- "Courage - Sacrifice -
VXE-6 has its roots in "Operation High Jump", the fourth
Antarctic Expedition conducted by Rear Admiral (USN) Richard Byrd. In December 1946, this
expedition, involving sea-based Martin PBMs and land-based Douglas R4Ds, set out to
conduct an extensive aerial survey of Antarctica. Based in the Ross Sea ice pack, they
eventually mapped about 1.5 million square miles of the interior and 5,500 miles of
Established as Air Development Squadron SIX (VX-6) at Naval Air Station
(NAS), Patuxent River, Maryland on 17 January 1955, the squadron's mission was to conduct
operations in support of U. S. Department of Defense responsibilities in connection with
the United States Antarctic Program. Following it's return from DEEP FREEZE I in February,
1956, VX-6 was relocated to NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island (this was also the home of
Naval Construction Battalion 200, which had been formed to do the construction of
facilities in the Antarctic). VX-6 made its first deployment, DEEP FREEZE 1, in November
1955, as part of "Task Force 43". That first season, VX-6 completed nine long
range exploratory flights, and transported people and materials necessary for the
construction of Little America Base Camp, the Naval Air Operations Facility on Hut Point
(Ross Island) and South Pole Station, and assisted in the location of four other base
sites on the continent. In January 1969, VX-6 was re-designated as Antarctic Development
Squadron SIX (VXE-6). Since it's establishment, VXE-6 has logged more than two hundred
thousand flight hours in direct support of United States' interests in the Antarctic. To
date, the squadron has transported more than 195 thousand passengers, delivered over 240
million pounds of dry cargo and nearly 10 million gallons of fuel to numerous sites
throughout the continent.
In support of OPERATION DEEP FREEZE, the squadron has operated a variety
of aircraft, including the P2V-2 Neptune, UC-1 Otter, R4D & C-47 Dakotas, R5D &
C-54 Sky Masters, R7D Super Constellation, and LH-34 and HUS-1A helicopters. DEEP FREEZE
'61 marked the arrival of the ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules, then dubbed the "work
horse of the future", due to its long range and heavy load capability. During DEEP
FREEZE '72, the UH-1N Huey was introduced to the continent, with VXE-6 being the first
Navy recipient of this now world famous twin-engine helicopter. Providing an additional
means of direct scientific support, the Huey had the capability of rapidly transporting
field teams and cargo to otherwise inaccessible locations within a 150-mile radius of
Since its establishment, VX-6 has had many aviation firsts. On 20 December
1955, two P2V-2 Neptunes and two R5D Sky Masters forged the first air link with the
continent of Antarctica with a flight from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Sound.
During DEEP FREEZE II, "Qué Sera Sera", an R4D Dakota (BUNO 12418), became the
first plane to land at the South Geographic Pole on 31 October 1956. Also in DEEP FREEZE
II, R4D (BUNO 17274) delivered the first group of 11 Seabees and 11 dog sleds, together
with tents and other equipment to the South Pole, to begin construction of the first South
Pole Station. By January 1958, a VX-6 Otter made the first wheels-on-dirt landing in
Antarctica at Marble Point. On 9 April 1961, the first midwinter fly-in was accomplished
to rescue a seriously ill Russian scientist from Byrd Station. In February 1963, VX-6
completed the first delivery of bulk fuel (3000 pounds) by an LC-130 aircraft. In 1964,
VX-6 conducted the first-ever flight from Capetown South Africa to McMurdo Station
Antarctica, first-ever flight of U.S. aircraft to the Russian-operated Antarctic Station
Vostok, and the first successful demonstration of Trimetrogon photography, used
extensively to map the Antarctic continent.
Other Significant Milestones/Events:
During DEEP FREEZE '78, VXE-6 evacuated five critically injured Soviets
from the crash site of an IL-14 transport aircraft at Molodezhnaya, on the Prince Olav
Coast, located 1,825 miles (about 24 flight hours, round trip) from McMurdo Station. This
arduous and hazardous life-saving flight earned the squadron the Navy Unit Commendation.
