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
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.
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