Double Check: What connects Operation Highjump, nazi flying saucers, and the Hollow Earth theory?

By: christian haag&
April 26 2023

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Double Check: What connects Operation Highjump, nazi flying saucers, and the Hollow Earth theory?

Source: Wikimedia-Commons/Thomas Blomberg

If you search for Operation Highjump on TikTok, you will encounter a story about an underground jungle, crystal cities, and Nazi flying saucers. The story is not restricted to TikTok, and has been featured on the History Channel series Ancient Aliens, known for its dubious claims and historical revisionism. But is this a harmful narrative, and what are the facts about this fantastical claim?

The Story

According to videos circulating on TikTok, following World War II in 1946-1947, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, an American naval officer, led an expedition to Antarctica called Operation Highjump under the pretense of conducting scientific studies. Those who subscribe to this narrative believe it was actually an invasion fleet consisting of 13 ships, 33 aircraft, and 4,700 men intending to lay claim to Antarctica and ensure no Nazis had fled there from Germany. The story goes that upon arrival, the expeditionary force discovered a secret stronghold set up by Nazi Germany, and they were attacked by Nazi flying saucers. Upon further investigation, Admiral Richard E. Byrd came into contact with aliens.

According to the “long-lost secret diaries” of Admiral Byrd, he found an entrance into the hollow Earth, where he discovered a lush and green environment with a temperate climate and a shimmering rainbow city made of crystal. In the cave, he met extraterrestrials who spoke with a German accent and flew disc-shaped ships with swastikas on them. He also reportedly met their leader, referred to as "the Master." However, the sources for these claims are dubious and unsubstantiated by documented evidence.

What are the facts?

In 2007, an article entitled Hitler's Antarctic base: The myth and the reality, comprehensively debunked the fantastical narrative and explains the true version of events – which are much less paranormal.

Nazi Germany did, in fact, plan to expand their operation in Antarctica. From December 17, 1938, to April 12, 1939, a German expedition to Antarctica, using the ship Schwabenland, was sent to investigate the possibility of increasing the capacity of Nazi Germany's whaling industry by establishing a base for its whaling fleet. This first expedition to explore the area was followed by a later expedition making land claims. It explored the western parts of Dronning Maud land, claimed by Norway, and named it New Schwabenland, after the ship. 

Despite this, there is no documented evidence to indicate that there was continued German activity in the area during the war. The article refutes the claim that a base was established by the crew on Schwabenland, as their lack of experience, materials, and time frame rendered it practically impossible.

Rumors and conspiracies about a secret Nazi base in Antarctica –   and that Hitler went into hiding there – have circulated since the end of WWII. One claim is that two German submarines, before surrendering in Argentina, visited Antarctica between June and August 1945. However, this would have been impossible due to a lack of access to clean air: the diesel-driven submarines had insufficient air filters and were not strong enough to get through 1-2 meters of ice without taking damage.

After WWII, the U.S. military expanded its arctic deterrence towards the Soviet Union in Antarctica. Admiral Richard E. Byrd, led a planned expedition for discovery, military training, and scientific investigation in the Antarctica region. Byrd had become a known polar explorer and established Little America during the expedition of 1933-1935. 

The expedition returned with new discoveries and knowledge of previously uncharted areas of Antarctica. 11 journalists accompanied the expedition, sending over 2,000 messages to Radio Washington. The expedition took place at the Ross Ice Shelf on the south side of Antarctica from Dronning Maud Land and Nue Schwabenland, which lie on the north side. Flight maps from the expedition also show that they never flew near the areas explored by the Germans before the war. Even if a Nazi stronghold had existed, Operation Highjump never went to that part of Antarctica.

Nazi flying saucers

Rumors about the Nazi UFOs began circulating in German nationalist circles during the 1950s, with the belief that a "last battalion" containing highly advanced UFOs was hiding in Antarctica. Increasing reports of UFO sightings gave credibility to the story at the time, but it was not until 1975 that serious claims were made that the loss of aircraft during Admiral Byrd's expedition, was due to them being shot down by the Nazis using advanced weaponry. In reality, one aircraft crashed during a white-out. 

German authors Mattern and Freidrich propagated the claims, but Friedrich was actually Ernst Zündel, a neo-Nazi publisher who blended the stories of Operation Highjump with elaborate myths of a Nazi Resurgence. Zündel supported the UFO claim with a Spanish article in Chilean newspaper El Mercurio by one of the journalists from the operation, Lee Van Atta, claiming that Admiral Byrd allegedly warned about aircraft invasions from polar regions. However, the article was mistranslated: Byrd feared an attack by Soviet aircraft against the U.S. from the North and South Pole, not Nazi flying saucers. 

Nazi flying saucers became a mix of ideas of UFOs and top-secret Nazi technology of supposed lost prototypes and flight tests. However, none have been proven to actually exist. The Nazis did spend a lot of resources developing Wunderwaffen (wonder weapons), advanced weaponry that they hoped could change the course of the war. As such, there was ample ground that conspiracy theorists could fill. Common examples of these weapons are the V rockets and early jet fighters.

However, very few of these weapons were ever developed or deployed and were a waste of resources and technical expertise that resulted in the deaths of many through slave labor, serving as propaganda by the Nazi German government. 

The secret lost diary of Admiral Byrd

Several videos refer to the "lost and secret diaries of Admiral E. Byrd" passed to his son as the source of their theories. A new diary was uncovered in 1996, dating from 1926, and disputed Byrd's claim of being the first person to reach the North Pole. However, the videos circulating on social media refer to different diaries, which are widely available. These include "The missing diary of Admiral Richard E. Byrd" by Timothy Green Beckley, "The secret lost diary of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and the Phantom of the Poles" by Timothy Green Beckley et al., and "Admiral Richard Byrds missing Diary: A flight to the land beyond the North Pole into the Hollow Earth" by Geoff Douglas. Each of these books contains identical prints of the diary. 

Written in the form of a flight log, the diary describes how Admiral Byrd lost control of his aircraft and was taken into a large cavern. There he came upon an ancient civilization in the hollow earth called Agartha. The cavern had a temperate climate, a city made of crystal, prehistoric animals, and was inhabited by extraterrestrials called the "Arianni." In the city, Byrd meets the Arianni's leader, The Master, who implores Byrd to tell humanity about the dangers of atomic energy.

The text contains several allusions to the supposed Operation Highjump. Byrd encounters disc-shaped aircraft called "Flugelrad" with swastikas on them. He meets aliens who speak with a "Nordic or Germanic accent." They are described as "tall with blonde hair" and end the encounter with "auf wiedersen," thus connecting the aliens and their technology with the Nazis.

However, the three books do not cite any actual first-hand sources or claim that they have seen any original diaries. Logically Facts has found no evidence that Byrd passed down a secret diary to his son. Logically Facts contacted the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center about the diary, and it responded that they “receive questions about the hollow earth every year, and that there are no records to support these claims in their archive.” As such, there is no credible evidence that Admiral Byrd encountered a new civilization.

Highjump and the conspiracy rabbit hole

Logically has previously debunked claims about a lost ancient civilization discovered by Admiral Byrd in Antarctica. PolitiFact has debunked the claim that the Earth is hollow, as it would be impossible to sustain life inside the Earth. The story is not without harm, either. Steven Tucker, who has written two books debunking the ideas about Nazi UFOs, writes, "if you can believe that Adolf Hitler built spaceships, then the idea that Auschwitz never existed seems fairly reasonable by comparison." As such, beliefs in these kinds of theories could also lend themselves to holocaust denial and other harmful historical revisionist claims.

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