Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

George J. Dufek Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Aug 1988

Biographical History

George John Dufek (1903-1977) was an American naval officer and arctic expert. Born in Rockford, Illinois, he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at his local high school and was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1921. Upon graduation in 1925 he received his ensign's commission and commenced his career aboard the battleship USS Maryland. In 1932 he entered flight training school at the U.S. Navy air station in Pensacola, Florida; after graduating as a naval aviator in 1933 he served as navigator and executive officer on three different ships

By 1939 Dufek had been promoted to lieutenant. That spring he requested and received an assignment with Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd's third expedition to Antarctica, where he served as navigator of the USS Bear, the flagship of the expedition. In recognition of his many hours of exploratory flying over the South Polar continent Dufek later received the Antarctic Expedition Medal.

During World War II Dufek commanded a flight training squadron, served as senior naval aviator in Algeria during the invasion of North Africa, assisted in the planning for the invasion of Sicily and Salerno and, after his promotion to captain and subsequent reassignment, the invasion of southern France. In September 1944 he assumed command of the USS Bogue, which sank the final German submarine lost in World War II.

After a brief post-war stint in Japan, Dufek was assigned as chief staff officer to a U.S. Navy-Coast Guard task force to establish weather bases in the polar regions. While there he participated in Operation Highjump, a Naval expedition to Antarctica under the command of Admiral Byrd, during which he made the first flight over the Thurston Peninsula and later rescued six survivors of another flight over the same area. He returned to Washington D.C. briefly but by 1947 was back in the Antarctic, this time commanding a task force sent to supply existing weather stations and to establish new ones near the Pole.

During the Korean War the Navy placed Dufek in command of the USS Antietam, then on Kwajalein Island in the Pacific and finally at Whidbey Island Naval air station in Oak Harbor, Washington. But in 1954 his cold-weather expertise was again in demand when he joined a special antarctic planning group preparing for the Navy's Operation Deepfreeze, a scientific polar research expedition. When planning was complete Dufek was given command of Task Force 43, which included more than 80 officers and 1000 enlisted men, three ice-breakers, and three cargo ships, was charged with logistics and support for the expedition. Among other accomplishments the task force established bases on Ross Island and in Little America, and on October 31, 1956 Admiral Dufek and six fellow travelers became the first Americans ever to set foot at the South Pole and to plant the American flag, and the first men ever to land on the pole from the air. After Admiral Byrd's death, Dufek was appointed to succeed him as supervisor of U.S. programs in the South Polar Regions.

Among the numerous recognitions and awards he has received are the Legion of Merit with two Gold Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, Croix de Guerre and the Korean Presidential Citation. He is a member of the Legion of Honor with the rank of chevalier, and in August 1957 he received the Distinguished Service Medal.

[Adapted from "Dufek, George J." in Current Biography (1957).]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The George J. Dufek Papers are arranged chronologically beginning with his 1938 assignment aboard the U.S.S. Arneb, through his career in the U.S. Navy and appointment as Director of the Mariners' Museum. Dufek's career included work with the U.S. Antarctic Service (1939-1941), Arctic Task Force 68 (1946), Antarctic Operation Highjump (1946-1947), and Arctic Task Force 80 (1948). After 1955 Dufek commanded Operation Deep Freeze, which provided Support for U.S. participation, in International Geophysical Year research programs. Following his retirement in 1959, Dufek became Director of the Mariners' Museum in Virginia. Dufek's papers reflect his interests in both polar regions, and his role in Antarctic affairs between 1955 and 1959. (Cf. "The Papers of Admiral George Dufek ..." by Peter J. Beck from Polar Record, vol. 23, no. 145, 1987.)

The Dufek papers contain chronologies, personal and official correspondence, manuals, reports, press releases, speeches, internal memos, writings, and photographs. The twelve scrapbooks at the end of the collection document the years between 1956 and 1959, with special emphasis an Operation Deep Freeze. They are supplemented by an extensive clippings file which covers 1946 through 1971.

Arrangement of the Collection

Papers are arranged chronologically by major topic and again chronologically within that.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Dufek, George J. (George John), 1903-

Corporate Bodies

Antietam (Aircraft carrier)
Mariners' Museum (Newport News, Va.)
United States. -- Navy -- Officers.
United States. -- Navy. -- Task Force 43.
United States. -- Navy. -- Task Force 66.
United States. -- Navy. -- Task Force 68.


Admirals -- United States.
International Geophysical Year, 1957-1958.
Scientific expeditions -- Antarctica.
Scientific expeditions -- Arctic regions.
Scientific expeditions -- Polar regions.
Transportation, Military -- Cold weather conditions -- Research.


Arctic regions.
Polar regions.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Phonograph records.
Press releases.
Speeches (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

George J. Dufek Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of George J. Dufek, 1973. Gift of George J. Dufek, Jr., 2013.

Table of Contents

Pre-World War II

World War II

Task Force 68

Task Force 80

Joint staff

Task Force 66

U.S.S. Antietam

Naval air bases commander

Task Force 43

Task Force 43, Operation Deep Freeze

International Geophysical Year

U.S.S. Glacier

Antarctic Conference Preparations