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Richard E. Byrd

 

Richard Evelyn Byrd, son of Richard E. and Eleanor Bolling Byrd and younger brother of Senator Harry Flood Byrd, Sr., was born in Winchester, Va., 25 October 1888. After graduating from the Naval Academy 7 June 1912. Byrd was assigned to battleship South Carolina (BB-26), and subsequently served in Kentucky (BB-6), Wyoming (BB-32), Missouri (BB-11), Washington (ACR-11), and Dolphin (PG-24). He was retired 15 March 1916 because of a leg injury.

 

On 24 May 1916 he was recalled to active duty, limited service, and acted as Instructor-Inspector of Naval Militia, Providence, East Providence, Bristol, and Newport, R.I. After the United States entered World War I, he organized a commission on training camps.

 

Following flight training at Pensacola, Fla., he was designated Naval Aviator No. 608 on 17 April 1918 and served during the remainder of World War I as Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Air Stations in Canada. In planning and executing antisubmarine patrols, Byrd pioneered in night and all-weather flying, designed improved navigation instruments, and devised a plan for a transatlantic flight, which resulted in the NC-4 flight, the first crossing of the Atlantic by air. After studying in England at the Royal Air Force School of Aerial Navigation, Byrd helped to establish naval reserve air stations throughout the United States.

 

In 1924 he was ordered to Washington for a proposed flight of the lighter-than-air craft Shenandoah (ZR-1) over the North Pole, but when the craft was damaged in a storm, the expedition was canceled.

 

Byrd then turned his thoughts to flight over the North Pole by heavier-than-air craft. He obtained funds from private sources to pay for the expedition and borrowed equipment such as planes, tractors, and ships from government agencies.

 

In the fall of 1925 Byrd's first story appeared in the National Geographic Magazine, beginning a valuable association with the National Geographic Society which continued over the next three decades.

 

Byrd and Floyd Bennett took off from King's Bay, Spitzbergen, 750 miles from the Pole, 9 May 1926. After 7 hours of flight they were over the North Pole. Byrd, the first man to fly over the Pole, was second only to Peary to reach that point.

 

In 1926 Byrd acquired an improved three engine Fokker and named it America, and prepared for a nonstop transatlantic flight to establish the feasibility of regular passenger service across the Atlantic. However, while bad luck delayed Byrd, Charles Lindbergh took off from New York on 20 May 1927 and landed at Paris 33 hours later. The America departed New York 29 June 1927, found Paris fogged in, and so landed in the ocean just off the French coast. Byrd and his three crewmen were rescued, taken to Paris, and then returned to an enthusiastic welcome in New York.

 

Byrd's first Antarctic expedition, consisting of City of New York and Eleanor Bolling, departed the United States 28 August 1928; steamed via the Panama Canal and New Zealand; and, on 1 January 1929, established a base on the Bay of Whales, Antarctica, named Little America. Byrd and three companions took off from Little America 28 November 1929 in the ski-equipped trimotored monoplane, Floyd Bennett, and headed for the South Pole where they dropped an American flag. When Byrd returned to the United States, he was promoted to rear admiral.

 

In 1933-35 he led a second expedition to Antarctica. Living at an advanced base to record weather data during the long winter night, Byrd nearly died from carbon monoxide. Although rescued in time, he suffered from the ill effects of the poisoning for the rest of his life.

 

Byrd's third expedition consisted of the Navy commissioned and manned Bear (AG-29) and Department of the Interior's North Star. Two wintering over bases were established and scientific investigation was intensified.

 

During World War II, Admiral Byrd studied and reported on their suitability for airfields.

 

After the war ended, Byrd resumed polar exploration. During Operation "Highjump" he led an expedition of 4,700 men and modern support equipment in 13 ships to the Antarctic. They explored much of the little known continent and added greatly to man's knowledge of the region.

 

In 1954 the Secretary of Defense agreed to furnish logistic support for American scientists in the Antarctic for the International Geophysical Year which would begin on 1 July 1957. President Eisenhower appointed Byrd, Officer-in-Charge of U.S. Antarctic programs.

 

Admiral Byrd remained active in exploration of Antarctica until he died in his home at Boston on 11 March 1957.

 

(DDG - 23: displacement 3,370; length 437; beam 47; draft 20; speed 35 knots; complement 354; armament twin Tartar launcher, ASROC, 2 5, 2 21 torpedo tubes; class Charles F. Adams)

 

Richard E. Byrd (DDG-23), a guided-missile destroyer, was laid down 12 April 1961 by Todd Shipbuilding Corp., Seattle, Wash.; launched 6 February 1962; sponsored by Mrs. Richard E. Byrd, whose daughter, Mrs. Robert G. Breyer, acted as proxy sponsor for the admiral's wife; and commissioned 7 March 1964, Comdr. Walter G. Lessman in command.

