Balchen, Bernt, 1899-1973

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Bernt Balchen (b. October 23, 1899, Tveit, Norway-d. October 17, 1973, Mount Kisco, New York), was an aviator, explorer, author, and Air Force officer. He participated in the Amundsen relief expedition in 1925, served as mechanic and stand-by crew member for the Amundsen-Ellsworth-Noble flight over the North Pole in the dirigible "Norge" in 1926, participated in the Byrd (1928-30) and Ellsworth (1934) Antarctic expeditions, and distinguished himself as a member of the OSS during World War II. He became a U.S. citizen in 1931 and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska in 1954.

Bernt Balchen was born in Norway in 1899, became a pilot in 1921 and then served with the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Service. In 1929 he became famous as the first man to pilot a plane over the South Pole accompanied by Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the navigator and organizer of the Antarctic expedition. He was made a United States citizen in 1931, appointed a captain in the Army Air Corps in 1941, and placed in charge of constructing an air base in Greenland to ferry bombers to England during World War II. An expert in cold weather survival skills and rescue techniques, Balchen trained military personnel in those procedures to rescue downed airmen on the icecap of Greenland. Many of those practices are now universally used in cold weather search and rescue operations. After the war, Balchen worked with Norwegian Airlines, then returned to active duty with the U. S. Air Force where, in 1951, he was in charge of the construction of the air base in Thule, Greenland. Bernt Balchen retired from the Air Force in 1956 and worked as a consultant with engineering firms until his death in 1973. Colonel Balchen was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery and his grave is located next to that of Admiral Byrd.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Colonel Bernt Balchen biography file, 1942-1996. National Air and Space Museum (U.S.). Archives Division.
referencedIn Oral History Interview with Sydney M. Wood ..., 2000. Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center
creatorOf Artist file. Bernt Balchen Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
referencedIn Aviator Autograph Books (Mabel Perkins) 1920s-1940s. National Air and Space Museum
creatorOf Byrd, Richard Evelyn, 1888-1957. Expeditionary records, 1925-1961. Ohio State University. Libraries. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.
creatorOf Bernt Balchen Personal Papers San Diego Air and Space Museum Library and Archives
referencedIn The Ellsworth Antarctic Expedition [videorecording], 1933-1934 American Museum of Natural History
creatorOf Papers of Colonel and Mrs. Balchen. Scrap books [microform]. 1975 University of Alaska Fairbanks, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library
creatorOf Bernt Balchen flying helmet, [1933] National Air and Space Museum
creatorOf Bernt Balchen flying goggles, [1933]. National Air and Space Museum
referencedIn Richard E. Byrd personal papers, 1882-1974 The Ohio State University Library
creatorOf Bernt Balchen papers, 1913-2005 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Balchen, Bernt, 1899-1973. Balchen collection, 1927-2000. US Air Force Academy, McDermott Library
creatorOf Balchen, Bernt. [Letter] 1960 February 1, Chappaqua, N.Y. [to] Roy Jansen, Harrisburg, Pa. / Bernt Balchen. Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Pennsylvania State Library
referencedIn New York Times Company records. Arthur Hays Sulzberger papers, 1823-1999 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Papers of Admiral Richard E. Byrd 1839-1980 The Ohio State University. Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program.
creatorOf Visual materials from the Bernt Balchen papers, 1917-1973. Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division
creatorOf Colonel Bernt Balchen Papers, ca. 1899-ca. 1979 National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Richard H. Anthony papers, 1923-1958, (bulk 1923-1929) Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn Ellsworth Trans-Antarctic Flight Expedition (1933-1934). Travel photographs, 1933-1934. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Antarctic field photographs, 1934-1935. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Anthony, Richard H., 1903-. Richard H. Anthony papers, 1923-1958 (bulk 1923-1929). Brown University, Brown University Library
creatorOf Bernt Balchen Collection Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
creatorOf Bernt Balchen papers, 1925-1998 University of Alaska Fairbanks, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library
referencedIn Colonel Bernt Balchen biography file, 1927-1984 National Air and Space Museum (U.S.). Archives Division.
referencedIn Fairchild FC-2W2 "Stars and Stripes"; June, Harold I.; Byrd, Richard Evelyn; Balchen, Bernt. [photograph], circa 1928. National Air and Space Museum
creatorOf Colonel Bernt Balchen collection, 1903-2002. San Diego Aerospace Museum Library & Archives
creatorOf Byrd, Richard Evelyn, 1888-1957. Richard E. Byrd personal papers, 1882-1974. Ohio State University Libraries
Relation Name
memberOf Amundsen-Ellsworth Polar Flight (1925) corporateBody
associatedWith Anthony, Richard H., 1903- person
spouseOf Balchen, Audrey Schipper, 1916-2009 person
memberOf Byrd Antarctic Expedition (1st : 1928-1930) corporateBody
associatedWith Byrd, Richard Evelyn, 1888-1957. person
associatedWith Byrd, Richard Evelyn, 1920-1988. person
associatedWith Earhart, Amelia, 1897-1937 person
memberOf Ellsworth Expedition to Graham Land (1934) corporateBody
associatedWith Ellsworth, Lincoln, 1880-1951. person
memberOf Ellsworth Trans-Antarctic Flight Expedition (1933-1934) corporateBody
associatedWith Fokker, Anthony Herman Gerard, 1890-1939 person
associatedWith Gould, Laurence McKinley, 1896-1995 person
associatedWith Jansen, Roy. person
associatedWith Josephine Ford (Trimotor) corporateBody
associatedWith Kocivar, Ben, 1916-2005 person
associatedWith New York Times Company corporateBody
associatedWith Norske luftfartselskap. corporateBody
associatedWith Polar Star (Airplane) corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army. Air Corps. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army Air Forces. corporateBody
associatedWith Wilkins, George H. (George Hubert), Sir, 1888-1958 person
associatedWith Wood, Sydney M., 1923-2003, person
associatedWith Wyatt Earp (Ship) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Greenland 00 GL
Antarctica 00 AQ
Tveitane 17 NO
Arctic regions
Mount Kisco NY US
Subject
Explorers
Norwegian Americans
Scandanavian Airlines System
Transatlantic flights
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
Aeronautics
Aeronautics
Aeronautics, Military
Air bases
Air bases
Air pilots
Antarctica Discovery and exploration
Cold-weather aviation
Occupation
Explorers
Airforce officers
Air pilots
Air pilots, Military
Aviators
Activity

Person

Birth 1899-10-23

Death 1973-10-17

Americans,

Norwegians

Norwegian,

English

Information

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SNAC ID: 861556