed Byrd Station for South Pole.
10 McMurdo-Pole Traverse, (Dr. Albert P. Crary, leader) departed NAF McMurdo Sound for South Pole.
12 Excavation begun on New Byrd Station
13 USNS Greenville Victory (TAK-237) changed operational control to Task
JANUARY - 1962
3 1355 Arneb (AKA-56) changed operational control to Task Force 43.
11 Byrd-Pole Tractor Train (Task Group 43.4) arrives South Pole.
1 Fire destroyed two buildings at NAF MeMurdo. Total loss estimated at $225,000.
5 Glacier and Staten Island rendevous and enter Bellingshausen Sea.
11 Ellsworth Highland Traverse completed evacuated 13 Feb.
12 McMurdo-Pole Traverse arrives at South Pole. C-130 evacuated party from
Little Rockford; station closed.
17 Last flight of season departed South Pole. Party evacuated from
Beardmore; station closed.
21 Air operations completed for Deep Freeze 61 with arrival of last flight
from McMurdo at Christchurch.
5 Naval Air Facility, McMurdo Sound, placed in winter status; REP,
COMNAVSUPPFOR ANTARCTICA, McMurdo, disestablished.
10 Bellingshausen Sea Expedition 1961 complete; CTU 43.1.2 detaches Staten
Island for oceanographic survey operations; Glacier proceeds to Palmer
11 Resupply of Hallett ended.
16 Arneb arrived Port Lyttleton
17 Edisto arrived Port Lyttleton
21 Eastwind arrived Sydney
14 First birth at South Pole: "Pandora" (hamster) produces twins.
22--An LC-130F Hercules of VX-6 made the longest flight in Antarctic history covering territory never before seen by man. The plane which was piloted by Commander William H. Everett and carried Rear Admiral James R. Reedy among its passengers, made the 3,470 mile flight from McMurdo Station, south beyond the South Pole to the Shackleton Mountain Range and then southeastward to the pole of inaccessibility and returned to McMurdo in 10 hours and 40 minutes.
26--An LC-130F Hercules, commanded by Lieutenant Robert V. Mayer of VX-6, completed a round-trip flight from Christchurch, New Zealand, to Antarctica in an emergency evacuation of petty officer B. L. McMullen, critically injured in a fall. Two planes, with teams of medical specialists on board, flew from NAS Quonset Point to Christchurch where one plane stood by while the other undertook the hazardous flight.
30--Three ski-equipped Hercules aircraft of VX-6 took off from Melbourne, Australia; Christchurch, New Zealand and Punta Arenas, Chile, respectively, and made flights to Antarctica, landing on Williams Field at McMurdo. The flight from Melbourne, the first in history from Australia to Antarctica, passed over the South Pole to drop a 50-pound sack of mail to the wintering-over party, then landed at Byrd Station before proceeding to McMurdo. The arrival of Rear Admiral James R. Reedy, Commander Naval Support Forces, Antarctica, on this flight, on 1 October, marked the official opening of Deep Freeze
?????---RD Wright joins the elite Airdevron Six group (VX-6) 19 years old and easily persuaded, but learned fast What an outfit!
In 1966: (from Twenty
Years on the Ice) " Mid winter flights to Antarctica that began April
9, 1961 have become an integral part of the operational requirements of
VX-6. Although the "Fly Ins" in the Antarctic winter night are far
from routine, the expert pilots of the Navy squadron have made such
flights in 1961, 1964, and 1966."
7--A C-130 Hercules, piloted by Commander Marion Morris of VX-6, returned to Christchurch, New Zealand, after a flight to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to evacuate Robert L. Mayfield, UT-2, who had been critically injured in a fall.
It was the third emergency air evacuation from Antarctica during the winter
( I remember that this flight made front page in NZ newspapers but freshly
landed 'Beatles' who also arrived that day in the country were listed inside
18--The first scheduled winter flight to Antarctica was successfully completed when a Navy LC-130F of VX-6 flying from Christchurch, New Zealand, landed at Williams Field, 7 miles from McMurdo Station. Although earlier winter flights had been made to Antarctica as a result of medical emergencies, this was the first planned flight.
2-A C-117 landed at McMurdo from Hallett Station, the last C-117 flight on the Antarctic continent. The flight marked the end of 11 years of service to VX-6 by the "Gooney Birds". Crew members were LCDR Johnston, LT Palombo, LTJG Keyser, ATCS Holladay, AT1 Kelley, ADR1 James and ADR2 Harper.
