Operation “Windmill” (officially known as the U.S. Navy Second Antarctic Development Project) was an exploration and training mission to Antarctica in 1947–1948. On December 5, 1947, two naval icebreakers – USS Edisto and USS Burton Island – left Samoa for Antarctic waters. Commanding the 500 men with the operation was Commander Gerald L. Ketchum, a veteran of World War II. The operation was a continuation in part of the U.S. Navy’s expedition of the previous year – Operation Highjump. The foundation of Operation Highjump’s mission was to help create Little America IV – an Antarctic research base. It was the fourth in a series of five base camps established by American researchers in the arctic. The goals of the research camp was to test the area’s geological and meteorological conditions, train scientists and test equipment in frigid temperatures.
Operation Windmill was responsible for further testing. Thousands of photographs were taken during Operation Highjump and Windmill was tasked with surveying the grounds at short-range, using 30 different landmarks as reference points in order to give scientists the context to examine the photographs. The Windmill crew utilized three different helicopters to help survey the land. They also had access to four Weasels (tracked vehicles that looked like small open tanks and could pull a one-ton sled). However, they found that helicopters were quicker and allowed more access than the Weasels. By the time the expedition was complete, all three helicopters sustained damaged to various degrees. By late February/early March 1948, the USS Edisto and the USS Burton Island left arctic waters.
More photographs from Operation Windmill:
United States Operation ‘Windmill’, 1947–48 (1949) Polar Record, 5(37-38), p. 345.
Brady, Hillary. “Explore the Arctic with Operation Windmill,” Smithsonian, January 28, 2016.