Richard H. Cruzen

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Vice Admiral Richard Harold Cruzen (April 28, 1897 – April 15, 1970) was a United States Navy officer best known for his participation and leadership in Antarctic expeditions.

Early life[edit]

Cruzen was born on April 28, 1897 in Kansas City, Missouri. After graduation from Gallatin High School in Gallatin, Missouri, he attended the Virginia Military Institute and the Severn School in Severna Park, Maryland.[1] He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1916.

Early career[edit]

As a midshipman, Cruzen served on the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41) during the First World War. The Mississippi operated with the Atlantic Fleet during the summer of 1918.[1]

Cruzen graduated from the Naval Academy in 1919 and was commissioned as an ensign. His first assignment was to the battleship USS Idaho (BB-42).[1]

Between the years of 1925 and 1937 Cruzen served on a number of ships of different types. Ships he served on included the battleships USS Nevada (BB-36) and USS California (BB-44). Other ships he served on were the destroyers Claxton, Delphy, Sinclair, Shirk, Elliott, Pope and Simpson and the destroyer tender USS Rigel (AD-13).

Cruzen was a graduate of the command course at the United States Naval War College.

United States Antarctic Service Expedition[edit]

On September 11, 1939 Cruzen assumed command of the 65-year-old screw barkentine USS Bear (AG-29). Bear participated in the United States Antarctic Service Expedition, under the command of Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, a renowned aviator and explorer who led the government financed expedition to evaluate the economic and military value of the Antarctic continent.[1]

Navy records state that 1,000 miles of new coastline was discovered by survey missions by the Bear and aircraft. After the expedition, Cruzen was commended by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox for "superior seamanship, ability, courage, determination, efficiency and good judgment in dangerous emergencies". Cruzen was one of only 16 members of the 1939-41 expedition who received the United States Antarctic Expedition Medal in gold, which was presented in November 1946.[1]

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War, Cruzen served as chief of staff to Vice Admiral Arthur S. Carpender, Commander of the 7th Fleet from July 18 to September 26, 1943. He served as an operations officer on the staff of Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid during the campaign to liberate the Philippines in 1944 to 1945.[1]

He commanded the light cruiser USS Birmingham from August 9, 1945 to October 10, 1946.[2] Cruzen was selected for promotion to rear admiral in November 1946 with his date of rank retroactive to 1944.[3]

Operation Highjump[edit]

In 1946 Admiral Richard E. Byrd was selected as officer in charge of the Navy's Antarctic Developments Project, also known as Operation Highjump. Cruzen was chosen to commanded Task Force 68, which constituted the vast majority of the resources assigned to the operation. Task Force 68 consisted of 4,700 personnel, a command ship, an aircraft carrier, two destroyers, two icebreakers, two seaplane tenders, two supply ships, two tankers and a submarine. This was by far the largest Antarctic expedition up to that time and, possibly, the largest in history.

Cruzen departed the United States on board his flagship, the USS Mount Olympus, on December 2, 1946. Personnel assigned to the expedition included meteorologists, zoologists, physicists, and experts from oceanographic institutes. Besides gathering scientific data, another goal of the expedition was to train Navy personnel and to test Navy ships and other equipment in cold weather and ice operations.[1]

Cruzen's task force navigated through several hundred miles of ice before reaching the Little America base camp. The expedition was beset by icebergs and inconsistent weather throughout its service.

Among the discoveries made during Operation Highjump were finding two "oases", one a region of ice-free lakes and land. More than 300,000 square miles of uncharted territory were mapped by aircraft. This led to updating of existing charts and maps of the Antarctic.[1]

Cruzen appears briefly in the documentary film The Secret Land about Operation Highjump. The Secret Land, produced by the U.S. Navy, was released in 1948 and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Late career[edit]

After Operation Highjump, Cruzen was placed in command of Cruiser Division Two which was a unit of the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. On April 2, 1949 he attended the re-interment in Tripoli, Libya of the remains of five unidentified American sailors killed when the ketch USS Intrepid exploded in Tripoli Harbor in 1804.[4]

Later life[edit]

Cruzen retired from the Navy on June 30, 1954 and was advanced to the rank of vice admiral on the retired list. He was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor in 1956.[5] He died on April 15, 1970 at Camp Pendleton, California.


Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st Row Legion of Merit World War I Victory Medal
2nd Row Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal Yangtze Service Medal American Defense Service Medal
3rd Row American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal
4th Row United States Antarctic Expedition Medal Navy Occupation Service Medal National Defense Service Medal
5th Row Antarctica Service Medal Philippine Legion of Honor Philippine Liberation Medal


Dates of rank[edit]

  • Midshipman - June 16, 1916
  • Ensign - June 7, 1919
  • Lieutenant (junior grade) - June 7, 1922
  • Lieutenant - June 7, 1925
  • Lieutenant Commander - October 1, 1935
  • Commander - April 1, 1941
  • Captain - June 20, 1942
  • Rear Admiral - November 27, 1946 (Date of rank - April 1, 1944)
  • Vice Admiral, Retired List - June 30, 1954


External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Admiral Richard H. Cruzen -- A Biography : Daviess County Historical Society : Gallatin Area Revitalization Alliance". Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  2. ^ "Cruiser Photo Index CL-62 USS BIRMINGHAM - Navsource - Photographic History of the U.S. Navy". Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  3. ^ "Thirty Naval Officers Made Rear Admirals," The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, Thursday, 28 November 1946, p. 11.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Register of Commissioned Officers of the United States Navy. Various editions from 1920 to 1955.