By Bert van Eijck
My favourite cover is a classic one; the USS Barbero letter, of June 8,1959. A scarce item, but a “jewel” in an exhibition.
For the first Official Missile Mail experiment of the U.S. Post Office Dept, a branch post office was established on the guided missile submarine USS Barbero (SSG—317). During a regular training mission from Norfolk, Virginia, approximately 3000 special letters were loaded in two metal compartments of the Post Office Department and were flown to the Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Mayport, Florida. There they were turned over to the Jacksonville Post Office.
A missile of the Regulus type was used to send the covers from the USS Barbero to Mayport. It was a 20 minute flight at a 10,000 Metre height over 350 kms. The envelope used for the official one of the Postmaster General with a pictorial cachet of the Regulus 1, bearing the words: “First Official Missile mail United States Post Office Department.
“They are cancelled USS Barbero with the date and the approximate time of the launching of the missile from the submarine (Jun 8 I959 9.30am) They have the 4 cents American flag postage stamp of 1957. Those addressed to foreign countries have two of the stamps covering the postage for surface transportation.
On the reverse side is the Jacksonville Post Office cancellation with the approximate time of arrival (Jun 8 1959 10.3Oam).
The covers were addressed to the President, High government officials and the Postmaster General of 99 other member nations of the Universal Postal Union, etc. They contain a letter from the Postmaster General, Arthur E. Summerfield.
On July 8,1959 there was a souvenir cover. This cover of the Missile Mail Souvenir Project of the U.S. Naval Station at Mayport, Florida was issued in a quantity of about 3000, one month after the Barbero start. The inscription reads “Point of Landing — First Official Missile Mail 8 June 1959 US Naval Station, Mayport, Florida.” About 16,000 collectors had applied for such a cover.
The imprint of the official Barbero cover was reproduced on a memorial cover, issued and posted at the Vienna International Airport Exhibition Luposta on August 25, 1959.
Both of these issues have not been carried in a missile.
Paraguay issued a stamp for Barbero and Regulus, on June 18, 1976.
Literature: Rocket Mail catalogue Volume 8B by Dr Max Kronstein, 1965