Admiral Richard E. Byrd

 Polar Explorer - Aviator Masonic FDC

Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957)  Polar Explorer, Naval Officer, Pioneer Aviator.  Born October 25, 1888 at Winchester, Virginia, a brother of Harry F. Byrd, governor and senator.  He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912 and advanced to Lieutenant Commander at retirement in 1916 and later promoted to Commander after his flight over the North Pole in 1926.  He was given the rank of Rear Admiral in 1930.  During WWI he entered the Aviation Service and commanded U.S. Air Forces until armistice.  In WWII he served with Admiral King in Washington and Nimitz in the Pacific, going overseas four times.  He was highly decorated including the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1926 and special Congressional Medals in 1930, 37 and 46.  He made his famous flight over the North Pole on May 9, 1926 with Floyd Bennett.  In 1927 he made he made a trans-Atlantic flight of 4,200 miles with three companions--New York to France.  His first Antarctic expedition was in 1928-30 and his second in 1933-35.  He discovered the Edsel Ford Mountains and Marie Byrd Land.  He spent five months alone near the South Pole.  In 1939 he was made commander of the U.S. Antarctic Service and again went to the South Polar region, discovering five new mountain ranges, five islands, and more than 100,000 square miles of area.  In 1946 he was named commanding officer of the U.S. Navy Antarctic Expedition and again in 1956 headed the U.S. Expedition in Antarctic exploration.  He became a member of Federal Lodge No. 1, Washington, D.C. on March 19, 1921 and affiliated with Kane Lodge No. 454, New York City, September 18, 1928.  He was a member of National Sojourner Chapter No. 3 at Washington.  He and his pilot, Bernt Balchen dropped Masonic flags on the two poles--Balchen also added his Shrine fez.  In the Antarctic expedition of 1933-35, 60 of the 82 members were Freemasons and on February 5, 1935 established First Antarctic Lodge No. 777 of New Zealand constitution.  He died March 11, 1957.




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