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Mail missiles ;)

It was a cold day in January of 1959 when United States Postmaster General, Arthur E. Summerfield, thought he had stumbled upon a stroke of genius. Not one to dilly dally with such a mental feat, he hastily made a bold and proud statement promising tax-paying citizens that before man reached the moon, “your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to England, to India or to Australia by guided missiles.” He nearly made his prediction a reality. Just six months later, on June 9, he launched a Regulus I guided missile carrying 3,000 pieces of souvenir mail. High-ranking officials such as President Eisenhower and Supreme Court justices were among the lucky recipients.

On June 8, 1959, the U.S. Navy submarine USS Barbero launched a nuclear-capable turbojet cruise missile towards a naval base in Mayport, Florida. And after 100 miles and just over 20 minutes in the air, it would deliver its payload. Not a 4,000-pound warhead like it was designed to hold, but rather letters, performing the the United States’ first and last official missile mail delivery.

“This peacetime employment of a guided missile for the important and practical purpose of carrying mail is the first known official use of missiles by any post office department of any nation,” Summerfield claimed.

Summerfield’s missile was fired from the U.S.S. Barbero submarine 100 miles off the Atlantic coast to a naval air station near Jacksonville, FL. Navy planes guided the missile by radio control to its parachute landing in just 22 minutes. The Postmaster said this novel way of sending birthday cards, pen pal letters, and unwanted junk mail was “of historic significance to the peoples of the entire world.”

Cost-efficiency doomed Summerfield’s plan. But expenses weren’t the only criticism of the high-flying Missile Mail. The day after the launch, the Los Angeles Times observed that the real need for speed was in handling mail before and after transport: “We hopefully look forward to the time when the lines in front of post office windows are jet propelled. Or when rocket belts are issued to those who manage to take a week to deliver a letter mailed within the same city.”

Author: kheyati

https://philatelist.home.blog/ I am an avid philatelist, I focus on global miniatures & souvenir stamps. Happy to help enthusiasts!

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