The squadron received the 1982 Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award in
recognition of its accident free flight operations for that year and for its outstanding
DEEP FREEZE '88 was a particularly challenging season. A medical
evacuation to the South African station of Sanae broke the record for time and distance in
a single Antarctic flight. Another highlight of the season was the recovery of an LC-130
(BUNO 148321) that had been buried in ice and snow since its crash, in 1971 near Dumont
D'Urville. That aircraft, designated as "XD-03", has been fully restored and
still operates with VXE-6 to this day.
DEEP FREEZE '90 was a highly successful season. With the combined efforts
of HH-1N and LC-130 aircraft, VXE-6 moved almost 8,000 passengers and over 6 million
pounds of cargo which included five re-supply flights to the Russian-operated Vostok
Station. Additionally, VXE-6 completed the first wheeled landing of an LC-130 aircraft on
a "blue ice" surface near the Beardmore Glacier. Capping this successful season,
VXE-6 was awarded the COMNAVAIRPAC Aircraft Squadron Battle Efficiency Award.
DEEP FREEZE '92 marked the first year in which aircraft (UH-1N Hueys) were
operated during the period between WINFLY and the start of normal operations in October.
All helicopter missions were completed despite being grounded for over a month because of
a suspected driveshaft problem. Another historic milestone occurred on 25 October 1991
when an all-female crew took an LC-130 to "open-up" the South Pole. Topping off
the season, VXE-6 was again awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award.
DEEP FREEZE '93 saw VXE-6 break many records, the most amazing being the
total cargo flown in a single season: Nearly 9.4 million pounds of cargo and fuel were
transported on continent.
DEEP FREEZE '96 marked the squadron's 40th annual deployment to
Antarctica. Together, the Hercs and the Hueys flew more than 4700 hours to deliver more
than 8 thousand passengers and over 6.7 millions pounds of cargo and fuel. On 3 February
1996, the squadron operated its last helicopter mission in Antarctica (the helicopter
program is now bid-contracted every five years). The Navy's helo program in Antarctica
ended with the disestablishment of VXE-6's helo component in April 1996. At the conclusion
of the 96/97 deployment, the squadron held an Old Antarctic Explorers Reunion,
commemorating the 40th anniversary of Antarctic Research support. Approximately 200 past
and present VXE-6 personnel were in attendance, including members of VX-6 DEEP FREEZE I.
DEEP FREEZE '97 proved to be very successful in spite of a delay in
"opening-up" South Pole Station until early November due to extremely low
temperatures. Despite many delays and maintenance difficulties due to extreme weather
conditions, VXE-6 and the Air National Guard's 109 Airlift Wing completed 120% of all
planned missions. This season was the first of a three year program designed to transition
Department of Defense long range logistic support for the Antarctic Program from Navy
management to that of the U. S. Air National Guard (ANG), leading to the reduction in
personnel and eventual disestablishment of VXE-6. Also during this season, VXE-6 was
awarded the CNO Safety Award for Calendar Year 1995, the COMHELTACWINGPAC Safety Award for
1996, the Secretary of the Navy-awarded Meritorious Unit Commendation for the '95 season,
and the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle Efficiency Award for 1996.
Plagued by the "worst weather in 24 years", DEEP FREEZE 98 ended
successfully with the completion of an extremely busy air lift schedule, including the
delivery of a substantial amount of materials necessary to begin the erection of the new
South Pole Station, slated for completion in 2005.
DEEP FREEZE '99 is VXE-6's last deployment season in support of the United
States Antarctic Program. This season's LC-130 airlift schedule is the busiest on record:
nearly 500 missions are planned; 320 to the South Pole alone! Following the closure of
South Pole Station's summer operations in mid-February, VXE-6 will return to Naval Air
Station, Point Mugu, CA, to be disestablished. The officers and crew of VXE-6 wish to
extend their appreciation to everyone who made possible the remarkable opportunities and
events described above.