SKYLAB RECOVERY SHIP COVER & POSTMARK VARIETIES

Skylab 4 (Manned Skylab III) - Launch 16 Nov. 1973 - Splashdown 8 Feb. 1974

Recovery Force Shipsi
Ship Type Designation Covers
Atlantic
USS Opportune SRS - Rescue & Salvage Ship ARS-41 Y
USCGC Point Charles SRS - Coast Guard Cutter WPB-82361 N
Pacific
USS New Orleans PRS - Carrier LPH-11 Y
USS Beaufortv SRS - Rescue & Salvage Ship ATS-2 Y
USS Bolsterv SRS - Rescue & Salvage Ship ARS-38 Y
USS Grapple SRS - Rescue & Salvage Ship ARS-53 Y
USS Tawakoniv SRS - Fleet Ocean Tug AFT-114 Y
Tracking Ships
USNS Vanguard TS - Tracking Ship T-AGM-19 Y
USNS Redstoneii TS - Tracking Ship T-AGM-20 Y
Recovery Control Center
Norfolk VA Atlantic Recovery Control Center N/A Y
Kunia HI Pacific Recovery Control Center N/A Y
Not Involved
USNS Range Sentinel3 Tracking Ship T-AGM-22 Y

Postmark Variationsiv
Ship Description of Postmark Scarcity
USS New Orleans  Hand Cancel - Wavy Killer Bars
Used in Hawaii
Common
USS New Orleans Hand Cancel - Solid Killer Barsiii Less Common
USS New Orleans Hand Cancel - Day after Recovery
Used aboard PRS
Rare
USNS Vanguard Mar Del Plata - 16th Nov - nearest port to tracking area U/K
USNS Vanguard Cape Canaveral - 16th Nov - MC U/K
USNS Vanguard Cape Canaveral - 16th Nov - MC - Diff Cachet U/K
USNS Vanguard Mar Del Plata - 26 Nov - different postmark - red U/K
USNS Vanguard3 Unusual cancel Naval Ship Vanguard Skylab Mission without a date and without any other postmark U/K
USNS Vanguard Aerogram as above but with received postmark on the back - Switzerland 22 November 1973 Rare
USNS Vanguard Mar Del Plata - 9th Feb U/K
USNS Vanguard3 Cape Canaveral - 8th Feb U/K
USNS Redstone Cape Canaveral - 16th Nov - MC U/K
USNS Redstone Patrick AFB - 8th Feb - MC U/K
USNS Redstone3 Cape Canaveral - 8th Feb - MC U/K
Kunia3 Launch 16 Nov 1973 - Blue TF 130 cachet
Also exists with an aqua cachet
Common
Kunia Splashdown 8 Feb 1974 - Maroon TF 130 cachet Common
Kunia Launch 16 Nov 1973 plus Splashdown 8 Feb 1974
- Purple TF 130 cachet
Less Common
Kunia Inner & Outer Space Printed Cachet  
Kunia1 Launch 16 Nov 1973 - possibly an Inner & Outer Space Printed Cachet Uncommon
Norfolk Large Postmark - No Time Slug Uncommon
Norfolk Small Postmark U/K
Norfolk Both Large & Small Postmarks - Large Postmark has a Time Slug Common


Cachets
Cachet Description of Cachet Colours Type
Navy Recovery Force Cachet - Atlantic

Designed by Morris Beck it shows TF-140 emblem

Black Rubber Stamp
Navy Recovery Force Cachet - Pacific

Designed by Morris Beck it shows TF-130 emblem

 Maroon Rubber Stamp
Beck Cachet - Atlantic Similar to but larger than Navy Cachet Black-Green-Orange Printed
Beck Cachet - Pacific Similar to but larger than Navy Cachet Black-Green-Red Printed
TF-130 Manned Spacecraft Recovery Force - Pacific
Shows a capsule & various Recovery Craft
Maroon, Blue, Purple Rubber Stamp
TF-140 Manned Spacecraft Recovery Force - Atlantic
Shows A capsule under parachutes
Green Rubber Stamp
Artopages Cachet Type 13 General Skylab cachet Black-Red Printed
Artopages Cachet Type 2 Skylab Cachet shows a Saturn Rocket Brown-Green Printed
Artopages Cachet Type 3 Combined Skylab & Boy Scouts Cachet Red-Blue Printed

Navy Recovery Force Cachet Colours & Beck Cachet Numbers

Ship

Known Cachet Colours

Beck Numbers

USS New Orleans Maroon B896, B897
Norfolk Black B898, B899

Interesting Cachets & Covers
Cachet Description of Cachet Colours Type
Beck FDC FDC for US 10c Skylab stamp - Postmark Houston May 14 1974 Various Printed
USS Tawakoni Ship's Corner Card on envelope with embosed 'Department of the Navy seal - Navy Term? Sta. postmark none Rubber Stamp
USS New Orleans Picture of the USS New Orleans & TF-130 emblem - Honolulu postmark Black Printed
Other Ships Covers identical (except for the ship pictured) to the above USS New Orleans cover exist for the USS Beaufort, USS Bolster, USS Grapple and the USS Tawakoni Black Printed
USS New Orleans/USS Grapple An interesting cover from Tom Steiner with a USS Grapple Corner Card and ship's cachet plus a USS New Orleans Postmark. The cover was probably transferred from the USS Grapple which didn't have a post office to the USS New Orleans which did. See Scan Rubber Stamp
USS New Orleans3 An unusual Bob Boudwin 'Return to Port' cover postmarked 20 Feb 1974 Aqua Rubber Stamp
USS New Orleans Similar to above but with a different cachet Aqua Rubber Stamp
USS New Orleans Very interesting Skylab 1 postmark with a Skylab 4 postmark marked ATA-Space Unit-APS! Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS New Orleans Mission Emblem Cover Multicolour Printed
USS New Orleans Interesting Drawing on Back Multicolour Drawn
Beck B8963 With a previously unknown US Postal Service Hi 967 postmark! Black-Green-Red Printed
USS Beaufort3 A purple Skylab cachet plus an aqua text cachet Purple / Aqua Rubber Stamp
USS Opportune An unusual USS Opportune cachet Blue Rubber Stamp
USNS Vanguard An unusual pictorial cachet Greyscale Printed
 
