Apollo 8 (AS-503) - 27 December 1968

Recovery Force Ships
Ship Type Designation Covers
USS Chukawan SRS - Oiler AO-100 Y
USS Guadalcanal SRS - Carrier LPH-7 Y
USS Francis Marion SRS - Amphibious Transport LPA-249 Y
USS Rankiniii SRS - Amphibious Cargo Ship AKA-103 Y
USS Salinan SRS - Fleet Ocean Tug AFT-161 Y
USS Sandoval SRS - Amphibious Transport LPA-194 Y
USNS Vanguardi SRS - Tracking Ship (Dual Role) T-AGM-19 Y
USS Yorktown PRS - Carrier CVS-10 Y
USS Arlington SRS - Communication Relay Ship AGMR-2 Y (Scarce)
USS Chipola SRS - Oiler AO-63 Y
USS Cochrane SRS - Guided Missile Destroyer DDG-21 Y
USS Nicholas SRS - Anti-Sub Destroyer DD-449 Y
On Standbyii
USS Rupertus* SRS - Destroyer DD-851 Y
Tracking & Communication Ships
USNS Redstone TS - Pacific T-AGM 20 Y
USNS Huntsville TS - Pacific T-AGM 7 Y
USNS Vanguardi  & The Second Type TS - Atlantic T-AGM 19 Y
USNS Mercury TS - Pacific T-AGM 21 Y
Recovery Control Center
Norfolk VA Atlantic Recovery Control Center N/A Y
Kunia HI Pacific Recovery Control Center N/A Y (Hard to Find)
Not Involved
USS Paiute3 Fleet Ocean Tug ATF-159 Y
USNS Watertown7 Tracking Ship T-AGM-6 Y
* corner card dated Dec 27 - cover postmarked Jan 17
Postmark Variations
Ship Description of Postmark Scarcity
USS Yorktown Machine Cancel Common
 USS Yorktown Hand Cancel - see interesting News article  Scarce
USS Guadalcanal 'A.M.' below year Common
USS Guadalcanal 'A.M.' above year Less Common
USS Francis Marion Ship Name at Top of Postmark Common
USS Francis Marion6 Ship Name at Bottom of Postmark - Beck 774 Only One Seen
USS Arlington3 Dec 21 1968 Postmark - Also this one7 Scarce
USS Arlington Dec 27 1968 Postmark Scarce
USS Chipola7 Dec 21 1968 Postmark Scarce
USS Chipola Dec 27 1968 Postmark Common

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

Designed by Morris Beck it shows an Apollo rocket vertical

 Maroon, Black Rubber Stamp
Navy Recovery Force Cachet - Pacific

Designed by Morris Beck it shows an Apollo rocket vertical

 Maroon, Black Rubber Stamp
Beck Cachet - Atlantic Similar to Navy Cachet Blue-Red Printed
Beck Cachet - Pacific4 Similar to Navy Cachet  Light&DarkGreen-Black Printed
Artopages Artopages cachet with a maroon Navy cachet on top Orange & Blue Printed
Gordon Cachet Apollo 8 lands after a trip to the moon etc Purple, Maroon, Blue8 Rubber Stamp
Unknown Cachet 1 Splashdown & Recovery Operation - Type 1 B&W Printed
Unknown Cachet 2 Recovery Operation B&W Printed
Unknown Cachet 3 Splashdown & Recovery Operation - Type 2 B&W Printed
Unknown Cachet 4 Splashdown & Recovery Operation - Type 3 B&W Printed

Navy Recovery Force Cachet Colours & Beck Cachet Numbers


Known Cachet Colours

Beck Numbers

USS Chukawan Black small numbers of 773 to 776
USS Guadalcanal Black 772
USS Francis Marion Black small numbers of 773 to 776
USS Rankin Black small numbers of 773 to 776
USS Sandoval Black small numbers of 773 to 776
USS Yorktown Maroon 770, 771
USS Chipola Maroon None
USS Cochrane Maroon None
USS Nicholas Maroon None
USS Rupertus Maroon None
USNS Vanguard Black small numbers of 773 to 776

