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Bess Balchen Urbahn on: Exposing the Story of the North Pole Expedition
Bess Balchen Q: What led to Bernt's decision to write an autobiography and to expose a story of the North Pole flight.

BESS: The first time Bernt Balchen thought of exposing the truth about the North Pole flight was, if I remember, in 1954, while he was still in the Pentagon. And, he was so bothered by all Byrd's doings. I don't know how he could keep his cool, I really don't. But then he discussed with me whether he should publish it or not and then he called Francis Drake and Francis said, don't do it, it's going to backfire. And, then I discussed it with Larry Gould while Bernt Balchen was in a meeting and Larry said he'd think about it. He didn't say outright, don't do it and then Bernt decided not to publish it, at that time. And, then when his so-called autobiography was being written he discussed it with Cory Ford because he felt that he should tell Cory who was the ghost writer about it and Cory urged him to include it in the book, which was being done. And when the book was just being started, Admiral Byrd died which it sounds terrible, it was a disappointment to both Bernt Balchen and me because we had at least hoped that we could confront him with it, in this manner, after all the trouble he caused for Bernt Balchen.


Q: What was your role working with Bernt on his autobiography and what was the sequence of events that led to the revised edition, general speaking.

BESS: My role in working with my husband's autobiography, was that he would speak and I would type it. Then, we would go to the ghost writer, Cory Ford and the first edition had the story about the North Pole flight and also some other remarks about Admiral Byrd that apparently someone in Admiral Byrd's family got hold of. And, when the edition was printed both the publisher and my husband were threatened with lawsuits if that edition would come out. So, the whole thing was shredded and then it was rewritten And, in the end, the so-called autobiography is not an autobiography at all. It's what can I call it, a mish-mash of things. And, both my husband and I were very unhappy with the book.


Q: So, were all the criticisms of Byrd and anything that might have been construed as being negative was eliminated from the book in the North Pole flight and the book was completely rewritten?

BESS: Everything that could have the slightest criticism of Admiral Byrd was changed, even things that didn't have that. It was just amazing.

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