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   Operation Deep Freeze was an annual mission supported by the US Army Aviation detachment from 1956 to 1969. 

   Each 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.

group photo pilots and crew of 1st helicopters to the South Pole

Crew and pilots of the first helicopters to the South Pole, 4 February 1963.


unloading Hueys at South Pole from C-124

Hueys arrive at the South Pole in C-124 Globemasters, 1963.

3 penguins meet a soldier

Local penguin dignitaries arrive to greet the visitors.

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.

image of snow buildup on front of Huey

image showing tie-down of huey

   Huey dug 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 winds.


exercising the Huskies at McMurdo Sound.

New Zealand dog handlers exercise the dogs at McMurdo Sound, 1960.

image of sleds pulled by snowmobile

Sleds pulled by snowmobiles or dogs provided transportation between camps.

Hueys in the snow
tractor in the snow
landscape of snow and ice and rock
penguins playing in snow/ice

    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.

arrival of supplies

Newly arrived supplies at one of the base camps.

surveying location

COL Dawson at sign post  huey in snow
device for detecting hidden crevasses

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.

at Byrd Station

   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.

supplies arriving at Byrd station

   Another trail was built in 1959-1960 between McMurdo and Marble Point, where surveys were conducted for a commercial airstrip.

Helos at helo pad

Above, the helicopter pad at McMurdo, 1960.

   During 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.

entrance to Camp Marie Byrd Land

   From 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.

setting up equipment another view of the landscape, snow, ice, rocks


Ben Luck in front of Huey

Ben Luck with UH-1


passengers in Huey
getting scientist from locatoin
survey in the snow, ice, rock
huey in the snow


survey equipment in the snow
checking equipment in the snow

   In 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 successes.

helo above the ice


changing an engine

Changing an engine on top of Mount Discovery, October 1961.



Refueling, Operation Deep Freeze, 1968.


refueling in the cold, cold, cold cold snow

   The Hueys were disassembled each year, and carefully packed into US Navy aircraft for the return trip to Fort Eustis, Virginia.

removing a rotor for shipment

Above, removing the rotor.

Right, removing the mast.


removing the mast for shipment

helo on board and going home where it is warm.

loading up and getting ready to go

Above , packed tightly within the C-124 Globemaster.


medal for service in the Antarctic


MAJ Dawson


Major 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 Station.

MAJs Mogenson and Dawson

    Major 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.

Army support of penguin espirit de corps

 “Group Photo” – three members of the aviation detachment with the local dignitaries.  


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