Richard Evelyn Byrd – Rear Admiral, United States Navy

One of the greatest of all American explorers, he was born at Winchester, Virginia, on October 25, 1888. He was a 1912 graduate of the United States Nval Academy. He earned the Medal of Honor for his exploits in polar exploration. He died in Boston on March 11, 1957. There is a memorial to his memory on Memorial Drive, just outside the gates of Arlington and he is buried in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery.


It seemed odd that the inscription for Marie Byrd, the Admiral's wife, appears on the back of the son's marker (rather than on the husband's) and, further, that the names of both the son and the father read the same, Richard E. Byrd, Jr. Curious about this I contacted some Byrd family members and learned the following: “My mother's and brother's names on the same stone and the Jr. after both my father's and brother's names are mistakes. A memorial was to be erected some time ago at which time the problem was to be resolved. Unfortunately, plans for the memorial fell through to be completed at some future date.”

Byrd's grave is on Roosevelt Drive, not far from the Visitors Center.


Marie A. Byrd
Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr.

Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd
Full Honor (Company) Funeral

11-14 March 1957

Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, American explorer of the polar regions, died of a heart ailment at his home in Boston, Massachusetts, 11 March 1957, at the age of sixty-eight. He was accorded a Full Honor (Company) Funeral, to take place on 14 March. By executive order of President Dwight D. Eisenhower the flags on all government buildings, except the Capitol, and on all ships and at all naval stations were to be flown at half-staff until the final rites were concluded.

The Bureau of Naval Personnel, Department of the Navy, made the arrangements for the funeral, incorporating the requests of the Byrd family. On 14 March Rear Admiral Michael F. D. Flaherty was to escort the body of Admiral Byrd by train from Boston to Washington, D.C., where a Navy honor guard was to be present in Union Station. The body was then to be escorted to the chapel at Fort Myer, Virginia, for the funeral service and to Arlington National Cemetery for burial. The Army was to provide the caisson to carry the casket, and the saluting battery from the 3d Infantry; all other troops participating in the ceremonies were to come from the Navy and the Marine Corps.

At 0830 on 14 March, the body of Admiral Byrd arrived in Washington and was taken to the Fort Myer Chapel, with Rear Adm. Charles B. Martell of the Navy acting as escort commander. Admiral Byrd's widow, son, and three daughters meanwhile had arrived from Boston and had been escorted to the chapel.

Fourteen distinguished officials, former associates, and friends served as honorary pallbearers during the ceremonies: Sherman Adams, Assistant to the President; Charles S. Thomas, Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, Chief of Naval Operations; Admiral Harold R. Stark, U.S. Navy (retired); Admiral Louis E. Denfeld, US Navy (retired) ; Admiral Donald B. Duncan, US Navy (retired); Vice Admiral Thomas S. Combs, US Navy; Congressman Carl Vinson, Chairman, House Armed Services Committee; Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Thomas D. White, Vice Chief of Staff, US Air Force; Admiral Dewitt C. Ramsey, US Navy (retired); Admiral William M. Fechteler, US Navy (retired) ; Vice Admiral James L. Holloway, Jr., Chief of Naval Personnel; and Dr. Melville B. Grosvenor, President, National Geographic S.ociety. At the chapel the pallbearers formed a cordon before the entrance. In position across the street and facing the chapel stood a military escort composed of the US Navy Band, a national color detail, and a company of sailors and marines. The funeral cortege reached the chapel shortly before 1000. When the caisson halted at the entrance, Captain John D. Zimmerman, the Navy chaplain who was to conduct the funeral service, and eight Navy enlisted men who were the body bearers moved to the rear of the caisson. As the Navy Band sounded ruffles and flourishes and the company of troops saluted, the sailors removed the casket from the caisson and, with the chaplain leading, bore it through the cordon of honorary pallbearers and into the chapel.

After the casket had been taken to the front of the chapel, the honorary pall­bearers entered and were ushered to their seats. One of the pallbearers, Mr. Sherman Adams, was the representative of President Eisenhower. Other persons invited to attend the service had been seated before the cortege arrived at the chapel. Members of the family attending included the admiral's brothers, Thomas Byrd and Senator Harry F. Byrd, of Virginia.

At the conclusion of the funeral service the honorary pallbearers were the first to be ushered from the chapel so that they could reform the honor cordon at the entrance. With Chaplain Zimmerman leading, Admiral Byrd's casket was then borne from the chapel. The escort units had remained in formation. As the casket was placed on the caisson, the band played a hymn and the units saluted.

