Seabees, Welders, communicators and the Egyptians.....
This is a tale of the early days on the Ice. Total lack of
communications, clarification of same, and total "can-do" spirit of
the guys in the squadron.
This occurred one day out of Little America - 5 while a tractor party was still plodding their way, cutting the road to New Byrd Station. They would designate their distances with bamboo stakes and a red flag. This was not only to keep track of their mileage, but to give them something to see should they have to backtrack. The positions of the tractor party were given as Mile such-and-such on the trail.
One day, in the galley at Little A-5, Lcdr. Harvey Speed was sitting at the table drinking coffee with his crew. Someone from Ops came in and said someone would have to go out on the trail "to pick up the welder. They're at mile such-and-such." ( As I recall, they were 60-70 miles away. )
Harvey said, "My plane is up; we'll go get 'em" after which he and his crew readied their aircraft and departed. They found the trail party, made an open snow landing alongside, Harvey got out and said, "Where's the welder?" The leader of the trail party ( I think a Seabee first class ) said, "Right over here, Sir" and pointed to a 3,000 lb. broken arc welder....not a person. This presented a small problem as they had no forklift or any heavy equipment on the trail party except D-9 cats and a few wanagan huts.
They got their collective heads together and proceeded to mimic the Egyptians building the pyramids except they used snow instead of sand. They packed and packed and packed snow and made a ramp about 15-18 feet long going up to the cargo compartment door on the old R4-D. After much drudgery, huffing and puffing, pulling and pushing they managed ....with the use of a makeshift block and tackle,......to get "the welder" up the ramp and onto the aft deck of the R4-D at which time they found out they could not get it all the way up or move it anywhere.....and they couldn't get the cargo door closed. So, being the ingenious people that they were, they secured the welder to the deck and threw a line around the cargo ring on the starboard side of the aircraft, ran it across and onto the cargo door to keep it from flapping.
This completed, they did a rough weight and balance and found that they were so far aft that they were not supposed to fly. But the R4-D is kind of like the bumblebee and the bumblebee didn't have a pilot like Harvey Speed.
Harvey managed to milk the plane into the air after a LONG takeoff run with an awful lot of forward tab to get the tail up. He managed to stagger back to Little A-5 and landed uneventfully. He then proceeded into Ops ( rather steaming under the collar ) and asked them if they knew the name of "the welder". They said they had no idea and asked , "Did you get him?" To which Harvey said, "All 3,000 damn pounds of him! Now, YOU can get him off the airplane.....but please don't break the plane, I'm going to need it tomorrow."
Harvey was once asked on the Ice what he was going to do when he got back to ChCh to which he's reputed to have said," If I get out of here with my hat, ass, and overcoat, I'll be lucky!" Fantastic pilot......incredible man.
More about Harvey from 'Penguins Have Square Eyes' by Pat Trese.