Fifty Americans have died in Antarctica in support of Operation DEEP FREEZE.
Twenty of these were Sailors and Marines assigned to VX-6 / VXE-6:
LT David W. Carey, USNR CAPT Rayburn A. Hudman, USMC
AD1 Marion O. Marze, USN AT1 Charles S. Miller, USN
P2V-2N BUNO 122465 Crashed at McMurdo during whiteout a whiteout landing 18 October 1956
AD2 Nelson R. Cole, USN
HO4S-3 BUNO 138580 Crashed in the vicinity of McMurdo during austral winter 12 July 1957
LT Harvey E. Gardner, USN LTJG Lawrence J. Farrell, USN
UC-1 BUNO 144673 Crashed on take off at Marble Point 04 January 1959
LCDR William D. Counts, USN LTJG Romauld P. Compton, USN
AMH1 William W. Chastain, USN ADR2 James L. Gray, USN
P2V-7LP BUNO 140439 Crashed on takeoff from Wilkes Station 09 Nov 1961
LCDR Ronald Rosenthal, USN LT Harold M. Morris, USN
LT William D. Fordell, USN AT1 Richard S. Simmons, USN
ADR3 Wayne M. Shattuck, USN ADJ3 Charles C. Kelley, USN
LC-47J BUNO 50832 Crashed on Ross Ice Shelf during takeoff 02 Feb 66
LCDR Bruce Bailey, USN AK2 Donald M. Beatty, USN
LC-130R-1 BUNO 159131 Crashed while landing at Site D-59 09 Dec 87
AMS1 Benjamin Micou, USN
UH-1N BUNO 158249 Crashed in whiteout conditions 31 Oct 92
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!"
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. Following it's 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". 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. 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, R7D Super Constellation, and LH-34 and HUS-1A helicopters. DEEP FREEZE '61 marked the arrival of the ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules, then dubbed the "work horse of the future", due to its long range and heavy load capability. During DEEP FREEZE '72, the UH-1N 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, VX-6 has had many aviation firsts. On 20 December 1955, two P2V-2 Neptunes 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, "Qué 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 an LC-130 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.
During DEEP FREEZE '78, VXE-6 evacuated five critically injured Soviets from 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 life-saving 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-03", 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-1N and LC-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 LC-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-1N Hueys) were operated during the period between WINFLY and the start of normal operations in October. All helicopter missions were completed despite being grounded for over a month because of a suspected driveshaft problem. Another historic milestone occurred on 25 October 1991 when an all-female crew took an LC-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 U. S. Air National Guard (ANG), 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 is VXE-6's last deployment season in support of the United States Antarctic Program. This season's LC-130 airlift schedule is the busiest on record: nearly 500 missions are 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 wish to extend their appreciation to everyone who made possible the remarkable opportunities and events described above.