U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus denied the request of 40 surviving family members to recover the bodies buried near what is known as the George One crash site.
Earlier, naval officials recommended supporting a recovery expedition when conditions were right.
A release from George 1 Repatriation Project said the families were going ahead with efforts to retrieve the bodies without Navy assistance.
The casualties were crewmen of a plane that a crashed in the Antarctic 62 years ago. They were Ensign Maxwell A. Lopez, 20, of Newport, R.I., the flight's navigator; Chief Petty Officer Fred Williams, 26, , of Huntington, Tenn., an aviation machinist's mate 1st Class, Silver Star recipient and Pearl Harbor survivor; and Chief Petty Officer Wendell "Bud" Hendersin, 25, of Sparta, Wis., an aviation radioman 1st Class.
There were six survivors.