Archives On The Air 8: Dean Cullen Smith—Bush Pilot Of The Antarctic

Jun 27, 2018

Portrait of Pilot Dean Cullen Smith, undated. Box 1, Dean Cullen Smith papers.
Credit American Heritage Center

A courageous pilot known for navigating in severe weather gained the attention of Admiral Richard Byrd. Byrd was looking for personnel to man his first journey to Antarctica.

Portrait of Pilot Dean Cullen Smith, undated. Box 1, Dean Cullen Smith papers.
Credit American Heritage Center

Byrd chose Dean Cullen Smith in 1928 as one of four pilots to be stationed at Byrd’s South Pole base called “Little America.”

Smith cut his teeth as an airmail pilot flying was surplus planes in bad weather into inadequate airfields. But the pay was good.

Admiral Byrd gave Smith the exacting job of laying fuel bases for his expedition across the South Pole. Smith also made rescue missions when necessary.

Newspaper clipping about Dean Cullen Smith and “Eddie” Allen flying a Curtiss-Wright substratosphere plane from the October 27, 1940 New York Times. Box 1, Dean Cullen Smith papers.
Credit American Heritage Center

Smith earned his reputation during a rescue mission in 1929. He took off in strong winds and rescued team members stranded near the Antarctic’s Rockefeller Mountains. His efforts earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross, the highest award in aviation.

The Dean Cullen Smith papers available at UW’s American Heritage Center are full of the pilot’s experiences.