Army Helicopter Crews at Pole

helicopter crews in front of that striped bamboo flagpole

From left, standing: Capt. Neal E. Earley, Capt. Frank H. Radspinner (OIC), SP/5 Frank L. MacPherson, S/Sgt Robert J. Anderson, CW02 Joe R. Griffin. Kneeling: SP/5 James C. McCaslin, SP/5 Louis J. Harrison, SP/5 Paul George, CW02 John P. D'Angelo, and 1st Lt. Charles Beaman.

helicopter atop Mt. HoweThe South Pole landing was the culmination of a two-year series of projects--during 1961-62, two Army helicopters (UH1B's) out of Ft. Eustis, VA supported projects Topo North and South, which surveyed about 85,000 square miles between the Cape Hallett area and the Beardmore Glacier. In 1962-63, three helicopters were assigned to support Topo East and West. The Topo West segment was conducted in November and covered an area in northeastern Victoria Land to the west of Hallett Station. The Topo East segment covered an area from east of the Beardmore Glacier through the Queen Maud and Horlick Mountains--the total survey area covered during the season was 80,000 square miles. Typically the helicopters would transport the survey engineers as close as possible to the summit of various mountain peaks between 20 and 49 miles apart. The engineers would ascend to the summit, where they would use electronic devices to measure distances 3 aircraft at Mt. Weaverwith an accuracy of 2 inches in 20 miles, and also use theodolites to determine angles between the front and rear sites as well as between peaks perpendicular to the traverse route. Geological samples would also be taken. Two helicopters would leapfrog each other, carrying separate crews from peak to peak. Periodically the base camp would be relocated as the surveys progressed. The survey included the first ascent of Mt. Howe (80-10'S, 149-20' W) (above left, a helicopter at the summit of Mt. Howe). At 9600' elevation, it is the world's southernmost explored peak. At the conclusion of the Topo East survey, the helos flew from Mount Weaver (right) to Pole on 4 February. The helicopters were disassembled at Pole and flown back to McMurdo in VX-6 LC-130s.

helicopter crews in front of that striped bamboo flagpole

Above, a hero shot of the Army helicopter crews up on the old garage roof, in front of the orange striped bamboo flagpole. From left: kneeling, SP/5 Paul George, 1st Lt. Charles Beaman, Capt. Neal E. Early, CWO John P. D'Angelo, and SP/5 Louis J. Harrison. Standing: SP/5 James C. McCaslin, Captain Frank H. Radspinner, Jr., S/Sgt Robert X. Anderson, CWO Joe R. Griffin, and SP/5 Frank L. MacPherson.

Credits: both of the South Pole pictures are official US Navy photos. The one at the top of the page is from the USAP Antarctic Photo Library. The garage roof photo appears in the Bulletin of the U.S. Antarctic Projects Officer,, March 1963 (link to the full issue).The photos taken at Mount Howe and Mount Weaver are from George Doumani's 1999 book The Frigid Mistress, which involves this and other USARP survey activities in detail ( link).

Other information about this venture and the surveying activities can be found in the Antarctic Journal of November/December 1969 (link to article). And here's a page from the U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis which describes/depicts the Army's Antarctic activities between 1956 and 1969, including small photos--one of these is another small photo of the group on the Pole garage roof. I've visited the museum in 2015 and the only exhibit on the activities is a small photo panel duplicating the photos on the website link.