A Homecoming for Rear Admiral Richard H. Cruzen

On May 20, 1947, Galaltin’s favorite explorer — Rear Admiral Ricahrd H. Cruzen — was the honored guest at a Homecoming dinner sponsored by the Gallatin Chamber of Commerce at the McDonald Tea Room. Over 170 people attended.

On May 20, 1947, Galaltin’s favorite explorer — Rear Admiral Ricahrd H. Cruzen — was the honored guest at a Homecoming dinner sponsored by the Gallatin Chamber of Commerce at the McDonald Tea Room. Over 170 people attended.

Richard (Dick) Cruzen was the son of Nathaniel Green Jr. and Mary Edna Gearhart Cruzen of Gallatin. Nathaniel Green Jr. returned to Gallatin in 1901 to join a law practice with Rollin Britton (the firm became known as Cruzen, Mann & Leopard ni 1913). Richard was born in Kansas City, came to Galaltin with his parents at age 4, and called Gallatin his hometown.

Cruzen graduated from Gallatin High School in 1914. His father and uncle, Harry Cruzen both graduated from Wentworth Military Academy at Lexington, MO. Richard, however, left Gallatin to attend VMI at Lexington, VA. He also attended a prep school at Severn Park, MD, before entering the U.S. Naval Academy, a member of the Class of 1920. Cruzen became an ensign in June, 1919. He said he was thinking about attending West Point, but Judge J.W. Alexander of Gallatin placed him into Annapolis.

When Cruzen’s father died as a result of an auto accident in 1931, Cruzen was back at Annapolis as an instructor.

In 1939 Cruzen was a Navy Lt. Commander and was named skipper of the USS Bear by explorer Byrd. The Bear was a sailing schooner purchased by Admiral Byrd to explore the “unknown continent” — the Antarctic. The sailing ship was used because it did not need to be refuled in remote locations.

The Bear was an old seal fishing ship built in 1873 at Dundee, Scotland. It was 190 feet long. Admiral Byrd obtained it for explorations in 1932 and sailed it from Boston in 1933 to the Antarctic, returning to Boston in 1935. Cruzen had The Bear redone in 1939 at a cost of $200,000, and rigged it as a Barkentine. He added a 600hp diesel auxiliary engine and put a small sea plane on board.

In the book, “Operatrion Deepfreeze” by Rear Admiral George J. Dufek, Richard Cruzen is described by the then Navy lieutenant Dufek as follows:

“I reported for duty on the USS Bear at the Boston Naval Shipyard. I reported to Lt. Commander Ricahrd Cruzen in the sail loft in the spring of 1939. Cruzen had a deep well of love for his fellow man which endeared him to everyone …(we) became fast friends (and I) took three tours of duty under his command.

“I considered Cruzen to be the finest and most capable officer I have ever served in the Navy. He was filled with boundless good humor and energy. He often reminded me of a bantam rooster and, in tense moments, he would walk like one. He made quick decisions, but only after a careful study of the factors involved in the problem. His favorite greeting to friends, to urge them to get on with the work, was ‘All right, Fattey, let’s get going.'”

Longtime Gallatin newspaper publisher Joe Snyder reported that Admiral Cruzen was “a remarkably down-to-earth man for all his years as a professional military commander… he never lost his feeling for his hometown.”

Cruzen and Dufek sailed The Bear from Boston on Nov. 22, 1939, via the Panama Canal for Little America in Antarctica. The Bear entered pack ice of the Ross Sea in mid-January, 1940, and arrived at the Bay of Whales to establish Little America III. Admiral Byrd joined them on board from the USS North Star. Cruzen sailed the old schooner up and down the coast and returned to Boston covering 14,000 miles without dropping anchor. Cruzen did not go exploring again with Dufek and Byrd until 1946 after World War II.

Captain Cruzen did not tell much of his war efforts, but recounted, in 1945 during a visit to Gallatin, that he had been operations officer under Admiral Kinkaid for the engagement of the Seventh Fleet in the Southwest Pacific. He was in the invasions of Leyte Island and in the sea battle of Leyte Gulf. He pased through Gallatin on his way to take command of the USS Birmingham.

In 1946 Captain Cruzen got Dufek to help on an Arctic sail of the USS Bear to establish weather bases in Greenland and the Arctic Archipelago. This was named “Operation Nanook” and Cruzen laid out the first airfield in Greenland at Thule. They returned in The Bear in August, 1946, and started planning for the Navy’s first large scale expedition to the Antarctic.

For Operation Highjump (1946-47) and after 30 years of Navy service, Cruzen was promoted to Rear Admiral and made the Task Force Commander. Task Force #68 comprised of 13 ships, 23 aircraft and 4,700 seamen. The job was to survey the coasts and as much of the continent as possible, using aircraft cameras. Cruzen got to the Ross Sea during the last days of December, 1946. In the next four weeks, the plans spent 220 hours in the air over Antarctica, flying 22,700 miles and taking over 70,000 photographs. They covered 60% of the coastline — 25% of which had never been seen before.

By March 4, 1947, all ships had started for home. This was the first time icebreaker ships had been used in the Antarctic. The work was Navy funded and utilized leftover supplies from the war. Cruzen estalished Little America IV and other bases and weather stations.

Rear Admiral George Dufek continued on with south pole exploration into the late 1950s in Operation Deepfreeze.

On April 14, 1947, Cruzen and Byrd were on the USS Mt. Olympus, a luxury flag ship which was called a communications ship by the Navy, when they were met by the Secretary of the Navy at naval yards at Washington, D.C. Cruzen spent several months with reports and giving speeches about the work completed. He later commanded support forces for the atomic weapons tests at the Eniwetock Atoll. He commanded U.S. Naval forces in and near the Phillippines before retiring to private business after 8 more years of Navy service. He retired in 1954.

When his mother, Edna Cruzen, died on Oct. 26, 1965, Richard Cruzen and his sister, Mary, came back to Gallatin for the funeral. Admiral Cruzen probably got his name from his great-grandfather, Richard R. Cruzen, who was an inspector of the National Armory at Harper’s Ferry, VA. His grandfather also worked there before leaving for Missouri at age 20.

Admiral Cruzen’s grandfather was Nathaniel Green Cruzen, born in Jefferson County, VA, on Oct. 14, 1826. In December 1860, he married Mary Faulkner, daughter of James Gillilan who was the founder of Jamesport, MO. Admiral Cruzen and his wife, Margaret, raised three children. Their only son, Nathaniel III, was killed in a hunting accident in 1946 while the Admiral was out to sea.

The Admiral’s sister, Mary, married Lt. Orville “Pinkie” Walsh while she was teaching school at Westport High School in Kansas City. John Leopard of Gallatin recalls their elaborate military wedding at the home of Edna Cruzen in Gallatin. General O.E. Walsh was part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and served in the Pacific during World War II as a member of General MacArthur’s staff. He achieved the rank of Major General before retiring to Portland, OR. At one time, he was in charge of the Missouri River Division of the Corps of Engineers. They raised two children, Sally and Richard.

Written by David Stark, Gallatin; March, 1997.