GEMINI 8 USS BOXER CACHETS

(Revised April 2013)


Gemini 8 was the sixth manned spaceflight in the Gemini program. Its main mission was to dock with a Gemini Agena Target Vehicle. Splashdown was planned to occur in the Atlantic with the USS Boxer being the designated Primary Recovery Ship (PRS). The Agena was launched first and after verifying that all was well with the spacecraft, Gemini 8 was launched. On the forth orbit Gemini 8 successfully docked with the Agena target. Soon after the Agena was commanded to began execution of its stored command program. This is when things started to go wrong. The combined spacecraft began to roll. After several attempts to stop the roll, it was decided that Gemini would undock from the Agena. However, even after undocking, the roll continued. That, and an abnormally large fuel usage showed it was the Gemini capsule and not the Agena that was the problem! The spacecraft then began to roll even faster. Armstrong shut down the OAMS and used the Re-entry Control System to control the spin. However, this meant that the mission had to be terminated.

It was decided to let the spacecraft reenter one orbit later so that it could land in a place that could be reached by the secondary recovery forces. Thus, instead of splashing down in the Atlantic, splashdown was changed to the Pacific with the USS Mason ordered to the new recovery area. Three hours after splashdown, the USS Mason had the spacecraft and astronauts on board.

As the designated PRS, most covers were sent to the USS Boxer for postmarking and a number of cachets were used. As usual Morris Beck provided Rubber Stamp Cachets to the Navy which were used to cachet most of these covers. Maroon ink was used. He also provided printed cacheted covers. Two were specifically designated for the Boxer (B634 and B637). In addition at least one cover with B6382 and one with B640 are known. As well Beck provided a small number of unnumbered covers to the Boxer's Postal Officer as a thank you for postmarking his covers. So far, none of these have been found.

One interesting observation. There is a very slight difference between the Navy RSC and the Beck printed cachet. If you look at the NASA emblem (you need a really good RSC to see this) you'll see that the emblem, which clearly extends to the right of the sphere, also continues on the left. However, while the printed cachet shows two 'blips' the RSC shows only one.

So far, everything is standard. However, a number of different Beck type covers of unknown origin have been found. All are identical to the Beck RSC (ie only one blip) but differ in colour and printing method. Two different methods have been found; one that produces a standard 'flat' cachet and a second (thermography) which produces a 'raised' cachet. The following are known.

1) A Red Cachet - this appears to be the most common and has only been seen as a flat type cachet. Also it has only been seen with a machine cancel.
2) A Blue Cachet1 - this has only been seen as a RSC3 but with both machine and hand cancels. Another example on an airmail envelope.
3) A Gold Cachet1 - a flat version with a hand cancel
4) A Gold Cachet - a raised (thermography) version with a hand cancel
5) A Siver Cachet - only seen as a raised (thermography) version with a hand cancel
6) A Green Cachet - only seen as a flat version but with both machine and hand cancels

Now for some speculation.

The red cachet is the most numerous and has only been seen with a machine cancel. It is therefore likely that the cachet was produced on board the USS Boxer. This may have been done to help cope with the number of covers requiring cancelation or may have been done for members of the crew and dignitaries. After examining a number of these, they all appear to be placed identically on their covers, indicating that they are not rubber stamps but are printed.

With regard to the Gold and Silver thermographed cachets, Ray Cartier remarks that "I seriously doubt that the Boxer could have been able to produce this on board. The thermography method uses freshly inked copy with a powder dropped on it in a conveyor belt over intense heat. The conveyor belt is usually about 20 feet long. and the powder melts into the ink and at the end of the conveyor the unusued powder is blown off'. It's also interesting that these have only been found with hand cancels (although it must be noted that the sample is small). It appears that blank covers were hand cancelled on board and that the thermograph cachet was added later.

The other cachets could either have been done on board or later ashore.

As a final interesting cover I noted a cover sold on eBay during 2010 which had a Gemini 8 USS Boxer Blue cachet on the front and a Gemini 9 Captain's cachet on the back! Probably unique.

Below is a small survey done amongst 6 recovery ship cover collectors

 

Cachet Colour

Cachet Type

Postmark Type

Number
Ross

Number
Ray

Number
Tom

Number
Steve

Number
Randy

Number
Owen

TOTAL

Red Flat Machine

2b

1c

1b

1b

   

5

Blue RSCd Machine

2b

 

1

     

3

Blue RSCd Hand      

1b

   

1

Green Flat Hand

 1b

 

1b

1b

 

1

4

Green Flat Machine    

1

     

1

Gold Flat Hand  

1c

1a

1a

1a

 

3

Gold Raised Hand

1b

         

1

Silver Raised Hand

 1a

1a

 

1a

   

3

a) Horizontal 'self sealing' flap
b) Triangular flap with water soluble glue
c) Rounded flap with water soluble glue
d) Looks like RSC, although a flat printed cachet cannot be ruled out

Notes:
1) From the collection of Steve Durst
2) From Owen Murray's website on Beck Covers
3) Note that there is some question as to whether the Blue cachet is printed or a Rubber Stamp.

 


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Last modified on 2017 January 8