Dufek, George J. (George John), 1903-Alternative names
George John Dufek (1903- ) was an American naval officer and arctic expert. Born in Rockford, Illinois, he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at his local high school and was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1921. Upon graduation in 1925 he received his ensign's commission and commenced his career aboard the battleship USS Maryland . In 1932 he entered flight training school at the U.S. Navy air station in Pensacola, Florida; after graduating as a naval aviator in 1933 he served as navigator and executive officer on three different ships
By 1939 Dufek had been promoted to lieutenant. That spring he requested and received an assignment with Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd's third expedition to Antarctica, where he served as navigator of the USS Bear, the flagship of the expedition. In recognition of his many hours of exploratory flying over the South Polar continent Dufek later received the Antarctic Expedition Medal.
During World War II Dufek commanded a flight training squadron, served as senior naval aviator in Algeria during the invasion of North Africa, assisted in the planning for the invasion of Sicily and Salerno and, after his promotion to captain and subsequent reassignment, the invasion of southern France. In September 1944 he assumed command of the USS Bogue, which sank the final German submarine lost in World War II.
After a brief post-war stint in Japan, Dufek was assigned as chief staff officer to a U.S. Navy-Coast Guard task force to establish weather bases in the polar regions. While there he participated in Operation Highjump, a Naval expedition to Antarctica under the command of Admiral Byrd, during which he made the first flight over the Thurston Peninsula and later rescued six survivors of another flight over the same area. He returned to Washington D.C. briefly but by 1947 was back in the Antarctic, this time commanding a task force sent to supply existing weather stations and to establish new ones near the Pole.
During the Korean War the Navy placed Dufek in command of the USS Antietam, then on Kwajalein Island in the Pacific and finally at Whidbey Island Naval air station in Oak Harbor, Washington. But in 1954 his cold-weather expertise was again in demand when he joined a special antarctic planning group preparing for the Navy's Operation Deepfreeze, a scientific polar research expedition. When planning was complete Dufek was given command of Task Force 43, which included more than 80 officers and 1000 enlisted men, three ice-breakers, and three cargo ships, was charged with logistics and support for the expedition. Among other accomplishments the task force established bases on Ross Island and in Little America, and on October 31, 1956 Admiral Dufek and six fellow travelers became the first Americans ever to set foot at the South Pole and to plant the American flag, and the first men ever to land on the pole from the air. After Admiral Byrd's death, Dufek was appointed to succeed him as supervisor of U.S. programs in the South Polar Regions.
Among the numerous recognitions and awards he has received are the Legion of Merit with two Gold Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, Croix de Guerre and the Korean Presidential Citation. He is a member of the Legion of Honor with the rank of chevalier, and in August 1957 he received the Distinguished Service Medal.
[Adapted from "Dufek, George J." in Current Biography (1957).]
From the guide to the George Dufek Papers, 1946-1971, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)
|associatedWith||Antietam (Aircraft carrier)||corporateBody|
|associatedWith||Byrd, Richard Evelyn, 1888-1957.||person|
|associatedWith||Mariners' Museum (Newport News, Va.)||corporateBody|
|associatedWith||United States., Navy, Officers.||corporateBody|
|associatedWith||United States., Navy., Task Force 43.||corporateBody|
|associatedWith||United States., Navy., Task Force 66.||corporateBody|
|associatedWith||United States., Navy., Task Force 68.||corporateBody|
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Scientific expeditions, Polar regions|
|Scientific expeditions--Arctic regions|
|International Geophysical Year, 1957-1958|
|Transportation, Military, Cold weather conditions, Research|
|Science and medicine|