Richard T. Williams

Seabees Can Do

Seabee Construction Driver third class, USN, died on 6 January 1956 when the D-8 bulldozer he was driving broke through the ice and sank. He was hauling cargo along a track from the ice edge east toward Cape Evans, when his tractor crashed through the ice into 100 fathoms of water about two miles west of Cape Royds. Plans at the time called for a land airstrip to be built between Cape Evans and Cape Royds to support future exploration and the construction of South Pole Station. Heavy ice prevented the convoy from getting close to Ross Island, prompting the need for a long and hazardous traverse. (Immediately after the accident, this project was abandoned, and aircraft facilities were developed on the ice at what would become the Williams Air Operating Facility.)

His body was never recovered. Above is his photo and entry from the USS Wyandot (AKA-92) DF-I (1955-56) cruisebook, with thanks to OAE Don Leger.

rocks and rollsing along

The following year the "Our Lady of the Snows Shrine" (left, 1957 photo from Bill Staskel) was erected on Hut Point in memory of Williams. At right (photo by Patrick "Rediron" McCormick), the original dedication on 6 January 1957; chaplain Father Condit is playing the organ, which had been carried up the hill to the site. During the ceremony, David Grisez, a friend of Williams, played "Taps."

The monument has been repaired and restored more than once...most recently in 1995-96 when the statue was refurbished and repainted by Carmelite nuns in Christchurch. It was returned during that season, along with a new plaque furnished by the CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation, with assistance from Dave Grisez, who returned that season to work for ASA. At the rededication, Dave played "Taps."

At the rededication
At the rededication. Behind the plaque, Dave Grisez (left)
and Amy Cooper Atchley (Nick Majerus photo).
Remembering Richard

A closeup of the plaque (2000 photo by Chuck Kimball).

For many years the statue had faced McMurdo Station (below left, 1959 photo from Bill Staskel), but after the rededication she was turned around to face north out over McMurdo Sound toward where Williams was lost (below right, 2003 photo by Seth White).

facing the galley?
from the past

in front of the pass
Another view of the statue by Seth White. The memorial
has picked up the unfortunate nickname "Roll Cage
Mary" in recent years, based on its appearance.
prop wash

And a postscript: at left is a memorial sign that was at Williams Field in the 1960's (US Navy photo, date unknown). It has since disappeared and was not in evidence during my first visit in 1972.