Adolphus Greely

Adolphus Greely bigraphy, stories - American Polar explorer, United States Army general, and Medal of Honor recipient

Adolphus Greely : biography

March 27, 1844 – October 20, 1935

Adolphus Washington Greely (March 27, 1844 – October 20, 1935), was an American Polar explorer, a United States Army officer and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Honors and awards

He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship and the Daly Medal by the American Geographical Society in 1922.

On May 28, 1986, the United States Postal Service issued a 22 cent postage stamp in his honor.Scott catalog # 2221.

Medal of Honor citation

He received the Medal of Honor in 1935. Rank and organization: Major General, U.S. Army, retired. Place and date: —-. Entered service at: Louisiana. Born: March 27, 1844, Newburyport, Mass. G.O. No.: 3, W.D., 1935. Act of Congress, March 21, 1935.

Citation: For his life of splendid public service, begun on March 27, 1844, having enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army on July 26, 1861, and by successive promotions was commissioned as major general February 10, 1906, and retired by operation of law on his 64th birthday.

Greely’s medal was awarded in contradiction to the revised 1916 Army warrant requiring combat action and risk of life "above and beyond the call of duty."Barrett Tillman. Heroes: U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipients. New York: Berkeley, 2006, p. 94 However, his Medal was the second Army presentation contrary to the combat requirement, as Charles Lindbergh (an Army reservist not on active duty) received the award for his solo transatlantic flight eight years before, in 1927. Until after WW II the Navy Medal of Honor could be awarded for noncombat actions, reflecting different criteria within the United States armed forces.

USS General A. W. Greely (AP-141)

The , launched November 1944, was named in his honor.

Fort Greely

Big Delta Air Force Base, Alaska, was designated Fort Greely on August 6, 1955, in honor of Major General Adolphus Washington Greely.


  • Three Years of Arctic Service (1886)
  • Handbook of Alaska (rev. ed. 1925)
  • Reminiscences of Adventure and Service (1927)
  • The Polar Regions in the Twentieth Century (1928).

Personal life

He attended the First Presbyterian Church, Newburyport and married Henrietta Nesmith in 1878.

In 1905, he accepted the honor of serving as the first president of The Explorers Club and in 1915, he invited the Italian polar geographer Arnaldo Faustini to the United States for a lecture tour.

Early military career

Greely was born March 27, 1844, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He entered the United States Army at the age of 17, after having been rejected twice before. He had achieved the rank of brevet Major by the end of the Civil War. Greely joined the regular Army in 1866 as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry; in 1873, Greely was promoted to First Lieutenant.

Lady Franklin Bay Expedition

In 1881, First Lieutenant Greely was given command of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition on the ship Proteus. Promoted by Henry W. Howgate, its purpose was to establish one of a chain of meteorological-observation stations as part of the First International Polar Year. The expedition also was commissioned by the US government to collect astronomical and polar magnetic data, which was carried out by the astronomer Edward Israel, who was part of Greely’s crew. Another goal of the expedition was to search for any clues of the , lost north of Ellesmere Island.Berton, Pierre (1988). The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole. Toronto: Random House of Canada Ltd., p. 437

Greely was without previous Arctic experience, but he and his party were able to discover many hitherto unknown miles along the coast of northwest Greenland. The expedition also crossed Ellesmere Island from east to west and Lt. James B. Lockwood and David L. Brainard achieved a new "farthest north" record of 83°23’8".