 

Following a 45 day fitting out period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., Richard E. Byrd steamed for her homeport of Norfolk, Va., via the Panama Canal, arriving 14 June 1964. During July, August, and September she underwent missile qualifications and underway training out of San Juan and Guantanamo Bay. She then returned to Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Va., for 2 months of post-shakedown availability.

 

Richard E. Byrd deployed to the Mediterranean 6 January 1965 as a unit of Destroyer Division 182. Operating with the 6th Fleet, she participated in AAW and ASW exercises with both U.S. and NATO forces. Following her return to Norfolk 6 June, she conducted missile firings at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range. September, October and November found her on type training in the Virginia Capes operating areas.

 

Steaming north to Argentia, Newfoundland, 7 January 1966, Richard E. Byrd conducted a missile firing test in the Davis Strait before returning to Norfolk a month later. Following firing exercises at Culebra in March, she called at the Virgin Islands before returning to homeport.

 

Richard E. Byrd transited the Atlantic with Saratoga (CVA-60), Sampson (DDG-10), Dahlgren (DLG-12), and Cony (DD-508), entering the Mediterranean 29 March to commence a 5-month deployment. After turnover 2 August at Pollensa Bay, the Balearics, Richard E. Byrd steamed for Norfolk, arriving the 12th. Post deployment leave and upkeep occupied the next month.

 

A call at Brooklyn Naval Shipyard (18 September to 7 October) was followed by local operations out of Norfolk with various amphibious and ASW fleet units. Operations of this sort continued into January 1967. Late that month Richard E. Byrd moved south to the Jacksonville operations area, and, while serving as rescue destroyer for Lexington (CVS-16), she rescued Lt. (jg) John F. Dickinson, whose A4-E aircraft crashed during a landing approach. After a 3-day call at Mayport and a visit to Mobile, Ala., for Mardi Gras festivities, Richard E. Byrd returned to Norfolk, where she remained until 3 March.

 

"Springboard" exercises next took Richard E. Byrd to the Caribbean through 16 March, then came pre-deployment leave, upkeep, and training. Standing out of Thimble Shoals Channel 2 May in company with Saratoga and four other escorts, Richard E. Byrd steamed for the Mediterranean, effecting turnover 5 May at Pollensa Bay. Because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, port visits were curtailed. Instead of calling at Naples, Richard E. Byrd remained at sea in the screen of America (CVA-66). She was a member of the force which rendezvoused with the damaged Liberty (AGTR-5) 9 June.

 

Returning to Norfolk 8 September, Richard E. Byrd entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul 21 November 1967 to 30 May 1968. Refresher training and coastal operations filled the summer of 1968, and on 11 September, the ship steamed to take part in NATO exercise "Silver Tower" in the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea.

 

Back in Norfolk 11 October, Richard E. Byrd prepared for her fourth Mediterranean deployment. Joining the 6th Fleet 15 November, she immediately became involved in the varied evolutions that typify Mediterranean fleet operations. She returned to her homeport 27 May 1969. Local training, leave and upkeep followed, and then came a Caribbean cruise 29 July to 26 August. On 6 October ship and crew participated together with Senator Harry F. Byrd and Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin, in the dedication of Richard Evelyn Byrd Hall at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at Gloucester Point, Va.

 

Richard E. Byrd continued local operations out of Norfolk during the first four months of 1970; she operated both along the east coast and in the Caribbean. On 30 April, she exited the Chesapeake Bay bound for her fifth deployment with the Sixth Fleet, arriving at Gibraltar 11 May. Six months later she was back in Norfolk and remained there for the rest of 1970.

 

For eleven of the twelve months of 1971, she stayed in Atlantic coast - Caribbean Vicinity, undergoing overhaul, post-overhaul tests and refresher training. On 1 December she steamed out of Norfolk on still another Mediterranean cruise. She made Gibraltar 9 December and remained with the Sixth Fleet until 23 June 1972, when she began her return voyage to Virginia. She arrived at Norfolk on the 29th and continued normal operations out of that port up to 29 May 1973, when she again pointed her bow toward the Mediterranean She made Rota, Spain, 21 June and cruised the Mediterranean until November. Richard E. Byrd returned to Norfolk on the first day of December.


The guided-missile destroyer continued to serve until decommissioned on 27 April 1990. She was struck from the Navy list on 1 October 1992 and officially transferred to the Hellenic Navy on 26 August 1993. The hulk was towed to Salamis, Greece, on 12 October 1993 where she was used for spare parts for the other four Charles F. Adams destroyers in Greek service.