Richard Evelyn Byrd graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1912 and became a naval aviator in 1918. His career as a polar explorer spanned more than 20 years. On May 9th 1926 he commanded the first aircraft flight over the North Pole. In June 1927 he made the first West-East trans-Atlantic flight in a multi-engined aircraft with a payload, a feat for which the United States Congress awarded him a special Medal of Honor. His greatest explorations and triumphs took place in Antarctica, commencing in 1928 with the establishment of the permanent scientific base, Little America. His flight over the South Pole on November 25-26 was another historic first. Under sponsorship of the National Geographic Society and U.S. Navy, he led five major expeditions to the southern continent, adding significantly to man's knowledge of this polar region. In 1946 Byrd organized and led "Operation Highjump," the largest expedition ever sent to the Antarctic. Composed of 4,000 men, 23 aircraft and helicopters, and 13 ships, this operation mapped 75 percent of the coastline and flew long range flights into the interior. Byrd was awarded the Medal of Freedom for this achievement. History records his crowning achievement as the development of the Antarctic Treaty in 1939, naming Antarctica the first "Continent of Peace," the world's first instrument of international scientific cooperation. Under the terms of this protocol, no nation may claim sovereignty over any portion of this continent nor introduce nuclear weapons or industry thereon.
Inducted in 1968.
Portrait Location: Golden Age of Flight Gallery