The 61st TCS "Green Hornets" in Greenland and Antarctica



Date: Monday, 12 Oct 1998, 16:35:59 -0500

Subject: Wings Over Antarctica

Dear Sir:

Recently I received a copy of Bruce Nordwall's excellent article, "Wings Over Antarctica," published in the May 25 edition of your Magazine. Mr. Nordwall's coverage included many interesting facets of the area as well as many of the military units that have played, and will continue to play, an important role in the exploration of that Continent--with one important exception. The exception is the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron, which in January and February 1960, made aviation history when it demonstrated the feasibility and capability of conducting sustained airlift operations into remote areas of Antarctica. A synopsis of that mission is as follows:

From March to October, 1959, the 61st TCS with twelve ski-equipped aircraft assigned operated on the Greenland Ice Cap as part of the Dew Line extension project. In the late summer of that year, the Squadron was ordered to prepare for an emergency mission to Antarctica in January 1960.

Upon redeploying to home base, Sewart AFB, Tennessee, the squadron was involved in the myriad details involved in planning for its new mission. We were ready on schedule and departed Sewart on Jan.7th with seven C-130-D Models, one A Model, 131 personnel, and the good wishes of associates and friends. We proceeded to Christ Church, New Zealand, where last minute checks and briefings were held. We departed NZ on January 23rd, arriving at Williams snow strip, Antarctica, nearly nine hours later ready to conquer that massive Continent.

After resolving serious logistics problems with our cooperative Navy hosts, the first mission was flown to Marie Byrd Land site on January 25th, and the first flight to the South Pole on January 27th. Thus modern airlift was introduced to Antarctica and the cumbersome, inefficient method of air drops was elevated with those two landings. But the 61st mission continued until all vital supplies were delivered-30 missions to Byrd and 28 to the South Pole.VX6 assumed the airlift mission in1961 and the 109th this year. The 61st returned to Sewart in February l960, and redeployed to Greenland the following month.

My interest in the subject article is personal as well as professional. You see I had the honor and privilege of commanding the 61st Squadron for the 1959 Greenland operation and for the Antarctica mission. Without a doubt it had the most talented, professionally qualified and dedicated personnel one could ever hope to serve with. They were the finest of the finest and I don't want their accomplishments to be unrecognized.

An Interesting side light:

According to information available at the time, the emergency airlift was essential because the two US stations in Antarctica would be abandoned unless essential equipment and supplies could be provided for the wintering over party. Remember at that time the Antarctica treaty had not been agreed to and if the US abandoned its sites, another nation (the USSR) would occupy them.

Whether you print this response or not is irrelevant. I just hope that the information will be made available to your writers who may address Antarctica aviation matters in the future.

Wilbert Turk
Colonel, USAF (Ret.)


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