Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Montage of images and link description. Alone on the Ice Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Interview Transcripts | Further Reading

Raimond Goerler on: The Injury to Byrd's Foot
Raimond Goerler Q: Byrd broke his foot several times during his early career in the Navy. Didn't he start walking compulsively and wasn't that the beginning of him kind of walking that injury away.

RG: The injury that Byrd sustained in his gymnastic career, a special stunt on the rings is one that would plague him again and again. The injury, of course starts as a football injury, is aggravated by his being captain of the gymnastics team and wanting to win an important match and devises a special stunt and injures his right foot. It never completely heals properly and even when he's in military service, he has the unusual luck, if you will of falling through an open hatch and I can only help but wonder if his concern for walking on that right foot, trying to make it appear normal simply disrupted his coordination and fell into the open hatch with pretty much putting his Naval career in jeopardy.

Q: But he began to walk to try to correct that, right?

RG: Correct. Again it's remarkable self-discipline. He was determined to make a military career for himself and not to let his physical handicaps interfere with that objective, a very determined, a very driven man, with a plan to succeed and literally and figuratively hobbled by this athletic injury to which was the result of a of competition, a desire to win.

Q: Why did Byrd feel he had to retire from the Navy?

RG: Byrd thought that in 1916 he needed to retire from the Navy because he was having difficulty getting promotions. Others in his graduating class of 1912 had advanced further than he and my suspicion is that, as competitive as Byrd was, this bothered him intensively. Therefore, he sought an alternative to a military career retiring at three-quarter pension still meant an income. It also freed him to explore other things. His illustrious predecessor, Robert Peoria remained in the Navy with his Polar career but periodically had difficulty getting time away for doing non-Navy things, such as exploration.

Q: Why wasn't Byrd promoted in the Navy?

RG: One of the great hardships of being a professional Navy Officer is standing watch for long periods of time and that's necessary on ship, it's expected of officers, however with someone who has an injury to the foot it's extremely painful and very difficult. So, even though he was praised in his reports for his navigational skills nevertheless the problem of the foot was a handicap.

Q: What did Byrd learn in Pensacola and given what he saw, wasn't it amazing what he did with his life?

RG: Byrd goes to Pensacola in large part, out of the connection to Raymond Fosnick. Fosnick is very impressed by Byrd as an organizer, he's also very sympathetic to Byrd's desire to be on active duty, rather than desk duty, and Fosnick supports Byrd going to Pensacola. And at Pensacola, not only does he earn his wings as Naval aviator, but he's also kept there as an officer and one of his responsibilities is to investigate airplane crashes that take place with some frequency in Naval training. So his first significant exposure to the fledgling airplane industry is at the accident end which I think created in him a very healthy respect for the dangers of flying.

back to Interview Transcripts | next

Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference

The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide
The American Experience | Kids | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe

©  New content 1999 PBS Online / WGBH

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: