Admiral Richard H. Cruzen (1897-1970) was a graduate of Gallatin High School and became one of Gallatin’s most decorated sons. During his exciting military career including polar explorations, he received many decorations including the Legion of Merit, the Atlantic Fleet Clasp, the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal, the Yangtze Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the Fleet Clasp, the American Area Campaign Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze stars, and World War II Victory Medal. But Admiral Cruzen is best known for his exploration of the Antarctic.
Richard H. Cruzen was born on April 28, 1897. After graduating from Gallatin High School in Gallatin, MO, he attended the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA, and the Severn School in Severna Park, MD. He was then appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy.
As a young midshipman, Cruzen served abord the USS Mississippi, operating with the Atlantic Fleet during the summer of 1918. A year later, he graduated from the Naval Academy and was commissioned an ensign. Being advanced in rank to lieutenant on June 7, 1925, Cruzen served in various capacities with the U.S. Navy and was then promoted to lieutenant commander on Oct. 1, 1935, commander on April 1, 1941, captain on June 20, 1942, and finally to rear admiral on April 1, 1944.
Between the years of 1925 and 1937 Richard Cruzen served aboard several cruisers, battleships, and destroyers including the Idaho, the Claxton, the Navada, the Rigel, the Delphy, the Sinclair, the Shirk, the Elliott, the Pope, the Simpson, and the California.
Cruzen’s next assignment, as commander of the 65-year-old barkentine name the Bear, took him into the stormy Atlantic ice pack. From 1939 to 1941 he was with the U.S. Antarctic Service Expedition, second in command to Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the veteran explorer who led the government financed expedition in search of geographical and scientific data.
According to a Navy report, 1,000 miles of new coastline was discovered on exploratory trips by the Bear and Byrd’s sea plane. Commended by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox for his “superior seamanship, ability, courage, determination, efficiency and good judgment in dangerous emergencies,” Cruzen was one of the 16 members of the 1939-41 expedition who received the Antarctic Expedition Medal, presented in November 1946.
On Dec. 2, 1946, Cruzen once more set sail for the Antarctic continent. This time, as Task Force Commander under Admiral Byrd of the Navy’s Antarctic Developments Project, also known as “Operation High Jump,” Cruzen led a force of 13 ships carrying some 4,000 men, including meteorologists, zoologists, physicists, and experts from oceanographic institutes. Besides looking for new scientific data, another purpose of the expedition was to train Navy personnel and to test standard Navy ships and other euipment in cold weather operations.
Cruzen navigated through an ice pack of several hundred miles before reaching Little America. Icebergs and unpredictable weather were formidable foes during the course of this expedition. Among the discoveries made during the 1946-47 expedition was the sighting of two “oases,” one a region of ice-free lakes and land. More than 300,000 square miels of unpathed territory were charted on aerial mapping operations. Their observations proved that radical changes would have to be made on existing maps of the Antarctic.
Admiral Richard H. Cruzen died on April 15, 1970.
Researched by David Stark