Not one truth but two

Operation Highjump pt.2

David Garman

It may not come as a shock to some that important sections of information are routinely blocked from our knowledge. What purpose does it serve to broadcast fragments of this topic or that, when there would be no clue otherwise? We are notified of something beyond our immediate sphere. Yet we are never fully apprised.

Admiral Byrd seems to address this gap filled approach, “…you learn that there is not one truth but two: the one which you know from the facts; and the one which the public, or at any rate the highly imaginative part of the public, acquires by osmosis.” That is once the news papers get a hold of it. Painfully evident it is, that “fake news” was alive and well even back in the 1940s. Without question strategic voids invite conspiracy theory.

They want us in on something we would not ordinarily know, but to control it, as though bemused by the endless arguments of those never able to piece it together. If we want to sleep at night however, we’ll probably appreciate in many cases, not knowing.

The Antarctic is no stranger to conspiracy, Operation Highjump is right in the thick of it. The residue of the Great Depression, the carnage of World War II and the atomic bombing must have been fresh on the mind. A sense of optimism was necessarily nurtured. Heroic adventure, and the excitement of discovery to displace the horror of war.

Just in time, television was becoming widespread around the big cities, newsreels would bring the story to outlying areas. Scientist working for the Nazis were commandeered to the United States to engineer powerful rockets which would free man from the grip of gravity. People began to wonder about possibilities beyond the confines of our planet. Movie production was dropping hints more sophisticated than the little green men and flying saucers, as they were termed. The idea of Superman was up, up, and away, off of the comic book pages to go mainstream. People thrilled at the idea.

Remember the example some ten years earlier, through the voice of Orson Welles. An ultimate betrayal of trust or a demonstration of mass gullibility? I would suggest the former. Nevertheless, the idea of invasion by another world was firmly implanted into the American psyche. This idea has been augmented and refined ever since.

With time to mature, it sometimes seems we have been and remain targets of a competing parallel narrative. Let me keep in mind Admiral Byrd’s observations regarding truth, while proceeding through this series of posts. It may be critical to compartmentalize, not to dismiss, the groundwork put down just over the past century. Is it all engineered, is it induced, is it a long range sales pitch? Maybe, maybe not. It’s all hearsay, we know none of it firsthand.

We do have a firsthand account from an unusual perspective. Part 1 shows our connection to one who was actually aboard the flag ship USS Mt Olympus, #8, and journeyed the the Antarctic as part of Operation Highjump. As stated, the chaplain, Wm Menster, wrote a book, now no one is suggesting that Menster was allowed to divulge anything the military would regard as sensitive. His rare book, Strong Men South does look into the human experience of being part of such a mission. It will no doubt be found to be an important cog in the understanding of that infamous operation.

Imagine reporting for duty, orders, you’re headed to the Antarctic. Menster was told to go aboard and get a cup of coffee, looked like he could use one! They all got used to the idea in short order. Once they had embarked, they would sail to the Panama Canal and traverse to the Pacific.

Seemingly endless amounts of food, supplies, mechanized equipment, aircraft, sled dogs were eventually loaded aboard the 13 ships, along with the 4000 men. There are other figures regarding the number of ships involved.

What struck me was the mood which came over some of the crew as the warm sun gave way to hint of chill. Ahead of them was “a land of eternal snow, a land of endless winter, of cold beyond measure…” “This was a world to challenge the great seamen, and they answered the challenge fearlessly.” “The commerce of the sea passed far north of her, the traders ventured near, but the sailors of the world looked long at the Antarctic, her death, her eternal cold…” This was no cruise for the fainthearted. “Antarctica, where death lurks in every wind, in every iceburg, in the drifting snow…”

Will close part 2 with this interesting observation. “We were a lonely group. Now that I look back at it, I smile at how pathetic our loneliness was. This was a land that had destroyed all human life, if life ever thrived there countless centuries before, We came there knowing little or nothing about what we would find, and we clung to each other, tied fast the knots of friendship and held them secure.”

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