Interview of Edward M. Ward by Brian Shoemaker

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Title: Interview of Edward M. Ward by Brian Shoemaker
Creators: Ward, Edward M., 1918-2004
Contributors: Shoemaker, Brian
Subjects (LCSH): Aeronautics -- Antarctica
Antarctica -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
Arctic exploration -- Interviews
Arctic regions -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
Geology -- Antarctica -- Interviews
Issue Date: 2008-06-03
Publisher: Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program
Series/Report no.: Polar Oral History Program
Abstract: Commander Edward Ward was the first Commanding Officer of VXE-6, the naval aviation group that was involved in exploration of Antarctica in the 1950s. Ward had been interested in aviation from his early youth. In 1938 he joined the Marine Corps Reserve, but two years later entered the Navy to attend flight school, his primary interest. He graduated from flight school in May 1941. In September 1941, he married Marilyn Hesser Ward, though at the time officers in his program were forbidden to marry, so he kept the arrangement secret. Initially he expected to be assigned to a carrier, but instead he was sent to Pensacola to attend Instructor’s School. After graduation, as the war began, he was assigned to a PBY squadron, and flew many anti-submarine flights. Later he served on Okinawa, and as the war ended, briefly in Japan. Ward applied for, and was granted, a regular navy commission. His first assignment in the regular navy was to Point Barrow, Alaska, where in May 1946, he began to fly a PBY as part of an aerial magnetometer survey, the Special Alaskan Magnetic Survey (SPAM). He made magnetometer flights with scientists from the US Coast and Geodetic Survey team to Kodiak, Umiak, and to Petroleum Reserve No. 4, which then included the entire north coast of Alaska. From the air they were seeking indications of oil deposits. Their major discovery was Prudhoe Bay, recognized, in later years, as the largest oil field in North America. Ward also had some close contacts with the local Eskimo community, despite the fact such contacts were discouraged because of the high incidence of tuberculosis among the natives. His SPAM assignment ended in August 1946, but it would prove to be the start of a lifetime of involvement with the polar regions. In early 1947 Ward made other magnetometer aerial surveys of the Aleutian Trench, including dormant volcanoes, such as Great Sitkin, that dominated the entrance to Adak. He also flew from Adak to Midway and Wake Islands, to do aerial surveys of Bikini and Enewetak atolls. In September 1947, he flew home to Alameda aboard the huge Mars seaplane, the world’s largest commercial seaplane. In early 1949 Ward was sent to GCA (Ground Control Approach) School, but soon received different orders to Military Air Transport Service (MATS) with the Air Force. This was excellent duty, but temporary, and in October 1950, he returned to Alaska to participate in Ski Jump I, which among other things, involved landing an R4D on skis on sea ice on the Arctic Ice Cap to do oceanographic research. Except for Sir Hubert Wilkins, who had earlier crash landed on the sea ice, no one had ever done this before. Ward and his crew stayed at the Naval Arctic Research Lab (NARL) at Barrow. There were three officers and several high ranking enlisted men in his crew, and included photographers and radiomen. They transported civilian oceanographers from Wood’s Hole. Their challenge was to find suitable, safe landing sites on smooth sea ice. These were provided by the “leads,” or areas of open seas that had recently refrozen. Their first landing was successful, and Ward and scientists from Wood’s Hole started immediately to set up Oceanographic Station No. 1. The location was approximately 280 miles due north of Barrow. Using an ordinary chain saw, the scientists drilled a square hole in the ice, through which a 10,000 foot cable could be lowered to the bottom of the ocean to measure temperature and salinity, take depth soundings, and collect bottom samples. The men set up a tent, but slept aboard the plane. Ideally the ice should be three feet thick for a safe landing. All landings were made on wheels, not skis. During their first year of operation, Ward and his colleagues established twelve ice stations between March and June 1951, as part