Interview of John P. Strider by Brian Shoemaker
Creators:Strider, John P.
Subjects (LCSH):Aeronautics -- Polar regions -- Interviews
Arctic regions -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
Polar regions -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
Antarctica -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program
Series/Report no.:Polar Oral History Program
Chief Petty Officer, John Strider, USN, served as a member of Operations Deep Freeze I and II in Antarctica in 1955-1957. Among other accomplishments, he made the first landing since 1912 at the South Pole on 30 October, 1956. He was accompanied on this historic flight by Gus Shinn, Admiral George Dufek and several others. Strider had enlisted in the Navy in 1948, and became qualified as a mechanic on several types of aircraft. He had volunteered for Deep Freeze I because he wanted “a chance to go somewhere. And Lord, it was.” He was assigned as an Assistant Engineer on a flight crew aboard an R5D. He and his crew flew to Christchurch, New Zealand, and from there they reached Antarctica aboard the icebreaker Wyandot. Strider arrived with his crew at McMurdo Station about mid-October, 1955. There was little equipment on hand at the base to service the aircraft. The men had “fly away” kits on the planes, and tool boxes. Engines required some pre-heating; once Strider had to improvise the means for changing the engine on an aircraft. The squadron had only two R5Ds; the four R4Ds were unable to fly from New Zealand. All of the helicopters were assigned to the icebreakers. Strider participated in the first flight to the Pole of Inaccessibility, accompanied by Lt. Colonel Kolp, the Executive Officer of the base, and Lt. Commander Hank Hanson, the Commanding Officer, who served respectively as the pilot and co-pilot for this flight. Admiral Byrd was also on the flight. The flight continued on to make a couple of passes over the South Pole. Gordon Ebbe served as the regular Skipper of the flight crew. As it turned out the crew made fewer flights during Deep Freeze I than first planned. They had been scheduled to make photographic flights, but the R5D planes could not reach the necessary altitude. In mid-January, 1956, Strider and his crew left Antarctica. Before long the crew was assigned to the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. By early September the crew made ready to return to Antarctica for Deep Freeze II. Strider had recently re-enlisted for another six years, and was named the plane captain for the R4D. With this added responsibility he had to absorb new information on using jet skis, and the specifics of the fuel system. Another feature new to Strider was the use of the Jet Assisted Take-Off (JATO), 150 pound devices that were suspended from under the aircraft. The JATO was something like a jet engine, but is really a small rocket. Four of these devices could be fired at the same time to assist in take offs. Once spent, the shells could be jettisoned. The JATO’s were used on the flight to Hawaii, and the crew continued on to New Zealand. The pilot was Gus Shinn; the co-pilot was Captain Douglas Cordiner. Strider’s plane was one of four R4Ds that flew to McMurdo in Antarctica from New Zealand. The planes were overloaded with 1100 gallons of fuel. Overloading was not unusual. The flight to McMurdo was on a nice clear day in late September or early October, 1956. They landed on the sea ice with no need of skis. Strider soon learned that he would be part of the crew for the flight to the South Pole. In preparation for this historic flight, a refueling station first had to be set up at the Liv Glacier, near the Beardmore Glacier Station. Strider’s flight to Liv was the first ever made to that location. There was a sense of urgency about completing the flight since it was feared the Russians might get to the Pole first. Gus Shinn was plane commander and pilot for the flight to the South Pole. He was one of the best and most experienced pilots in the Navy. The Chief of Staff for Task Force 43, Captain Trigger Hawks, was named co-pilot by Admiral George Dufek. Bill Cumbie was the radioman. The aircraft for the flight to the South Pole, an R4D, was the Kora II, so named by Gus Shinn, the pilot. The plane was described as “grossly overweight.” The flight from McMurdo to