Signed PRS Covers including Helicopter Recovery Covers - covers postmarked on 9th were actually aboard the PRS during recoveryvi
Postmark Description of Cover Postmark Date
USS New Orleans Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & crew of the main Recovery helicopter 001 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & 3 crew members of the Swim recovery helicopter 002 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Another Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot, co-pilot & crew of the ELS recovery helicopter. This cover appears to be incorrectly marked 003 instead of 006. Helicopter 003 may have been a spare. 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & crew of the Photo recovery helicopter 004 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & 3 crew members of the Relay recovery helicopter 005 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot, co-pilot & crew of the ELS recovery helicopter 006 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by the Maintenance Crew of HC-1 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Aircraft Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot of ARIA 2 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans PRS Cover signed by the Commanding Officer, Captain Neiger 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans2 Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & crew of the recovery helicopter 001 but also signed by other frogmen from the UDT-12 recovery team plus their destinctive UDT-12 Cachet 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans A different Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & crew of the recovery helicopter 001 Recovery Helicopter 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans A Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & 2 crew members of the Swim recovery helicopter 002 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Another Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot, co-pilot & crew of the Photo recovery helicopter 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans3 A Recovery Cover signed by four divers from UDT#12 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans4 This cover was signed by the three Skylab 4 Astronauts. It was probably not aboard the PRS during recovery. It has a solid killer bars postmark. 8 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans This cover was signed by the three Skylab 4 Astronauts. It was probably not aboard the PRS during recovery. It has a wavy killer bars postmark. See companion covers for Skylab 2 & 3. 8 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans A different Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & co-pilot of the ELS recovery helicopter 006 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans3 Another Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & crew of the ELS recovery helicopter 006 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Postcard with Skylab stamp & FDI postmark on picture side and USS New Orleans postmark on other side 9 Feb 1974
Houston Although not a PRS cover it is signed by 8 members of the UDT-12 team on a FDI Skylab stamp cover 14 May 1974
USS New Orleans Another Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot & crew of the recovery helicopter 001 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Another Helicopter Recovery Cover marked 8 Feb 1974 and signed by pilot, co-pilot, crew & swimmers of the Swim recovery helicopter. Late postmark is US Postal Service 12 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Wonderful cover signed by 12 members of the Recovery Team with the UDT-12 cachet 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans1a Another cover signed by 12 members of the Recovery Team with the UDT-12 cachet 9 Feb 1974
US Postal Service ??7
(possibly 967)
Late postmark signed by 3 swimmers from UDT 12 17 Mar 1974?
USS New Orleans A great cover signed by the three Skylab 4 (III) astronauts, the Commanding Officer Capt. Ralph E. Neiger, the TF-130 Commander and the Recovery helicopter pilot. 8 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Cover with Skylab cachet signed by the SWIM rescue helicopter crew 9 Feb 1974
USS New Orleans Cover signed by the six ELS swimmers with UDT-12 cachet 9 Feb 1974

 Notes General:
i) The USS Opportune was the launch site recovery ship for the launch on Nov. 16. The other ships, except for the USCGC Point Charles, were recovery ships for the splashdown on February 8. The role of the USCGC Point Charles is unknown but is likely to be as a launch site recovery ship.
ii) The USNS Redstone was stationed in port on standby
iii) The solid bar cancel was normally used only on parcels but the Postal Officer was pursuaded to also use it on envelopes for this mission. iv) Other dates for the USNS Vanguard are also known
v) These three ships were rotated with one on active duty at all times. The exact description of their duties is 'Duty salvage ship providing secondary landing area support until primary recovery ship active.'
vi) Air support consisted of five SB-3G helicopters from the primary recovery ship and two HC-130 rescue aircraft staged from McClellan Air Force Base, California. Three of the helicopters carried underwater demolition team personnel. The first, designated "Recovery" also carried the flight surgeon and was used for command module retrieval operations. The second helicopter, designated "Swim" served as backup to "Recovery" and aided in the retrieval of the forward heat shield. The third helicopter designated "ELS" (Earth Landing System), aided in the retrieval of two of the main parachutes. The fourth helicopter, designated "Photo" served as a photographic platform for motion-picture photography. The fifth helicopter, designated "Relay" served as a communications relay aircraft. The HC-130 aircraft, designated "McClellan Rescue 1" and "McClellan Rescue 2" were positioned to track the command module after it exited from S-band blackout, as well as to provide pararescue capability and to optimize the capability for locating the command module had it landed uprange or downrange of the target point. [Skylab Mission Report - Third Visit, JSC-08963]

Notes Other:
1) Sold on eBay during 2011 a) 2013 b) 2014
2) From the collection of Luc Jallot
3) From the collection of Tom Steiner
4) From the collection of Steve Durst

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