Operation Highjump!

This Memorial Day we remember past veterans and honor their families, and friends. In times of war and peace, their work and their story allowed for the opportunities we have available. Today, I will spotlight Operation Highjump and Walter Seager Sullivan, Jr. (b. 12 Jan. 1918 in New York City – d. 19 Mar 1996 in Riverside, Connecticut). The youngest of five, Sullivan graduated from Yale in 1940 then followed his father’s footsteps and worked for the New York Times. He joined the Navy in late 1941 or early 1942, when the US entered WWII. He was awarded twelve combat medals and achieved the rank of Lt. Commander as a Captain. After Navy discharge, he was back at the New York Times and assigned to cover the United States Navy Antarctic Development Program (a.k.a. “Operation Highjump”) -perhaps igniting his lifelong dedication to Antartica and the sciences.

Operation Highjump was commanded by Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, lasted six-months (Aug 1946 – Feb 1947), and included over four-thousand, five-hundred personnel, thirteen ships and thirty-three aircraft. They established a base and territory, tested equipment in harsh weather and analyzed the feasibility of multiple bases in comparable regions. MGM produced a 1948 Academy Award winning documentary about Operation Highjump, titled “The Secret Land,” and it is available for free on YouTube as Reel 1 and Reel 2.

Sullivan also covered the Civil War in China, and the early stages of the war in Korea. In the early 1950s, he reported on the anticommunist uprisings in East Berlin and the growing Cold War between the East and the West. In the mid-1950s, he began covering science for the New York Times and in the mid-1960s he became Science Editor. Sullivan oversaw coverage of new space exploration, and made it readable.

  • “In 1965 his reporting about the discovery of background radiation in the universe led scientists to remark that they had not realized the significance of their findings until reading his article.”

What a time to cover science, and how interested he would be in the first passenger SpaceX flight scheduled for next Wednesday afternoon, May 27th (EST).

Take a look at some local references to Greenwich’s Walter Seager Sullivan, Jr. through our digitized historic Greenwich newspapers, and think about the efforts made by many this Memorial Day.

Works Consulted:

“Walter Seager Sullivan, Jr” (Encyclopedia.com)

“The Secret Land” (YouTube, Reel 1)

“The Secret Land” (YouTube, Reel 2)

“Operation Highjump” (Wikipedia.org)

“Authors” (Local History Files)

“Walter Sullivan” (Newsbank)