After the Byrd family and others in the cortege entered their automobiles, Admiral Martell, the escort commander, led the procession into Arlington National Cemetery. As the military escort and cortege proceeded slowly toward the grave site in Section 2, northeast of the Memorial Amphitheater and not far below the Custis-Lee Mansion, the 3d Infantry battery fired a slow-paced 13-gun salute.

At the grave the honorary pallbearers formed a cordon through which Admiral Byrd's casket was carried, the chaplain leading, a seaman bearing the two-star flag of a rear admiral following it. As the casket passed, the honorary pallbearers fell in behind and proceeded to their graveside position. The Byrd family was then escorted to the grave.

Chaplain Zimmerman read the brief graveside service. At its close, the 3d Infantry battery fired a second 13-gun salute. A Navy firing squad then delivered three volleys and a Navy bugler sounded taps. The body bearers folded the flag that had draped the casket, and in traditional fashion the flag was presented to the next of kin, thus concluding the final rites for Admiral Byrd.

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
May 14, 2007

Navy to Christen USNS Richard E. Byrd

The Navy will christen the USNS Richard E. Byrd at 7:30 p.m. PDT on May 15.The launching ceremony for the newest ship in the Lewis and Clark class of underway replenishment ships will be held at General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego.

The ship honors Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957), an explorer famous for his Antarctic expeditions and for leading the first expedition to fly over the North Pole.Like the legendary explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, for whom the first ship of the class was named, Byrd bravely volunteered to explore one of the most remote and harshest places on earth. Due to his unquenchable thirst for exploration, he provided substantial contributions to the world's understanding of the Antarctic.

Following his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912, Byrd became a naval aviator and pioneered many techniques for navigating airplanes over the open ocean including drift indicators and bubble sextants. His expertise in this area resulted in his appointment to plan the flight path for the U.S. Navy's 1919 transatlantic crossing.

On May 9, 1926, Byrd and naval aviator Floyd Bennett attempted to fly over the North Pole. For this extraordinary heroic achievement, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by a special act of Congress.

Byrd departed the United States on Aug. 28, 1928, on his first Antarctic expedition. After World War II, he continued his exploration and led the largest Antarctic Expedition to date, Operation Highjump. This expedition involved 13 ships and 4,700 men who explored much of the little-known continent. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Byrd as officer-in-charge of U.S. Antarctic programs to command Operation Deep Freeze.

Rear Adm. Robert D. Reilly Jr., commander of Military Sealift Command, will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Bolling Byrd Clark will serve as sponsor of the ship named for her father. The launching ceremony will be highlighted in the time-honored Navy tradition when the sponsor breaks a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship “Richard E. Byrd.”

The USNS Richard E. Byrd is the fourth ship in the Navy's new 11-ship T-AKE 1 class. T-AKE is a combat logistics force vessel that will replace the current capability of the T-AE 26 Kilauea class ammunition ships, T-AFS 1 Mars class and T-AFS 8 Sirius class combat stores ships, and when operating with T-AO 187 Henry J. Kaiser class oiler ships, the T-AKE will replace the AOE 1 Sacramento class fast combat support ships. To conduct vertical replenishment, the ship can carry and support two helicopters.

Designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea while providing replenishment services to U.S., NATO and allied ships, the USNS Richard E. Byrd will directly contribute to the ability of the Navy to maintain a worldwide forward presence. Ships such as the USNS Richard E. Byrd provide logistic lift from sources of supply either in port or at sea from specially equipped merchant ships. The ship will transfer cargo, such as ammunition, food, limited quantities of fuel, repair parts, ship store items, and expendable supplies and material, to ships and other naval warfare forces at sea.

The USNS Richard E. Byrd is 689 feet in length, has an overall beam of 106 feet, a navigational draft of 30 feet and displaces about 42,000 tons with a full load. Powered by a single-shaft diesel-electric propulsion system, the ship can reach a speed of 20 knots.As part of the Military Sealift Command's Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force, the ship will be designated as a U.S. naval ship and will be crewed by 124 civil service mariners.The ship will also have a military detachment of 11 sailors to provide operational support and supply coordination, and when needed, the ship will carry a helicopter detachment of 39 military personnel.

rebyrd-funeral-services-photo-01 rebyrd rebyrd rebyrd2 fbennett03 rebyrd01 rebyrd02 rebyrd03


Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy. Born: 25 October 1888, Winchester, Virginia. Appointed from: Virginia. Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with gold star, Distinguished Flying Cross.


For distinguishing himself conspicuously by courage and intrepidity at the risk of his life, in demonstrating that it is possible for aircraft to travel in continuous flight from a now inhabited portion of the earth over the North Pole and return.

byrd-moh rebyrdjr-gravesite-photo


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 10/25/1888
  • DATE OF DEATH: 03/11/1957
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 03/14/1957


Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment