(born Oct. 25, 1888, Winchester, Va., U.S.—died March 11, 1957, Boston, Mass.) U.S. naval officer, aviator, and polar explorer. After serving in World War I, he worked developing navigational aids for aircraft. In 1926 he and Floyd Bennett claimed to have reached the North Pole by airplane, becoming the first to do so. In 1928 Byrd began his explorations of Antarctica with the first expedition to his “Little America” base, which was followed in 1929 by a flight with three companions over the South Pole, again the first such flight. He led subsequent expeditions that discovered and mapped large areas of Antarctica. His several books include Discovery (1935) and Alone (1938), which chronicled his months spent alone in a camp near the South Pole. His brother Harry F. Byrd (1887–1966) served as a U.S. senator from Virginia (1933–65).
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The keel for the Richard E. Byrd was laid down April 12, 1961 by Todd Shipbuilding Corp. Seattle, Washington. She was launched February 6, 1962; sponsored by Mrs. Richard E. Byrd, whose daughter, Mrs. Robert G. Breyer, acted as proxy sponsor for the admiral's wife; and commissioned on March 7, 1964, Comdr. Walter G. Lessman in command. She was decommissioned on April 27, 1990 and in 1992 was sold to Greece and used for spare parts. She was sunk as target June 19,2003.
Richard E. Byrd deployed to the Mediterranean 6 January 1965 as a unit of Destroyer Division 182. Operating with the 6th Fleet, she participated in AAW and ASW exercises with both U.S. and NATO forces. Following her return to Norfolk 6 June, she conducted missile firings at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range. September, October and November found her on type training in the Virginia Capes operating areas.
Steaming north to Argentia, Newfoundland, 7 January 1966, Richard E. Byrd conducted a missile firing test in the Davis Strait before returning to Norfolk a month later. Following firing exercises at Culebra in March, she called at the Virgin Islands before returning to homeport.
Richard E. Byrd transited the Atlantic with , , , and , entering the Mediterranean 29 March to commence a 5-month deployment. After turnover 2 August at Pollensa Bay, the Balearics, Richard E. Byrd steamed for Norfolk, arriving the 12th. Post deployment leave and upkeep occupied the next month.
A call at Brooklyn Naval Shipyard (18 September to 7 October) was followed by local operations out of Norfolk with various amphibious and ASW fleet units. Operations of this sort continued into January 1967. Late that month Richard E. Byrd moved south to the Jacksonville operations area, and, while serving as rescue destroyer for , she rescued Lt. (jg) John F. Dickinson, whose A4-E aircraft crashed during a landing approach. After a 3-day call at Mayport and a visit to Mobile, Ala., for Mardi Gras festivities, Richard E. Byrd returned to Norfolk, where she remained until 3 March.
"Springboard" exercises next took Richard E. Byrd to the Caribbean through 16 March, then came pre-deployment leave, upkeep, and training. Standing out of Thimble Shoals Channel 2 May in company with Saratoga and four other escorts, Richard E. Byrd steamed for the Mediterranean, effecting turnover 5 May at Pollensa Bay. Because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, port visits were curtailed. Instead of calling at Naples, Richard E. Byrd remained at sea in the screen of . She was a member of the force which rendezvoused with the damaged 9 June.
Returning to Norfolk 8 September, Richard E. Byrd entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul 21 November 1967 to 30 May 1968. Refresher training and coastal operations filled the summer of 1968, and on 11 September, the ship steamed to take part in NATO exercise "Silver Tower" in the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea.
Back in Norfolk 11 October, Richard E. Byrd prepared for her fourth Mediterranean deployment. Joining the 6th Fleet 15 November, she immediately became involved in the varied evolutions that typify Mediterranean fleet operations. She returned to her homeport 27 May 1969. Local training, leave and upkeep followed, and then came a Caribbean cruise 29 July to 26 August. On 6 October ship and crew participated together with Senator Harry F. Byrd and Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin, in the dedication of Richard Evelyn Byrd Hall at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at Gloucester Point, Va.
For eleven of the twelve months of 1971, she stayed in Atlantic coast - Caribbean Vicinity, undergoing overhaul, post-overhaul tests and refresher training. On 1 December she steamed out of Norfolk on still another Mediterranean cruise. She made Gibraltar 9 December and remained with the Sixth Fleet until 23 June 1972, when she began her return voyage to Virginia. She arrived at Norfolk on the 29th and continued normal operations out of that port up to 29 May 1973, when she again pointed her bow toward the Mediterranean She made Rota, Spain, 21 June and cruised the Mediterranean until November. Richard E. Byrd returned to Norfolk on the first day of December.