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Lisle Rose on: Admiral Byrd's Legacy
Lisle Rose Q: Tell me what do you think Byrd's legacy was?

LR: Well, I think Dick Byrd really for all of the weaknesses and so on that are coming out, Dick Byrd remains a very great individual. And I think we have a tendency now to overestimate his weaknesses, to emphasize them, to prey on them, to be obsessed by them. He probably didn't get to the North Pole, he claimed, insisted that he saw mountain ranges before everybody else when in fact he hadn't. His last film, for example that he did for, in 1947, "The Secret Land," contains some awful stories that in fact didn't take place. But I think that Dick Byrd's legacy transcends that. For all of his fears, for all of his anxieties, he pushed himself to do great things, and he was legitimately and authentically one of the great aviation pioneers of this century. He was also, and he was justifiably proud of this, he never lost a man in the two expeditions that he commanded to the Antarctic. He, and this must be emphasized, the vast majority of those who went down with Dick Byrd either up to Spitzberger or down to the ice, spoke about him with great affection, with great respect, with enormous loyalty. He got the best out of just about everybody that went down with him. And I think he deserves to be remembered as one of the real pioneers of 20th century aviation, as one of the really great last explorers. He really was the last explorer in the sense that after he came back from Antarctica in '34, polar exploration for that time and indeed exploration in general went right over to governments. Never again would you have the individual person who went out and got the money, mustered the resources, got the people, took them down there, got them through the ice pack and was absolutely and completely responsible for them every time, from every moment from the time they cast off their lines in the United States to the time they came back and docked. And his achievements I think are very, very great.


Q: Do you think that Byrd was ultimately a tragic figure, and why?

LR: Well, it's interesting. I think Byrd thought he was a tragic figure. He felt that he wasn't wanted anymore, though in fact if you look back on it the Navy did better than, than many of us thought that he had maintained his position as basically head of the new operation "Deep Freeze" in the '50s and he went down to the South Pole. But he -- in '56, and was supposed to go back in '57 just before he died. But he felt that the world had passed him by. They don't want me anymore, he would tell colleagues. I think he was much too hard on himself, as I think a lot of people who set enormously lofty goals for themselves are too hard on themselves. He never, I think, took time out to really appreciate what he had accomplished as an aviation and a polar pioneer. He was constantly swinging for the fences. He was one of these guys who, you know, ah, went out and batted in the bottom of the 10th, ahead 10 to 0. He, he couldn't stop. But in fact, he wasn't a tragic figure. He contributed an enormous amount to the aviation history and polar development of polar science, and polar exploration in the 20th century. He's a very significant character.

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