In the previous episode of this Antarctica saga [linked here], the story was told of the secret British rescue operation that was launched in October 1945 to retrieve survivors of a previous British spy expedition. A hard-to-believe tale of well-staffed Nazi subterranean bases and hairy "polar men" was a drama almost too incredible to post. To this day, there is precious little information on the Internet to either corroborate, or debunk, the veteran's story.
However, historical events that occurred only a handful of months after British Operation Tabarin point to a dogged interest being taken by America's own Department of Defense in whatever was going on down there near the South Pole. We must ask ourselves:
As the entire planet, her financial systems, and her armies lay in ruins during the smouldering aftermath of WWII, why did the US Navy feel this sudden burning itch to get down to Antarctica ASAP in 1946?
That is, we were told that Hitler's Nazi party had been defeated. The Russians were just beginning to re-build their defenses and even then it would be decades before their navy would be able to technically challenge the maritime authority of the the United States. The Cold War wouldn't really be taking off for another two years. In theory, there should be nobody still active on planet earth to challenge the military might of the one superpower left standing, the United States of America. And yet, Rear Admiral Byrd and Rear Admiral Cruzen were commissioned by the US Navy to lead an extensive show of military force at the southern continent during Antarctica's most inauspicious time of year, the onset of the southern hemisphere's Fall and deadly Winter. What was so urgent at the south pole that it couldn't wait for warmer weather?
The Battle of February 26, 1947
Below, I have posted the Youtube links to two very different versions of Operation Highjump. The first is a Russian documentary film produced in 2006 entitled "Operation UFO - Antarctic Nazi Base" (aka 'Operation UFO - The Third Reich base in Antarctica'). The English sub-titles are adequate to tell the story. However, note that there are some misspellings over names of people and ships.
The second is the official Hollywood film, "The Secret Land," produced under the supervision of the U.S. Navy. This movie came out in October 1948, 18 months after the Americans were possibly sent with their tails between their legs back home to warmer, safer ports. The sanitized naval Hollywood fluff piece makes no mention of a battle fought on February 26, 1947 against UFO-looking craft that emerged from supposed Nazi Base 211. You are free to debunk both the existence and/or the testimony of Lt. John Sayerson which is quoted below. I have seen internet forums that attempt to do this. However, I have not yet seen a thorough, conclusive debunking.
Near the 10-minute mark of the Russian film below, Lt. Sayerson's report is inserted into the film. This web page at Facts-Are-Facts.com [linked here] reports his words:
“The things popped out of the water like they were being chased by the devil and flew at such high speeds between the masts that the antennae between the wind eddy ripped. Some airplanes that were able to get into the air off the Casablanca were hit moments later by unfamiliar blasts that came from the flying saucers and crashed next to the ships. I was on deck the Casablanca at the time and was totally taken aback. These things did not make a single sound as they flew between our ships and spit deadly fire. Suddenly, the torpedo boat destroyer Maddock [the name of this ship is either misspelled or its record effaced, see below], which was about 10 cable lengths (less than 2 miles) away from us, went up in flames and began to sink. Rescue boats from other ships were sent despite the danger. The nightmare lasted about 20 minutes. When the flying saucers dove again under the water we began to count our losses. They were appalling.”
Immediately, Operation Highjump was aborted and her crew headed home. Rear Admiral Byrd gave an interview to Chile's El Mercurio newspaper only one week after this supposed battle. These shockingly public statements must have made Secretary Forrestal cringe under his desk back in Washington, D.C. [linked here]:
Admiral Richard E. Byrd warned today that the United States should adopt measures of protection against the possibility of an invasion of the country by hostile planes coming from the polar regions. The admiral explained that he was not trying to scare anyone, but the cruel reality is that in case of a new war, the United States could be attacked by planes flying over one or both poles.... The fantastic speed with which the world is shrinking – recalled the admiral – is one of the most important lessons learned during his recent Antarctic exploration. I have to warn my compatriots that the time has ended when we were able to take refuge in our isolation and rely on the certainty that the distances, the oceans, and the poles were a guarantee of safety.
Admiral Byrd was later interviewed on American television and you can see how he carefully re-phrased the intent of his anxieties, though in a "read between the lines" kind of a way:
Note that Lt. Sayerson referred to the destruction of USS Maddock (or possibly "Murdoch" in the Russian film). In the official Navy record, there is no mention of this ship. In fact, there are quite a few ships that have "disappeared" or whose records have been erased. Steve Quayle, who has himself become a published author of Antarctica mysteries [linked here], makes this comment on his Operation Highjump web page [linked here] focusing on another "missing" ship record:
But... here’s where the story gets interesting... The USS Pine Island was struck from the Naval Register, on an unknown date... Her title was transferred to the Maritime Administration for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet... on an unknown date... and... the ship’s final disposition is unknown... Now... how does one go about “losing” a major surface ship, over 640 feet long, almost seventy feet wide, with a displacement of over 15,000 tons?
The story, of course, gets stranger, still. The Pine Island is not the only ship involved in “Antarctic Research” or “exploration” to have disappeared. There were numerous others. The question is not so much “how many”, that is fairly well established. The question is “how and why”... particularly “why”....
If the U.S. Navy really did engage with Nazi craft on February 26, 1947, you can understand why the Navy would then have turned to their friends in Hollywood to drywall over the entire debacle. Taxpayers were going to ask why an operation that was supposed to last six months suddenly got cut short after 8 weeks. Voila! Eighteen months later, the film linked below was sent out to soothe the public. Keep in mind that a few other notable events happened in between this battle and the launch of the Hollywood film: the Roswell incident (July 1947) and the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency (September 1947) and the United States Air Force (also September 1947). The Cold War was also evolving into a reality.
King Neptune and Crossing the Equator
One of the eyebrow-raising traditions in many nations' navies is the bizarre ritual that takes place on board a ship when the crew "crosses the line," that is, crossing the equator during the voyage. I believe I first heard about this in the British TV film "Chasing Shackleton" or possibly "Longitude." Both productions are worthy of your time if you are getting hopelessly obsessed with this polar topic as I seem to be.
In the film "Secret Land" linked below, near the beginning of the documentary, there is actual video footage of the ritual that the sailors participated in as the American ships in Operation Highjump headed south towards Antarctica. This Wikipedia page [linked here] relates the history of this tradition. It should not surprise us that there would be a mythical tradition that has been handed down from Phoenicians to Babylonians to Greeks to Europeans as yet another memory of a pre-historical, ante-diluvian civilization.
After crossing the line, Pollywogs receive subpoenas to appear before King Neptune and his court (usually including his first assistant Davy Jones and her Highness Amphitrite and often various dignitaries, who are all represented by the highest ranking seamen), who officiate at the ceremony, which is often preceded by a beauty contest of men dressing up as women, each department of the ship being required to introduce one contestant in swimsuit drag.
Afterwards, some wogs may be "interrogated" by King Neptune and his entourage, and the use of "truth serum" (hot sauce + after shave) and whole uncooked eggs put in the mouth. During the ceremony, the Pollywogs undergo a number of increasingly embarrassing ordeals (wearing clothing inside out and backwards; crawling on hands and knees on nonskid-coated decks; being swatted with short lengths of firehose; being locked in stocks and pillories and pelted with mushy fruit; being locked in a water coffin of salt-water and bright green sea dye (fluorescent sodium salt); crawling through chutes or large tubs of rotting garbage; kissing the Royal Baby's belly coated with axle grease, hair chopping, etc.), largely for the entertainment of the Shellbacks.
A Secretary of Defense Gets Suicided
As if all of the above governmental cover-ups, conspiracies, obfuscations, and red herrings are not enough, another tragedy occurred less than a year after The Secret Land was shown in theaters. This is the bizarre and still unexplained death of James V. Forrestal, the decorated war hero who served Operation Highjump as Secretary of the Navy. In fact, Rear Admiral Byrd died ten years, almost to the day, after giving that interview to the Chilean newspaper in 1947. A suspicion of foul play in the deaths of both of these men has persisted.
In the next installment of this saga, we'll take a look at what happened to Secretary Forrestal, the carefully planted "diary" of Admiral Byrd by a Bank of America operative, and the perpetuation of the original esoteric idea that a Shangri-La does in fact exist down at Antarctica.
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