( what was the difference from C-47 to C-117 ?? )
20-RD Wright retires from the Puckerd Petes----a wiser man!
31--Two LC-130's of VXE-6 arrived at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, 6 weeks in advance of the opening of Operation Deep Freeze 70. Among the passengers were Rear Admiral David F. Welch, Commander Naval Support Force, Antarctica, and seven scientists.
During DEEP FREEZE '78, VXE-6 evacuated five critically injured Soviets
the crash site of an IL-14 transport aircraft at Molodezhnaya, on the Prince
Olav Coast, located 1,825 miles (about 24 flight hours, round trip) from
McMurdo Station. This arduous and hazardous lifesaving flight earned the
squadron the Navy Unit Commendation.
The squadron received the 1982 Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award in recognition of its accident free flight operations for that year and for its outstanding safety program.
DEEP FREEZE '88 was a particularly challenging season. A medical evacuation to the South African station of Sanae broke the record for time and distance in a single Antarctic flight. Another highlight of the season was the recovery of an LC-130 (BUNO 148321) that had been buried in ice and snow since its crash in 1971 near Dumont D'Urville. That aircraft, designated as "XD-O3", has been fully restored and still operates with VXE-6 to this day.
DEEP FREEZE '90 was a highly successful season. With the combined efforts of HH-1 N and C-130 aircraft, VXE-6 moved almost 8,000 passengers and over 6 million pounds of cargo which included five re-supply flights to the Russian-operated Vostok Station. Additionally, VXE-6 completed the first wheeled landing of an C-130 aircraft on a "blue ice" surface near the Beardmore Glacier. Capping this successful season, VXE-6 was awarded the COMNAVAIRPAC Aircraft Squadron Battle Efficiency Award.
DEEP FREEZE '92 marked the first year in which aircraft (UH-1 N Hueys) were operated during the period between WIN FLY and the start of normal operations in October. All helicopter missions were completed despite being grounded for over a month because of a suspected drive shaft problem. Another historic milestone occurred on 25 October 1991 when an all-female crew took an C-130 to "open-up" the South Pole. Topping off the season, VXE-6 was again awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award.
DEEP FREEZE '93 saw VXE-6 break many records, the most amazing being the total cargo flown in a single season: Nearly 9.4 million pounds of cargo and fuel were transported on continent DEEP FREEZE '96 marked the squadron's 40th annual deployment to Antarctica .
Together, the Hercs and the Hueys flew more than 4700 hours to deliver more than 8 thousand passengers and over 6.7 millions pounds of cargo and fuel.
On 3 February 1996, the squadron operated its last helicopter mission in Antarctica (the helicopter program is now bid-contracted every five years).
The Navy's helo program in Antarctica ended with the disestablishment of VXE-6's helo component in April 1996. At the conclusion of the 96 / 97 deployment, the squadron held an Old Antarctic Explorers Reunion, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Antarctic Research support.
Approximately 200 past and present VXE-6 personnel were in attendance, including members of VX-6 DEEP FREEZE I.
DEEP FREEZE '97 proved to be very successful in spite of a delay in "opening-up" South Pole Station until early November due to extremely low temperatures. Despite many delays and maintenance difficulties due to extreme weather conditions, VXE-6 and the Air National Guard's 109 Airlift Wing completed 120% of all planned missions. This season was the first of a three year program designed to transition Department of Defense long range logistic support for the Antarctic Program from Navy management to that of the Air National Guard of the U. S. Air Force, leading to the reduction in personnel and eventual disestablishment of VXE-6. Also during this season, VXE-6 was awarded the CNO Safety Award for Calendar Year 1995, the
COMHELTACWINGPAC Safety Award for 1996, the Secretary of the Navy-awarded Meritorious Unit Commendation for the '95 season, and the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle Efficiency Award for 1996.
Plagued by the "worst weather in 24 years", DEEP FREEZE 98 ended successfully with the completion of an extremely busy air lift schedule, including the delivery of a substantial amount of materials necessary to begin the erection of the new South Pole Station, slated for completion in 2005.
DEEP FREEZE '99 was VXE-6's last deployment in support of the United States Antarctic Program. This season's LC-130 airlift schedule was the busiest on record: nearly 500 missions were planned; 320 to the South Pole alone!
Following the closure of South Pole Station's summer operations in mid-February, VXE-6 will return to Naval Air Station, Point Mugu, CA, to be disestablished. The officers and crew of VXE-6-6 wish to extend their appreciation to everyone who made possible the remarkable opportunities and events described above.