over Beardmore Glacier took 6 hours, and reached an elevation of 14,000 feet. Excess fuel, some 800 gallons, was jettisoned enroute; only enough was saved to allow for the return flight from the Pole to Beardmore where the plane could refuel. A smoke flare was dropped to determine wind condition, and Gus Shinn gave the order to land. The landing was uneven, but otherwise uneventful, although the unsafe gear lights were on, and some of the low oil pressure lights were blinking. The outside temperature according to the cockpit gauge was 58 degrees below zero, but the outside slipstream wind speed was close to minus 80 degrees. Strider left the plane to set the pins in the landing gear, and installed a short ladder so that the “old guys” could safely exit. It had been planned to take pictures but the camera froze, and the few pictures obtained came from a cheap Brownie camera of Gus Shinn’s. A radar detector and an American flag were left in place, and after some of the men walked around just a bit they were ready to head home. Fortunately the JATOs were already rigged, and without them the plane could not have left the Pole. All fifteen JATOs had to be fired before the plane took off. The plane refueled at Beardmore Glacier, where a small refueling station was maintained by a crew of 4 or 5 men. The flight back to the home base at McMurdo was uneventful. There was an impressive reception at the base. Admiral Dufek wrote a book in which he claimed to have been the first off the plane, and so the first to set foot at the South Pole since 1912. Later he was awarded the Legion of Merit, and Strider got an Air Medal. Yet Strider, not Dufek, was the first person since Scott and Amundsen to set foot at the Pole. Later, after 19 years of service, he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. After returning to McMurdo Strider and Shinn made several other flights to Little America and to the Pole. He left Antarctica in January 1957 for New Zealand aboard the USN John R. Towle. His colleagues all departed about the same time. Strider never returned to Antarctica. In July, 1957, Strider was transferred at his request to the Naval Air Station at Anacostia. It was a large base with a variety of aircraft, including Beechcraft, T-28, R5D, C-131, R4Y, and T-1. While there he was awarded his Air Medal and also a Navy Commendation Medal. Strider, still a second class petty officer, was assigned as a second mechanic to work on maintenance on the R5D. He made several flights to the Arctic regions, including Churchill, Thule, and Barrow. He believes he may have made a flight over the North Pole; if so, he flew over both Poles in the same year. After two years at Anacostia, Strider was transferred to the VP-28 squadron at Barber’s Point. It was a preferred assignment, and was arranged by his former associate in Antarctica, Capt. Douglas Cordiner. He served six months at Iwakuni Marine Air Facility in Japan. At this time he was awarded air crew wings, and checked out as a P2V plane captain. He also was married about this time. He visited Johnson and Christmas Islands for the A-bomb tests. He made Chief Petty Officer in 1969. After 26 years of service he retired from the Navy. He had various jobs after retirement. Major Topics John Strider’s 26 year Navy career Operations Deep Freeze I and II in Antarctica Historic flight to the South Pole in 1956 Details on various types of Navy aircra
Key Names Bevilaqua, Charlie, p. 12 Byrd, Admiral Richard, pp. 17-19, 43, 103-04 Condit, Father John, Catholic chaplain, p. 74 Cordiner, Capt. Douglas A., pp. 29-30, 42-43, 45-46, 87, 90-92 Cumbie, William, radioman, pp. 30, 43, 47 Dufek, Admiral George, pp. 1, 42-47, 72-76 Ebbe, Gordon, pp. 17-18, 20-21 Eller, Major, pp. 51, 65 Hardigan, Bill, p. 72 Hawks, Trigger, Chief of Staff for Admiral Dufek, pp. 42-45, 58 Kinnear, Gus, p. 101 Kolp, Colonel, pp. 18, 21 Pomerantz, Martin, Chief Scientist, pp. 83-86 Shinn, Ed, pilot, pp. 1, 29, 42-44, 53, 56, 72, 75-78, 81 Siple, Paul, pp. 78-79 Smittle, Burt, Hospital Corpsman, p. 73 Swadener, John, navigator, pp. 43, 46-47, 58 Threse, Pat, p. 72 Ward, Ed, p. 5
Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Other Identifiers:Record Group Number: 56.106
Rights:Restrictions: This item is not restricted.
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