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Naval Aviators Fly Over The North Pole, 1926!

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Naval aviators Floyd Bennett (on left) and Richard Byrd (on right) prepare to fly over the North Pole in 1926. (Photo: Pacific & Atlantic 1926)

Naval aviators Warrant Officer Floyd Bennett  and Lieutenant Commander Richard Byrd flying a Fokker trimotor named Josephine Ford reached the North Pole at 9:03 GCT on 09 May 1926. The polar mission was a result of planning and preparation by Commander Byrd and it was privately funded by Edsel Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Vincent Astor and others. The name of the aircraft was the name of Edsel Ford’s daughter and to prevent confusing the Fokker trimotor for the Ford trimotor, large letters FOKKER were painted on the aircraft.

Josephine Ford in flight 1926 (Photo: Pacific & Atlantic).

Both Bennett and Byrd would be awarded the Medal of Honor for this feat by President Calvin Coolidge. Later historians and authors have disputed whether Bennett and Byrd actually reached the North Pole, but Byrd went on to fly over the South Pole and set up the base at Little America in Antarctica.

President Coolidge awarding Medal of Honor to the polar naval aviators, Commander Byrd with sword to left and Coolidge in center presenting the medal to Warrant Officer Floyd Bennett. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Byrd's Fokker Trimotor is now on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan (Photo: Henry Ford Museum).

Here’s a newsreel announcing Rear Admiral Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition of 1933…

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