In early 1938 those in the know were well aware that a war was on the horizon in Europe. The German leader Adolf Hitler was beginning to flex his muscles as he launched a massive expansion of Germany's borders. On September 23rd Charles A. Lindbergh, who had been living abroad since the kidnapping and murder of his infant son in 1932, wrote a letter to the United States Ambassador to Britain, Joseph Kennedy, in which he stated:
Germany had been bankrupt since 1931 and their trade balance showed a trade deficit of 432 million marks.(5) and expansion and buildup of war materials was putting additional strain on Hitler's pocketbook. The financial woes were all pushed aside to finance an expensive expedition that was then in the planning stages. An expedition that was important to the Nazi hierarchy for reasons which have been kept secret till this very day.
On a winter night in 1938 the German research ship Schwabenland cast off from a dock in Hamburg - destination Antarctica. Aboard, accompanying the ships hand-picked crew was some of Germany's top airmen, technicians, oceanographers, biologists, meteorologist and earth scientists, all members of the First Deutsche Antarktische Expedition of 1938-1939. The people who made up the costly Antarctic expedition were under secret orders not to divulge their mission, the purpose of which little is known today.
Enter Admiral Richard E. Byrd
On Saturday July 8th, 1939 Americans across the country opened their morning newspaper to a front-page story not unlike the one from The New York Times Quoted below.
President Directs Speed on Byrd Trip
WASHINGTON, July 7 --- President Roosevelt moved today to prevent possible extension of Germany's claims to Antarctic areas into the Western Hemisphere by directing Real Admiral Richard E. Byrd to leave in October to territory within the sphere of influence of the Monroe Doctrine It [is] apparent that this government was prepared to take the position, if necessary, that any attempts by foreign powers to establish bases west of the 180th meridian in the Antarctic would be considered an unfriendly act. If the $340,000 appropriated by Congress for the expedition permitted, Admiral Byrd said, he would outfit three ships. His own ship would be The Bear of Oakland, which is undergoing a careful inspection at Boston. He said he would lend it to the government after a new engine had been installed.
As we can see from the above a major confrontation between American and German forces seemed to be a very real and present danger in Antarctica in 1939. However, in retrospect we find that, though the German presence in the “land of everlasting mystery” was the publicized reason for Admiral Byrd's hurry-up expedition, at no time did Admiral Byrd or those under his command make any attempt to observe what the German expedition was up to. In fact a look at the map on page 111 of Cristof Friedrich's well documented study of the German expedition, Germany's Antarctic Claim: Secret Nazi Polar Expeditions will show that neither in the 1938 - 39 nor the subsequent 1947 and 1955 expeditions to Antarctica did the Americans come anywhere close to the lands claimed by the Germans. Could the stated reason for the 1939 expedition, as is often the case in military operations, only a cover for a more “important” secret mission for Admiral Byrd and his fellow members of the 1939 expedition. The following small article, hidden away on a back page of the November 30th, 1939 issue of The New York Times, highlights that possibility.
Secret Orders Taken
By Byrd on Polar Trip
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (AP) --- Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd joined the vanguard of his South Pole expedition at the Panama Canal today with confidential orders from the White House. Officials say the Orders were a State Department secret. … Even the existence of the orders, authorities said, had been kept secret …Admiral Byrd received them, informants say, on a hurried trip to Washington last week before departing for Panama.
Is it possible that these “secret orders” contained the real reason for Admiral Byrd's expedition? And was the facts that the Germans were also conducting a “secret” expedition in Antarctica make the Admiral's real reason for putting together the American expedition a matter of up-most importance? Could both expeditions have been carrying secret orders to explore “unknown lands beyond the pole?” Were the Americans and Germans involved, in 1939, in a race to be the first to gain entrance, and explore the legendary lands inside our earth? A race not unlike the “space race” between America and Russia several decades later. In an upcoming issue we will look into this possibility, but for now let's look at another mystery.
As I stated in THEI, Volume 1 if you are going to explore unknown lands the first thing you must have is a base camp, or “Last Outpost,” on the edge of the area you wish to explore. Here you would store your supplies, maintain medical facilites and pitch your radio tent so the exploring teams could keep in contact. That camp was already in place. In January of 1929 Admiral Byrd established Little America as that outpost on the Antarctic continent.
But what if the area to be explored wasn't a barren land of ice and snow? What if it were more supportive of life than we are told - such as unknown, thought-to-be extinct huge wild animals and reptiles, and even more dangerous, creatures of intelligence equal or greater than mans? In that case the best piece of equipment to have would be some sort of mobile base. One that would enable your expedition crews a way to cover a lot of territory very quickly, and at the same time, be a haven of relative safety for the adventuresome explorers.
The Mysterious Snow Cruiser
WASHINGTON, July 7 - A giant 'Snow Cruiser' specially designed to span yawning crevasses and jagged ice ridges, may be a major piece of equipment on the Byrd expedition. The cruiser was designed by Dr. Thomas C. Pouiter of Chicago, second-in-command of the Byrd expedition in 1933-35.
In recent testimony before a House appropriations subcommittee he indicated that the odd craft could carry sufficient equipment for an exploring party to last a year.
On its deck, Dr. Pouiter suggested, the machine could carry a Navy pursuit plane, which by making short flights at 300-mile intervals, could explore about 5,000 square miles of unknown territory during a single Antarctic summer. (Underline added - Editor).
Let's stop and let that sink in. Sufficient equipment for an exploring party to last a year! Could explore 5 hundred thousand miles of unknown territory That's a lot of ice and snow to say the least. Put into perspective that is equal to one hundred auto trips from Anchorage Alaska to Jacksonville Florida! Someone was planning an expedition that, in its time, seems to rival man's first trip to the moon. Naturally something of this magnitude was destined to capture the interest of the press and the citizens of America. The step by step development of this 'snow cruiser' was followed eagerly by the media of the day. From the July 15th 1939 issue of The New York Times:
Byrd to Use Army Tanks on Polar Quest;
Big Snow Cruiser in Antarctic Equipment
By The Associated Press
BOSTON, July 14 - Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd disclosed plans for his coming expedition in the Antarctic said today that 6 army tanks and a unique 45,000 pound snow cruiser would be used for transport over the South Pole's icy wastelands … The snow cruiser … would carry four men and a plane, and would be extremely mobile and easy to manipulate under the difficult conditions found in Antarctica.
I found the next significant mention of the 'snow cruiser' in the August 2, 1939 issue of The New York Times in, of all places, The Society Section:
Giant Tire Soon Ready Made in Akron for Antarctic Trip
It Will Weigh 1,900 Pounds
CHICAGO, Aug. 1 (AP) - The Armor Institute of Technology said today that the first of the giant tires for the ice cruiser of the government's coming Arctic expedition would be taken from its mold at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company's plant at Akron Aug. 9.
Harold Vagtborg, director of the Armor Foundation, said the 10-foot tire, each weighing 1,900 pounds, will be the largest ever manufactured.
Not to be outdone many of the nationally read popular magazines of the time also ran their own stories, complete with drawings and diagrams of the giant vehicle. Scientific American ran their story in the January 1940 issue. However they were beaten to the punch by Popular Mechanics whose story Snow Cruiser to Explore Antarctic was featured in their October 1939 issue. According to their report the huge monster vehicle designed to climb the polar mountains and slither across giant crevasses would be fifty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide.
The power would be supplied by two 200-hp diesel engines that would be connected to generators to furnish power for driving, for radio, electronic stoves, heat and the machine shop. The giant cruiser would be controlled by one man who would be in the 'second floor' cabin. The Popular Mechanics article continued to describe the vehicle.
Below [the driver] is the repair shop; to the rear, navigation chart desk, galley which is also photographic darkroom, bunkroom, storeroom and a compartment in the tail for two spare tires. The cruiser will have a 5,000-mile range, and will travel at from ten to thirty miles an hour under any conditions except severe blizzards. An automatic gyro-pilot may be installed to hold the cruiser on any course set. Front and rear wheels steer independently so that the Antarctic bus can turn in a thirty-degree radius or shift sideways at a twenty-five degree angle. The scientists will measure thickness of the ice with the geophysical seismograph, make gravity determinations and meteorological observations, survey unexplored Antarctica and study the Aurora, Terrestrial magnetism, meteors and other phenomena. Cruiser and equipment will cost $150,000. [1939 Dollars.]
The Popular Mechanics article also reported that the Navy BI-plane which carried a seven-inch lens mapping camera, was rigged atop the cruiser in such a way as to be hauled to its perch by winch or launched on the snow in ten minutes.
As the planners moved full-bore ahead with their plans the public was taken along for the trip through the pages of newspapers across the nation. On October 15th the New York Times ran a picture of the partially completed cruiser along with an article titled:
Byrd Expedition Gets Polar Gear
Two ships and 125 Men, 160 Dogs and
Five Planes to Be Taken
3 Tanks and a Snowmobile Are to Aid Work
BOSTON, Oct. 14 (UP) - The greatest Antarctic expedition in history -- both in numbers and accessories is being assembled here for what may be a tortoise-like race with Nazi scientists for [mineral] rich south polar areas.
A century after the first United States Antarctic expedition, this second government-financed group will be directed by Real Admiral Richard E. Byrd, who twice in the last decade has led his own expeditions into the land where nights are four months long.
Delayed a month, the expedition hopes to leave Nov. 1, reaching its destination when harbors are ice-free and if possible ahead of parties reportedly organizing in Germany and other countries.
Once finished the snow cruiser was driven from the factory in Chicago to the dock in Boston supported by a police escort that halted traffic along the highways in 20-mile stretches so the huge machine could pass. Thousands of people followed its progress in newspaper articles and radio reports. Many stopped along the route, or made a special trip, to try and catch a glimpse of the giant machine.
By October 28, 1939 the cruiser was well on its way to Boston, but not without mishap. From the October 29th, 1939 issue of
The New York Times;
Byrd Snow Craft Founders in Creek
35-ton 60-Fool Cruiser Hits an Ohio Bridge and Plunges off Road into Water
Lima, Ohio, Oct. 28 (UP) - The giant snow cruiser struck a bridge near Gomer, about 10 miles from here and stumbled into a stream … The machine drove its nose several feet below the surface of the water while the rest of it was left spanning the stream … it [will] be several days before the huge machine could be raised from Pine Run Creek and the trip resumed …
Everywhere it traveled the strange-looking vehicle made headlines. The New York Times, November 1939,
Byrd's Snow Cruiser Startles Bay Traffic
Snarls Traffic in Crawling over
Special to The New York Times
Boston, Mass. Nov, 13 - The Antarctic snow cruiser, most tenacious road hog ever to invade New England, steering a leisurely, bouncing course today over the Berkshires from Pittsfield to Farmington, caused the greatest traffic jam in Massachusetts history …
One letter to the editor, obviously from someone who had been caught up in the movement of the huge craft halfway across America, published in the November 14th 1939, The New York Times stated that the snow cruiser … is a thing that has to be seen to be believed. Once seen, it makes one happy as well as proud to know that it soon will be traveling the Antarctic Continent, where it cannot hold up 70,000 motor cars and create a 90-mile traffic jam, as it did in Massachusetts on Sunday. …
Then on November 15th 1939 The New York Times headline many had been waiting for:
Cruiser Aboard, Byrd Ship to Sail; Snowmobile is lashed to deck; And North Star Prepares to
Leave Boston at Dawn Today
Expedition Chief Proposes Ice Habitation for 5 or 6 Years to Clinch Discovery Claims
[Note headline above … Byrd was planning a 5 or 6 year habitation "to Clinch Discovery Claims"… or was the “exploration” with the snow cruiser which was equipped with a year's provisions for its on-board crew expected to bring back new" discoveries" ... possable "discoveries" the NAZIs were also after.
