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Operation Highjump (OpHjp), officially titled The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program, 1946-47, was a United States Navy operation organized by Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd in Antarcticamarker under the command of Richard Cruzen, which was launched on 26 August 1946 and ended abruptly in late February 1947, six months earlier than planned. The massive Antarctic task force included 4,700 men, 13 ships, and multiple aircraft.

The stated claims of the operation were as follows
  1. to train personnel and test material in the frigid zones
  2. to consolidate and extend American sovereignty over the largest practical area of the Antarctic continent
  3. to determine the feasibility of establishing and maintaining bases in the Antarctic and to investigate possible base sites
  4. to develop techniques for establishing and maintaining air bases on the ice, with particular attention to the later applicability of such techniques to operations in interior Greenland. (where, it was then believed, physical and climatic conditions resembled those in Antarctica)
  5. to amplify existing knowledge of hydrographic, geographic, geological, meteorological and electromagnetic conditions in the area.


The Western Group of ships reached the Marquesas Islandsmarker on December 12, 1946, whereupon the Henderson and Cacapon set up weather monitoring stations. By the 24th, the Currituck had begun launching aircraft on reconnaissance missions.

The Eastern Group of ships reached Peter I Islandmarker in late December 1946.

The Central Group of ships reached the Bay of Whalesmarker on January 15, 1947, where they constructed temporary runways along the glaciers, in a base dubbed Little America IV. Vance N. Woodall died during a "Ship unloading accident" sometime after December 30, 1946.

After the operation ended, a follow-up Operation Windmill returned to the area, citing that a large percentage of the aerial photographs from the earlier mission had been poorly exposed, and needed to be re-shot. Finn Ronne also financed a private operation to the same territory, until 1948.

Killed airman Maxwell A. Lopez had a mountain named in his honour after his death, Mount Lopez on Thurston Islandmarker.

Father William Menster served as chaplain during the expedition. He became the first member of the clergy to visit the continent, and in a service in 1947 he consecrated Antarctica.

As with other U.S. Antarctic expeditions, interested persons were allowed to send letters with enclosed envelopes to the base. Here commemorative cachets were added to their enclosures which were then returned to the senders. These souvenir philatelic covers are readily available at low cost.

Conspiracy theories

Operation Highjump has become a topic among UFO conspiracy theorists, who claim it was a covert US military operation to conquer alleged secret underground Nazi facilities in Antarctica and capture the German Vril flying discs, or Thule mercury-powered spaceship prototypes. This has been the central theme of Robert Doherty's "Area 51" series of novels.

An esoteric Hitlerist legend recounts that Adolf Hitler did not commit suicide in 1945, but fled to Argentina, then to an SS base under the ice in New Swabiamarker during the early 1950s where he resumed his career as a painter. According to this account, Operation Highjump, the largest expedition mounted to the Antarctic, is claimed to have been sent to wipe out the Nazi presence.

George 1 crash

On December 30, Aviation Radiomen Wendell K. Hendersin and Fredrick W. Williams and Ensign Maxwell A. Lopez were killed when their PBM Mariner George 1 crashed during a blizzard. The surviving six crewmembers, including Aviation Radioman James H. Robbins and co-pilot William Kearns, were rescued 13 days later. A plaque was later erected at the McMurdo Stationmarker research base, honoring the three killed crewmen. In December 2004, an attempt was made to locate the remains of the plane. There are ongoing efforts to repatriate the bodies of the three men killed in the crash


Eastern Group

commanded by Captain George J. Dufek

Western Group

commanded by Captain Charles A. Bond

Central Group

The aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea also participated, although it was not assigned to any of the groups. Research scientist Paul Siple also contributed to the expedition.


  2. News Archives from Antarctica - An at
  3. George One Operation Highjump Crew Recovery

See also

External links

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