Operation Deep Freeze was an annual mission
supported by the US Army Aviation detachment from
1956 to 1969.
year, from October to January, Fort Eustis provided
helicopter transportation and limited logistical
support to geophysical scientists and topographic
personnel of the National Science Foundation in
Antarctica. They supported scientific field party
activities in remote areas of the South Pole.
Crew and pilots of
the first helicopters to the South Pole,
4 February 1963.
Hueys arrive at
the South Pole in C-124 Globemasters,
dignitaries arrive to greet the
detachment operated under the most unfavorable
environmental conditions. At times, temperatures
would fall below -40 degrees F, and strong winds and
snowstorms were constant.
out of a snowdrift after a severe
blizzard from 24 – 31 December 1967.
Blankets were wrapped around the swash
plate and gear box, preventing heavy
snow buildup The horizontal tie down
technique was highly effective in high
New Zealand dog handlers exercise the
dogs at McMurdo Sound, 1960.
Sleds pulled by snowmobiles or dogs
provided transportation between camps.
Task Force 43, commanded by the US Navy was
responsible for Operation Deep Freeze's logistics,
planning, coordination, and support. Due to the
Army's experience in Arctic operations, the Navy
requested the Army's help to support the scientists
in the Antarctic.
supplies at one of the base camps.
Left, Col Merle R. Dawson
(L), a Transportation Corps officer, and two
other officers reported to the Deep Freeze
staff in 1956 as technical advisors on
trail operations. Dawson was placed in
charge of tractor trains and traverse
parties. Later that year, in his first
field mission, he led the first group of men
from Fort Eustis into Antarctica.
Col Merle Dawson and
12 other Transportation Corps members had
the mission to survey and build a safe trail
across unexplored Antarctic territory.
Finding a safe route
was important over uncharted lands. They
used an Army vehicle (pictured left),
resembling a large spider to detect hidden
crevasses. The team detoured around the
crevasses or filled them with snow.
Between 1956 and 1957, the Army mapped a trail 650
miles inland and established Byrd Station. Byrd
Station became a major scientific station and
exploration base. Because of the trail, supplies
could be easily transported inland.
Another trail was built between 1957 and 1958 across
the Ross Ice Shelf to McMurdo at a distance of 458
miles in order to evacuate equipment and supplies
from Little America V and to replenish supplies to
inland scientific stations.
Another trail was built in 1959-1960 between McMurdo
and Marble Point, where surveys were conducted for a
Above, the helicopter pad at McMurdo,
air reconnaissance operations to establish safe
routes for the National Science Foundation parties,
Army personnel discovered several new ranges in
Sentinel Mountains where helicopter detachments
supported a detailed mapping operation.
the scientific station at Byrd Station, Army
personnel flew scientists in the Hueys to remote and
inaccessible areas all over the Antarctic.
Scientists from around the world performed
experiments in selected areas of the South Pole.
Ben Luck with UH-1
1961, 10 officers and men led by LT John Greene
began testing and evaluating the performance of two
UH-1B Iroquois turbo-driven helicopters on the ice
and in severe cold. Two geological missions - TOPO
North and TOPO South - were among their first
Changing an engine on
top of Mount Discovery, October 1961.
Deep Freeze, 1968.
Hueys were disassembled each year, and carefully
packed into US Navy aircraft for the return trip to
Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Right, removing the
Above , packed tightly within the C-124
Merle Dawson (above) was presented with the first
Army Antarctic Service Medal. In the photo above,
he presented Major General Paul Yount with the
Transportation Corps flag that flew over Byrd
Palle Mogensen (L) and Major Merle Dawson appeared
in an NBC documentary, "Eleven Against the Ice," in
September 1957. Led by Major Dawson, NBC detailed
of the 11 men who trailed the 640 mile safe route
across the Antarctic to build Byrd Station.
Photo” – three members of the aviation detachment
with the local dignitaries.