In January 1940, as reported in the January 19th issue of The New York Times, the closely watched, well-documented cruiser arrived in Antarctica:
Snow Cruiser Road Test
Byrd Cruiser in Antarctic Crash
Special to the New York Times
As we can see from the documentation in the report, the Snow Cruiser was the star of Admiral Byrd's 1939 Antarctic Expedition. For months Americans had read every tiny detail about the progress of manufacturing the beast. The delivery was like the coming of the circus parade and that close enough, or lucky enough, to travel to the publicized route lined the highways as the celebrated vehicle passed by. In fact the snow machine was featured in every newspaper headline concerning the preparations for the 1939 Antarctic Expedition. But it wasn't until after the 'outpost on wheels' was reported to have made it safely to the Mysterious Continent the mystery begins.
I have spent many, many hours searching through back issues of newspaper and magazine indexes after that final report. Nothing. Once again, as with every investigation into Admiral Byrd's shenanigans in the Polar Regions of our globe, a lead I was following had vanished like a puff of smoke. It was as though the snow cruiser never existed. What happened to the monster machine and the data it was designed to gather? Could it and a handpicked crew, once unloaded, have gone off on a mission of their own? A mission so secret that it has not been talked about even to this day. There is an official explanation. The Snow Cruiser failed to perform in the snow so they would have us believe that it was simple abandoned.
Our final newspaper article might hold a couple of clues. The May 15th issue of The New York Times carried a lengthy article detailing Admiral Byrd's report on the findings of the 1939 United States Antarctic Service Expedition. The Admiral reported that the expedition ?achieved much more than he thought possible including the discovery of 900 miles of unknown coastline that explorers had been seeking for a hundred years.
In the lengthy interview he never mentioned the snow cruiser. Even stranger, was that apparently he was never asked. The giant machine that had been on every one's minds and lips before Byrd left might never had existed. He did tell us that 59 men were left behind to carry on. Were these brave souls the crew and support team for a secret mission using the mighty cruiser to explore “the lands beyond the poles?”
The article also tells us that The Admiral emphasized the fact that this was not “another Byrd expedition” but “a project sponsored by the United States Government.” In other words John D. Rockefeller and his pals didn't foot the bill this time … Uncle Sam did i.e. the United States taxpayers. He ended the interview with the statement that henceforth he will direct the expedition from Washington.
What expedition? The “official” expedition was over. And what about the 59 men left behind to carry on. Are these small clues pointing towards a longer secret mission to explore for rumored habitable lands somewhere in the polar region? .It is true what many have said all along? Did Admiral Byrd dedicate his life to locating and exploring lands inside our earth with entrances at the poles? Was this expedition and the 'outpost on wheels' a step closer towards achieving Admiral Byrd's goal? Is the existence of polar openings which can be used to access interior lands truly the “Closest Guarded Secret in the World?”
Newspaper source: the New York Times
Books & Articles;
(1) Beyond the Barrier, Page XI, Eugene Rogers, Naval Institute Press: Annapolis, Maryland. 1990.
(2) Rear Admiral Byrd and the Polar Expeditions, Page 99, Coram Foster, A.L. Burt Co: N.Y. 1930.
(3) Beyond the Barrier. Pages 274-275.
(4) The People's Chronology, Page 852, James Trager, Henry Holt: N.Y. 1992
(5) Ibid. Page 853.
(6) Germany's Antarctic Claim: Secret Polar Expeditions, Christof Friedrich: Samisdat Press: Toronto, Canada. 1977
UPDATE: 2/12/19/09 - Germany on new footing in Anarctica
Antarctic Snow Cruiser Introduction (Original Film)
(1996) by Dennis Crenshaw
Click on date for article
(1996) by Dennis Crenshaw