Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr.


Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr. Famous memorial

Winchester, Winchester City, Virginia, USA
Death 11 Mar 1957 (aged 68)
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 2, Grave 4969-1
Memorial ID 156 View Source

Aviator, Explorer, Medal of Honor Recipient, United States Navy Admiral. Born in Winchester, Virginia, he attended the University of Virginia before entering the United States Naval Academy, graduating there in 1912. Because of a leg injury he received while captain of the academy gymnastics team, the Navy in 1915 determined that he was physically unable to serve, therefore he was forced to retire. Due to the United States' entry into World War I, he returned to serving in the Navy only this time with the aviation branch. In 1918 he earned his wings, having flown solo with only 6 hours of instruction. It was here while in flight school in Pensacola, Florida, that he met his future copilot and best friend, Floyd Bennett. He then served during the war, as commander of a Navy patrol squadron which was based in Canada. He and Bennett served in an expedition of western Greenland in 1924, with Commander D.B. MacMillan, he then set his sights on an airborne expedition to the North Pole. He and Bennett, left their base in Spitsbergen, Norway, on May 9, 1926, aboard their Fokker trimotor plane, Josephine Ford. Suffering no greater malfunction than a minor oil leak, the pair completed the 1,500 mile flight to the Pole. They returned to a heroes' welcome, and were each presented a Medal of Honor by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House. His citation reads: "For distinguishing himself conspicuously by courage and intrepidity at the risk of his life, in demonstrating that it is possible for aircraft to travel in continuous flight from a now inhabited portion of the earth over the North Pole and return." Following their North Pole exploits, Byrd and Bennett were planning on a transatlantic flight. In April 1927, Byrd, Bennett and airplane engineer Tony Fokker took off on a test flight of Fokker's three-engine plane. The plane turned out to be nose-heavy and went crashing, nose-first, before flipping over on its side. While Byrd and Fokker escaped with minor injuries, Bennett broke several ribs, did serious damage to his back, and punctured a lung. The injury would prevent him from joining Byrd some months later in his attempt to transport mail over the Atlantic via airplane. In June 1927, with three companions, one of which was Bernt Balchen, he attempted the Atlantic crossing, reaching the coast of France; but was forced to crash-land the plane at Ver-sur Mer after 42 hours of flight. For this achievement he was named a Commandant in the Legion d'Honneur. He sailed in 1928 to the area known as Bay of Whales, Antarctica, and established Little America, a base that remains in operation today. He now set his sights on a world record flight to the South Pole. Sadly that year, Floyd Bennett, had died of pneumonia. Because of this, the flight had turned bitter-sweet for him. He was crushed by the death of his close friend and paid a visit to Bennett's grave at Arlington to talk to his lost companion. Before his visit was over, he put a rock from the grave into his pocket so that he could honor his friend properly. On November 29, 1929, in the Antarctic spring, Byrd, Balchen, and two other men took off from their base at Little America, and flew to the South Pole. At 1:25 in the morning, as the plane flew over the South Pole, he took the rock from Bennett's grave and tied a United States flag to it. He then opened the planes' trap door and drop the flag and stone together in a final tribute to Bennett. The plane, which he named Floyd Bennett, took 19 hours to complete the world record flight. For this feat he was promoted to Rear Admiral, retired. He headed another expedition to the Antarctic to map and explore new regions around the Pole in 1933. During the winter of 1934, he stayed by himself in a weather observation shed 125 miles from any other human being. During this time he noted that he could hear his breath freeze and the temperatures fell between -58 and -76 degrees Fahrenheit. During his time in observation, he became seriously ill, however he made no mention of it in his radio transmissions to Little America. Alarmed by his incoherent reports, crew members of base camp set out to investigate what the problem could be. They arrived to find him suffering from frostbite and carbon monoxide poisoning, a result of an improperly vented oil-burning stove. The team thought him too weak to travel and cared for him in the observation hut for 2 months before returning him to Little America. His injuries permanently impaired his health and restricted his future activities. He then spent his time working on a book of his adventure which he called "Alone." As director of the Antarctic Service, he led 3 more expeditions. During World War II, he served on the staff of the chief of naval operations. He was named head of "Operation Deep Freeze in 1955, the United States' contribution to the International Geophysical Year of 1957 to 1958. It was during this project that he took his last flight over the South Pole on January 8, 1956. He would die the following year. His other military awards include the Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with gold star, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Following his death, he was honored by the National Geographic Society in 1961 with a life-size statue created by Felix de Weldon. It was placed on Memorial Drive along the approach to Arlington's main gates. The base is inscribed "Upon this bright globe he carved his signature of courage." To avoid confusion, it should be noted that his son, who is interred beside him, also has a headstone which reads, "Richard E. Byrd, Jr." It should read, "Richard E. Byrd III." Lastly it should be noted that on the back of the son's stone, is his mother's name; however she rests in the adjacent grave with her husband. These errors are known by the cemetery staff and are to be corrected at some future date.

Bio by: Ugaalltheway


LM & GS - DFC - CR
MAY 9 1926

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 156
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr. (25 Oct 1888–11 Mar 1957), Find a Grave Memorial ID 156, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .