800.014 Antarctic/303a

President Roosevelt to the Commanding Officer of the United States Antarctic Service ( Byrd )

My Dear Admiral Byrd:

1. By the Second Deficiency Appropriation Act, Fiscal Year 1939, approved May 2, 1939,4 and the Urgent Deficiency and Supplemental Appropriation Act, Fiscal Years 1939 and 1940, approved June 30, 1939,5 the Congress has made available to the Department of the Interior, under the heading “Expenses, Division of Territories and Island Possessions”, a total of $350,000 for an “investigation and survey of natural resources of the land and sea areas of the Antarctic regions”.

2. I have designated the organization of the Government activities in the Antarctic undertaken in pursuance of the foregoing Congressional authorization as The United States Antarctic Service.

3. By letters dated July 7, 1939,6 I requested the Secretaries of State, the Treasury, the Navy, and the Interior each to designate a representative to form a Committee for the purpose of organizing, directing, and coordinating the conduct of the investigation authorized by the Congress. This Committee is designated the Executive Committee of The United States Antarctic Service. It shall have authority to appoint an Executive Secretary, who shall perform such duties as may be assigned to him by the Committee.

4. Because of your experience and brilliant achievements in polar exploration and because of the confidence which the people of the United States have in you and in your qualities of leadership, I have designated you Commanding Officer of The United States Antarctic Service and an ex-officio member of the Executive Committee.

5. (a) I have directed all Departments and Agencies of the Government to cooperate with you as far as practicable in furthering the purposes of the investigation authorized by Congress. In pursuance of this request the Secretary of the Interior has made available the U. S. M. S. North Star.

(b) Under the authority given him by the Third Deficiency Act, Fiscal Year 1939, approved August 9, 1939,7 the Secretary of the Navy has chartered and placed in commission the U. S. S. Bear.

(c) The Executive Committee has authorized, Tinder certain conditions, the operation and control by the Service of a privately constructed snow cruiser.

[Page 12]

(d) The foregoing vessels, and the snow cruiser, together with the personnel which has been made available by the several Government Departments and Agencies are hereby placed under your command as Commanding Officer of The United States Antarctic Service. The performance of your duties will involve flying.

6. When in all respects ready for sea, you will proceed to the Antarctic by routes chosen by you and there establish two continental bases, to be known as (a) East Base, and (b) West Base.

(a) It is desired that the East Base be established in the vicinity of Charoot Island or Alexander I Land; in the event that a suitable site in those areas cannot be reached by ship or by ship based parties, alternative sites on the shores of Marguerite Bay should be investigated.

(b) It is desired that the West Base be established on the East shore of the Ross Sea in the vicinity of King Edward VII Land; in the event that this area cannot be reached by ship, or a base established without undue hazard, an alternative site in the Bay of Whales at or near Little America should be investigated.

(c) The principal objective in the field is the delineation of the continental coast line between the meridians 72° W., and 148° W., and the consolidation of the geographical features of Hearst Land, James W. Ellsworth Land, and Marie Byrd Land. It is desired that long range aerial flights, equipped with mapping cameras, consolidate these areas; if practicable, supply caches to extend the cruising range of the planes should be established. Flights in this area should be made from the U. S. S. Bear, if practicable, and such flights so far as possible should be planned to supplement previous flights which have been made along the 75th, 101st, 116th, 134th, 150th, and 152nd meridians of West Longitude.

(d) Secondary geographical objectives are the delineation of the unknown west coast of the Weddell Sea between Cape Eielson and Luitpold Coast, and the determination of the eastern extremity of the Queen Maud Range and the William Horlick Mountains and their relationship to the Sentinel Range.

It is desired that you investigate by air the area in the vicinity of the South Magnetic Pole and the unknown areas between the Weddell Sea and the South Pole.

(e) The scientific program outlined by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences shall form the basis for the scientific efforts at the bases. It is desired that the Antarctic Service cooperate fully with the Argentine Meteorological Station at Laurie Island and the Chilean Government Meteorological Service in the exchange of meteorological and similar data. It is desired that one of the vessels determine the extent of Pactolus Bank, located in Latitude 56°28´ S., Longitude 74°20´ W.

[Page 13]

(f) The United States has never recognized any claims to sovereignty over territory in the Antarctic regions asserted by any foreign state. No member of The United States Antarctic Service shall take any action or make any statements tending to compromise this position.

Members of the Service may take any appropriate steps such as dropping written claims from airplanes, depositing such writings in cairns, et cetera, which might assist in supporting a sovereignty claim by the United States Government. Careful record shall be kept of the circumstances surrounding each such act. No public announcement of such act shall, however, be made without specific authority in each case from the Secretary of State.

(g) In the prosecution of the foregoing objectives you will necessarily face situations which cannot be anticipated, and which may require independent action. In such emergencies your own judgment and discretion should be freely exercised to meet any situation so as to further the mission of the Antarctic Service.

(h) Upon the completion of your duties in the Antarctic during the spring of 1940 you will return to the United States, as your presence in this country at that time is essential for other duties in connection with the administration of The United States Antarctic Service.

7. The Commanding Officer shall be responsible for the correlation of the field operations and the performance of the Base Leaders. He shall require that the Executive Committee be kept informed of all field operations and the progress being made in accomplishing the objectives of the Service. In this connection any plans for operations beyond the limits defined above, shall be referred to the Executive Committee for approval.

8. (a) The communication system of the Antarctic Service is an integral part of the Naval Communication System, as outlined in separate correspondence by the Chief of Naval Operations, and is governed by the U. S. Navy Communication Instructions. In this connection, those circuits authorized by the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee, the U. S. Army, and the Federal Communication Commission are restricted to the specific use intended and by their respective governing regulations.

(b) All official radio traffic to the United States will, therefore, be over Navy channels and shall be cleared through the Executive Committee. All releases, such as press, photographs, and motion pictures, shall be made through the Executive Committee, which shall also pass upon all radio broadcasting arrangements.

9. (a) You will direct Base Leaders and members of the Scientific Staff of the Service to maintain journals of the progress of the Service, and enter thereon events, observations, and remarks.

[Page 14]

(b) You will prohibit all those under your command from furnishing any person not belonging to the Antarctic Service with copies of any journal, diary, chart, plan, memorandum, specimen, drawing, painting, photograph, film, plate, or information of any kind, which has reference to the object, progress, or proceedings of the Antarctic Service.

(c) As it is highly important that no journal or narrative of the enterprise, either partial or complete, should be published, without the authority and under the supervision of the Government of the United States, at whose expense this Service is undertaken, you will, before they reach the first port north of the Antarctic regions, require from every person under your command the surrender of all journals, diaries, memoranda, remarks, writings, charts, drawings, sketches, paintings, photographs, films, plates, as well as all specimens of every kind, collected or prepared during their absence from the United States.

(d) Such articles may be returned to the person concerned, or not, at the option of the Executive Committee; but each writer, in the published records, shall receive credit for such part or parts of his material as may be used in said records.

(e) After causing correct inventories of these to be made and signed by two responsible Service representatives and by the parties by whom they were collected or prepared, you will cause them to be carefully sealed by the said Service representatives and reserved for such disposition as the Executive Committee may direct.

(f) You will transmit your own journals and records, together with those enumerated above for such disposition as may be directed. The History of the Service will be prepared by yourself, from all journals and records of the Service, under the supervision of the Executive Committee. The records of the scientific results will be prepared, supervised, and edited under arrangements to be made by the Executive Committee with the National Academy of Sciences.

10. You will work out, with the Executive Committee, all necessary plans for the relief of the continental bases next season, or for the evacuation of those parties in the event that the Service is not a continuing project.

11. This undertaking is one which necessarily attracts the attention of the world, and I am sure that you leave the shores of the United States with the heartfelt wishes of our people for the success of the enterprise, and the safe return of yourself and your companions.

12. You will bring these instructions to the attention of every person under your command, but will give them no other publicity until authorized to do so by the Executive Committee.

Very sincerely yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt
  1. 53 Stat. 626, 634.
  2. 53 Stat. 980, 986.
  3. Not printed.
  4. 53 Stat. 1301, 1321.