Submarines continued page 3

Collecting Submarine Covers – Page 3 of 4
by Ned Harris (USCS # 3608)

During World War II, 52 submarines out of a total of 288 were lost from various causes, and 374 officers and 3131 enlisted personnel were lost of the 16,500 that went on war patrols. Several USCS member specialize in collecting covers from these “sunk subs”.

The first nuclear submarine, U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571), was launched on 21 January 1954. The nuclear propulsion system, developed under the leadership of then Captain Hyman G. Rickover, was a major technological breakthrough and lead to today’s modern nuclear submarine force.

Cover documenting the 21 Jan 1954 launch of U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571)

The first ballistic missile submarine, U.S.S. George Washington (SSBN-578) was launched on 9 July 1959. The Polaris missile system was developed in parallel under the leadership of Rear Admiral W. F. Raborn. On 20 July 1960 the first Polaris missile was successfully launched from the submerged U.S.S. George Washington off Cape Canaveral, Florida. Forty additional Polaris submarines were built and provided a key component to the nuclear deterrent triad. Collectors have well documented the key events associated with these “41 for Freedom” submarines including their missile test firings.

Cover produced by the crew of the U.S.S. George Washington (SSBN-598) documenting the first firing of a Polaris missile from a submerged submarine


The U.S. nuclear submarines were also involved in several historic voyages that were well documented by their crews.

On 9 June 1958 Nautilus (SSN-571) departed Seattle, Washington on a classified mission designed to make a transit of the Arctic Ocean via the North Pole. On 19 June she entered the Chukchi Sea but was turned back by deep draft ice in these shallow waters. On the 28th she arrived at Pearl Harbor to await better ice conditions. By 23 July her wait was over and she set a course northward. She submerged in the Barrow Sea Valley on 1 August and on 3 August at 2315 (EDT) she became the first ship in history to reach the Geographic North Pole. From the North Pole, she continued on and after 96 hours and 1830 miles under ice, she surfaced NE of Greenland, having completed the first successful voyage across the North Pole. Approximately 1500 envelopes received the special cachet and 3 Aug 1958 North Pole postmark providing friends, relatives and selected VIPs with a wonderful souvenir of this historic voyage.


Nautilus North Pole Cover

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Cover of the Month:
USS Tutuila (PR-4)
Cover by
Steve Shay (#L-10821)
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