of Operation Ski Jump I. About a year later Ward returned to the Arctic in February 1952, as part of Ski Jump II. It was a larger, more ambitious enterprise, using three planes rather than one, two P2V’s, and an R4D. Twice the P2V’s had engine failure, and multiple oil leaks. The men were cautioned to look out for polar bears, and carried carbines in case of an attack. None ever occurred. Typically Ward and his colleagues could make two ice landings on a single day, but occasionally they would remain at a site for a day or longer. Large bladders filled with fuel were deposited at several locations, but it was found that direct refueling from another plane worked best. On a planned trip to the North Pole Ward’s R4D, running low on fuel, landed on a less than ideal ice cap. Another pilot, carrying fuel, landed a P2V, but his plane was damaged in the landing. Fortunately repairs were made, the R4D refueled, and the P2V returned safely to base. Unfortunately, Ward’s plane was damaged in takeoff, lost a prop, and the men found themselves in a survival situation 800 miles north of Barrow in one of the most remote places in the world. Nobody knew where they were, and radio communication did not work. After two days the radio man established contact with an amateur ham radio operator who notified the Navy of the location and plight of the damaged aircraft. After nearly a week Jack Cooley, a pilot, found the downed plane and returned the nine men safely to Barrow. But plans for a flight to the North Pole were scrapped. The R4D plane was abandoned. Soon Operation Ski Jump II was concluded. It had led to the creation of six additional oceanographic ice stations, making a total of 18 for both Ski Jump I and II. After two brief postings, in July 1953 Ward was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics in Washington, D.C. The next year a chance encounter with Admiral Byrd gave Ward an opportunity to indicate his interest in an Antarctic assignment. Thanks to a timely intervention by President Eisenhower, funding was found for another expedition. Captain (soon to be Admiral) George Dufek, USN, brought back from retirement, was placed in charge, and Ward volunteered to accompany him to Antarctica. This was the beginning of Operation Deep Freeze I. Ward was named as the Air Operations officer. Dufek provided strong leadership, and Admiral Byrd, also recalled from retirement, was named Officer in Charge of Antarctic Programs, a glorified title for his role as a consultant. Herb “Trigger” Hawkes was named Chief of Air Operations by Dufek for Deep Freeze I, and he recruited various other team members. As it happened, the Secretary of the Navy rejected Hawkes as Chief of Air Operations. Ward replaced him temporarily as Commander, but four months later Gordon Ebbe became the Skipper of the Squadron. Commander Ward, stationed at the time at the Naval Air Station in Patuxent, Maryland, conferred frequently with Admiral Dufek, and worked to recruit additional members of Deep Freeze I. Harry Hedblom, Commander, USN, was recruited as Senior Flight Surgeon. Hal Kolp, Marine Lt. Colonel, was named Executive Officer of VX-6. As it happened, Ward was not able to participate in Deep Freeze I in Antarctica. Shortly before his planned departure his wife, Marilyn, faced a dangerous medical situation caused by a caesarian birth. Consequently, Ward was named Officer in Charge of the Patuxent Detachment so that he could remain at home close to his wife. Those who participated in Deep Freeze I recorded many significant accomplishments, including some of the first long-range reconnaissance flights in the R5D. Joe Entrigen piloted the first airplane to land at McMurdo after a long international flight. Later he made a long flight toward the magnetic South Pole. Hank Jorda and Jack Donavan, accompanied by Gordon Ebbe, flew Admiral Byrd to the South Pole, his last visit there. Back home, one of Ward’s responsibilities at Patuxent was to line up planes for the expedition. Two planes connected to Deep Freeze I crashed; an Otter in Antarctica, and a P2V in the Brazilian jungle not far from Manaus. Fortunately, all crew members from both flights were rescued. Ward was able to participate in Deep Freeze II. He flew to McMurdo via Hawaii, Fiji, and New Zealand. The final leg of the flight, on October 17, 1955, from Christchurch to McMurdo, was the “worst flight” he ever made in