Return to Operational ArchivesImage of anchorSearch the Naval Historical Center Website
Flag banner

Painting, Navy ship behind sailboat
Operational Archives Branch
Naval Historical Center
805 Kidder Breese Street SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060

Records of the Chief of Naval Operations,
Oceanographer of the Navy
on Operation Deep Freeze

Historical Note

From Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd's flight across the South Pole to the disbanding of the Naval Support Force, Antarctica, the U.S. Navy has had a long tradition of involvement in the Antarctic.

In 1954, the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) was initiated. Captain George Dufek represented the Department of Defense. Dufek worked hard to get the Navy a strong role in USAP. In 1956, the Navy began its role as the support force to the National Science Foundation for USAP. This support role was called Operation Deep Freeze.

Operation Deep Freeze involved maintaining a Navy staff to operate the American facility at McMurdo on the Ross Ice Shelf, as well as providing aerial support and sea borne supplies. The operation was run by the Commander, Naval Support Force, Antarctica, nominally based out of Port Hueneme, but usually situated at McMurdo. The aerial support unit, Antarctic Development Squadron Six (VXE-6), was based out of Port Hueneme, CA and used LC-130 supply aircraft and UH-1N Hueys. The Military Sea Transport System, now Military Sealift Command (MSC), was tasked to provide ice-strengthened ships for an annual resupply mission, spearheaded by two Coast Guard icebreakers.

In the 1970s, relations between the NSF, the Navy, and the Coast Guard began to deteriorate. The NSF wanted more control over the Antarctic program, and took over the funding for USAP. The Navy often strained relations with NSF by demanding higher costs than NSF thought necessary or making demands NSF felt were unacceptable. Neither NSF nor the Navy could ever decide who really ran McMurdo. In addition, the Coast Guard and the Navy bitterly fought the NSF's decision to use only one icebreaker for the annual resupply mission to the McMurdo in 1988.

By 1990, the Navy was ready to pull out of the Antarctic Program. The 109th Air Wing, New York Air National Guard, was the only other outfit using LC-130s, and in the rush for a role after the Cold War, offered to take over the aerial supply mission. Encouraged, the Navy began transitioning out of USAP. The NSF replaced many of the Navy positions with contractors, while the ANG slowly phased out VXE-6. In March 1999, Navy involvement in USAP ended. Except for the MSC ships, the Navy has no active role in Antarctica.

Scope and Content Note

The collection is arranged in five series. Series I contains analyses, press releases, and talking point papers concerning the U.S. Antarctic Program, particularly the Navy's involvement.

Series II consists of slides that were used to brief various personnel about the Navy's Antarctic support mission, including the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Engineering and Systems and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

Series III holds correspondence concerning the program. Series IV is collected message traffic relating to Antarctica and the Navy. Series V is a set of photographs taken during 1977-1978.

Although the collection is split into five series, many of the same subjects are covered in each series.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Records of the Chief of Naval Operations, Oceanographer of the Navy on Operation Deep Freeze, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.


Subject Headings (LCSH)

United States. Navy--History--Sources.
Antarctica--Discovery and exploration--American.
Antarctic Treaty system.
Military sealift.
Logistics, Naval.
Environmental protection--Antarctica.
National Science Foundation.


2.5 cubic feet

1 August 2005