USN WWII, Korea, and Vietnam
Chief Petty Officer (ADRC)
George Beyer Fairchild was a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He enlisted in the U.S Navy in 1945, and served his country during World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He received several medals for his service to his country. George Fairchild served on the Seaplane Tender USS Pine Island (AV-12), during the Antarctic Expedition "Operation Highjump."
In November 1946 the U.S. Navy launched the largest Antarctic expedition ever organized. Code-named Operation Highjump (OpHjp), officially titled The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program (1946-1947). Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd led 4700 men, aboard thirteen ships with twenty-three aircraft. As Byrd said, "The object lesson of all this is obvious. The shortest distance between the new and old worlds is across the Arctic Ocean and the north polar regions. It is freely predicted that here will be one of the great battle areas of future wars". Operation Highjump commenced 26 August 1946 and ended in late February 1947. The primary mission was to establish the Antarctic research base Little America IV.
George Fairchild's ship the USS Pine Island was commanded by Capt. Henry H. Caldwell USN, and was part of EAST GROUP (Task Group 68.3). Departing Norfolk on 4 December, the ship crossed the Antarctic Circle on 25 December 1946. Carrying one Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter, one Curtiss SOC Seagull amphibian, and tending three Martin PBM-5 Mariner flying boats. The ship contributed to the aerial exploration of Antarctica, and also saved several downed aviators from the hostile climate: on December 30, 1946, aviation radiomen Wendell K. Hendersin, Fredrick W. Williams, and Ensign Maxwell A. Lopez were killed when their PBM Mariner George 1 crashed during a blizzard. The surviving six crew-members, including Aviation Radioman James H. Robbins and co-pilot William Kearns, were rescued 13 days later. A plaque was later erected at the McMurdo Station research base honoring the three killed crewmen. In addition, a bay in Antarctica, Pine Island Bay, was named in honor of the USS Pine Island, and a glacier on Thurston Island was also named after the ship.
George retired from the Navy in 1966, with the rank of Chief Petty Officer (ADRC) and moved to Headland, Alabama with his wife Betty Sue. They had 3 daughters, 2 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandsons. George attended The University of Maryland, The University of Guam, Pensacola Junior College and Wallace Community College in Dothan. He later graduated from Troy State University with a B.S. Degree in Elementary Education and a Masters Degree in Education to teach reading. George worked for the State of Alabama as a GED Instructor. He was also a graduate of the Alabama Aviation & Technical College in Ozark, and retired in 2012, from Ft. Rucker as an A&P helicopter inspector. Well into his eighties, George completed a 25 mile bicycle ride at the Tri States-100 on August 25, 2007. He was also involved with various causes in his community. George passed away August 25, 2013. He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty Sue Baxter Fairchild. The Fairchild family were kind in donating Mr. Fairchild's WWII Uniform: Class A, U.S Navy jacket with insignia and two WWII dress trousers.
Photos from Operation Highjump Expedition
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and how they survived one of the world's most remote plane crashes. At South-Pole.com:
The Story of George 1
by James Haskin Robbins
More from Ohio State University
University Libraries Blog
Frozen Fridays: ‘H’ is for Highjump!
the story of Fred Williams, one of the first American casualties in Antarctica:
A Tragedy on the Ice
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