Bernt Balchen. Polar Aviator
Bernt Balchen was a true American hero who is unknown to most of the American public. Born in Norway, he was trained as an arctic outdoorsman and possessed great physical and intellectual stamina and leadership skills. He served in the French Foreign Legion during WWI. He qualified as a pilot in the Norwegian Navy in 1921. In 1926 he attended the fateftui meeting at Spitsbergen of the polar aviation giants Roald Amundsen, Umberto Nobile, Lincoln Elsworth, Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett.
Balchen was especially qualified to tackle a tough flying job in the high latitudes. The author describes how Balchens skills became apparent to Byrd, Bennett and Tony Fokker and the irony of how Balchens flying expertise made many headlines for the publicity hound, Richard Byrd. He flew Byrd to France in 1927 and over the South Pole in 1929. Balchen's problems with Byrd came to a head when he questioned and cast doubts on Byrd's North Pole flight in 1926. These doubts were proven to be correct when a page from Byrd's flight log turned up in the 1990s.
The author tells of the many exploits of Balchen that did not involve Byrd. His pioneering air base construction and search and rescue activities in Greenland for the U.S. Army, his cloak-and-dagger exploits later in WWII, his many contributions to defense of the U.S. during the Cold War with Russia. This book is an excellent history of polar flight and the story of a true American hero.