his entire career. On part of the trip they flew through blizzard conditions. Minutes before they landed, a second plane, a P2V, crashed on the runway. Four crewmen were killed on that flight. Virtually out of fuel Ward successfully landed his own plane. The next day Ward was named to write the formal accident report on the crashed P2V. Soon he was busy making various flights, including three long-range R4D flights over the South Pole and beyond, to do trimetrogon photography. His flights were the first ever made to these locations. Hank Hanson was his co-pilot, Dick Swadener his navigator. He also flew an Otter several times to Marble Point although he never landed there. Admiral Dufek had some interest in possibly constructing a permanent base there. Gus Shinn, pilot, and “Trigger” Hawkes, co-pilot, made the first landing at the South Pole on October 30, 1956. Admiral Dufek and Doug Cordiner sat in the back as passengers. Ward himself landed at the Pole on November 30, 1956. Construction started soon thereafter by the Seabees on the first base at the South Pole. The Air Force used C-124’s to drop supplies. In February, 1957, Ward, and others, including Shinn and Cordiner, were flown out to the sea plane tender, USS Glacier, for the trip back to New Zealand; from there they flew home to Quonset Point aboard an R5D. He did not participate in Deep Freeze III. Instead he was named Commanding Officer of VU4, a utility squadron based at Chincoteague, Virginia. He managed various kinds of aircraft including drones. Later he had several different commands. For his polar achievements Ward was named an Honorary Member of the American Polar Society. Major Topics Aerial surveys in late 1940’s for oil sites on north coast of Alaska Operations Ski Jump I (1950) and Ski Jump II in Alaska (1952) Construction of 18 research stations on ice floes in early 1950’s Capability and features of various military aircraft in 1950’s Operation Deep Freeze II in Antarctica (1955-56) Recollections about numerous Navy pilots and personnel from 1950’s and 1960’s
Description: Key Names Bower, Dick, Seabee who built South Pole station, p. 148 Bower, Paul, p. 103 Brewer, Max, pp. 65-66 Brower, Tom, pp. 30-31 Butler, Smedley D., Marine Corps General, p. 5 Byrd, Richard, Admiral, pp. 1, 42, 44, 90-91, 116-117, 161 Canham, Dave, Lt. Commander, USN, Seabees, p. 138 Carey, Dave, USN pilot, p. 137 Cooley, Jack, pp. 69-70, 70-80, 86-88 Cordiner, Doug, USN pilot, pp. 118, 129-130, 149, 153 Crary, Bert, pp. 66-67 Dietrich, Henry, USN Captain, pp. 93, 95 Disney, Walt, pp. 99-100 Donovan, Jack, USN pilot, p. 116 Dufek, George, USN Captain (and later Admiral), pp. 93-104, 109-110, 121, 127, 142-44, 149, 153 Ebbe, Gordon, pp. 16-17, 52-53, 64-5, 106-108, 112-113, 116, 121, 129, 137, 144, 154 Eielson, Ben, Navy pilot, p. 43 Eisenhower, Dwight, pp. 91-92 Entrigen, Joe, USN pilot, pp. 114-116 Fletcher, Joe, pp. 77-78, 86 Frankiewicz, Eddie, USN pilot, pp. 122, 148 GCA, Ground Control Approach, Navy radar landing system, pp. 40-41 Gould, Larry, pp. 91, 97, 101 Hanson, Hank, USN pilot, pp. 139-142 Hawkes, Herb “Trigger”, Chief of Air Operations for Deepfreeze I, pp. 19, 104, 111, 114, 137-139, 149 Hedblom, Harry, Commander, USN, p. 109 Holmes, John, Senior scientist from Wood’s Hole, pp. 59, 63, 67, 71 Jorda, Hank, USN pilot, p. 116 Keller, Fred, scientist, pp. 12-13, 19, 24, 34 Kielhorn, Bill, Coast Guard reserve officer, p. 66 Kolp, Hal, Marine Lt. Col., pp. 103, 113-114 McHale, [?], Navy Chief, pilot, pp. 63, 82, 88 Mirabito, John, pp. 129-130 Morehead, Dave, Lt. JG, Navy navigator, pp. 49-50 Ogle, John, Navy Commander at Attu, pp. 35-36 Otti, Charlie, USN pilot, pp. 120, 124 Pendergraff, Penny, pp. 104-05 Sabolik, Pete, Eskimo friend of Ward, p. 28 Shinn, Gus, pp. 103-04, 118, 146, 149-150, 153 Siple, Paul, pp. 2, 91, 138, 148 Sterling, Stu, Navy officer, pp. 41-41 Swadener, Dick, USN navigator, pp. 131, 142, 149 Torbert, Jack, USN pilot, pp. 111, 120, 124 Ward, Marilyn Hester, wife of Edward Ward, pp. 8-10, 112-113 Weigand, Rudy, p. 103 Wein, Sig, Eskimo bush pilot, pp. 29-30 Wilkins, Sir Hubert, Arctic explorer, pp 43, 66 Winkler, Tom, USN navigator, p. 120 Woodward, Edward, Navy pilot, pp. 45, 49-50, 88 Worthington, Val, pilot, pp. 67, 71
Other Identifiers: Record Group Number: 56.102
Rights: Restrictions: This item is not restricted.
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