(Updated February 2021)
Those who collect Recovery Ship covers, especially from the Gemini missions may have noticed the name W R Skelley on address labels from some of the covers, especially Beck Crew covers and other rare Beck covers. Who is W R Skelley? Firstly, let's see some examples. The earliest one I've seen comes from the collection of Steven Friedman. It is a USS Alstede cover from Mercury 7. Click on any scan to obtain a larger version.
And one from Mercury 8 thanks to Martin S. Rasmussen. It is a USS Norris cover.
Here is one from Mercury 9 (I have similar covers from the USS Harwood & USS Wasp). This is an important cover as it shows that Skelley was in the Navy. YNC USN stands for Yeoman Chief Petty Officer US Navy. It also shows that he was stationed at the Fleet Airborne Electronic Training Unit, Atlantic (FAETULANT), US Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia, home to the Atlantic Recovery Force.
Next we have some Gemini covers.
The first is a rare Beck Crew cover from Gemini 3.
The next is another Beck Crew cover from Gemini 4 thanks to Martin S. Rasmussen.
And a Beck Crew cover from Gemini 5.
Also thanks to Martin S. Rasmussen, a further Beck Crew cover from Gemini 6A.
The following is a possible one of a kind Beck B613 cover, designated for the USS Power but postmarked aboard the USS Wasp!
And yet another possible one of a kind Beck B604 cover, designated for the USS Waldron but postmarked aboard the USS Wasp!
And still another possible one of a kind Beck B640 cover, designated for the USS Goodrick but postmarked aboard the USS Boxer!
The next cover known is from Apollo 7 thanks again to Martin S. Rasmussen.
This cover is unusual in that the Skelley address label has been placed over a Clyde J Sarzin label (see below)? This brings up all kinds of questions. It is also a little unusual in that it is the first Secondary Recovery Ship cover seen since Mercury 9.
The latest known cover is from Apollo 9.
Two more covers with the Skelley address label has been placed over a Clyde J Sarzin label thanks to Woody Witt.
And another two from Apollo 4.
These covers raise a major question. Beck Crew covers were believed to have been sent to ship Postal Officers to distribute as they wished, as a thank you for postmarking Morris Beck's covers. It is believed that approximately 25 were sent with each group of normal Beck numbered covers. How did Skelley obtain so many different Crew covers? And how did he get covers designated for one ship postmarked on a different ship? Did he intercept the covers before they reached the ships and add his address label to some of them? Or did he know the various ship's Postal Officers and get them to send covers to him? And finally, who placed his label over that of Clyde Sarzin and why? These questions may never be answered!
Finally, it appears that Skelley was interested in other aspects of philately and was active in promoting the Scout movement as shown in the following brief article from a November 1962 paper. All in all a very interesting character.
The following articles give more information on Mr Skelley, Jr. (found inside Navy RSC covers by Don Hensley)
Further information on W. R. Skelley regarding Project Mercury and Gemini (from Morris Beck Covers thanks to Owen Murray and Jeff Mills.
If anyone has a cover earlier than Mercury 7 or other Apollo covers with Skelley's address label please send me a scan at Webmaster.
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Last modified on 18 February 2021