Interesting Cachets & Covers
Cachet Description of Cachet Colours Type
USS Yorktown Navy Cachet with Corner Card Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Yorktown Late Postmark with Ship's Cachet and corner card and Note Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Yorktown2 Similar to above cover but marked 'Return to Port' Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Rupertusii Unusual US Navy Recovery Force - Corner Card dated Dec 27 - Postmark Jan 17 Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Rupertusii,iv Navy Cachet - Even later postmark - 30 Jun 1969 Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Rupertusii,3 NASA Apollo 8 cachet - Postmark Dec 21 All Red Rubber Stamp
USS Chipola Navy cachet on top of an unusual splashdown cachet Maroon / B&W Rubber Stamp
/ Printed
USS Chipola7 Same cachet as for the Rupertus - different colours on an embossed envelope Blue/Maroon/Red Rubber Stamp
USS Chukawan Late postmark - Additional ship's cachet Black / Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Cochrane Same cachet as for the Rupertus - different colours Green/Blue/Red Rubber Stamp
USS Cochrane3 Unusual US Navy Recovery Force Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Cochrane Ship's Cachet - Usually on Back Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Guadalcanal Ship's Cachet - Usually on Back Black Rubber Stamp
USS Guadalcanal  Manned Spacecraft Recovery Force Atlantic cachet Black Rubber Stamp
USS Guadalcanal Interesting Navy cachet is missing the text 'Moon Orbital Flight' Black Rubber Stamp
USS Francis Marion Ship's Cachet - Usually on Back Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Sandoval Ship's Cachet - Usually on Back - although it can also be found on the front of a small number of covers. Note that these postmarked late - Jan 6 1969 Black Rubber Stamp
USNS Vanguard3 A better example of the Navy cachet version Black Rubber Stamp

Signed PRS Covers including Helicopter Recovery Covers - these covers were actually aboard the PRS during recovery
Postmark Description of Cover Postmark Date

USS Yorktown1a

PRS Cover signed by the ship's CO, the recovery heli pilot and one other 27 Dec 1968

USS Yorktown1a

Great PRS cover signed by Borman, Lovell & 3 others. Includes the Commanding Officer's corner card and signature. 27 Dec 1968
USS Yorktown9 PRS Cover signed by Richard Korth, a member of the recovery team, and his wife. 27 Dec 1968
USS Guadalcanal Pacific Carrier cover signed by crew of the main Recovery helicopter 21 Dec 1968
USS Guadalcanal5 Beck B774 cover signed by an Admiral 21 Dec 1968

Notes General:
i ) The USNS Vanguard had a dual role, firstly as a tracking ship and then it was moved to a different
position and acted as a Secondary Recovery Ship. Hence, two quite different cachets exist.
ii ) The USS Rupertus was on standby in port but was never activated
iii ) On Recovery day, the 27 December 1968, the designation of the USS Rankin was AKA-103. However, this was due to change on 1 January 1969 to LKA-103. Thus during Apollo 8 its correct designation was AKA-103. However, the story doesn't end there. It appears from an examination of a couple of dozen covers that someone decided to cut out the initial A from the postmark several days before the changeover! This has not been generally recognised, probably due to the usual poor state of USS Rankin postmarks from the mission.
iv) It is reported that the USS Rupertus cacheted covers up to 6 months after the recovery.

Notes Other:
1) Sold on eBay during 2011 a) 2013
2) From the collection of Robert Mcleod
3) From the collection of Tom Steiner
4) From the collection of Steve Durst
5) From the collection of Martin Schwebs Rasmussen
6) From Owen Murray's Morris Beck US Navy Covers website
7) From the collection of Gerard Zonneveld
8) From the collection of Timothy Preston
9) From the collection of Lee Kok How

This page © Dr Ross J Smith
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Last modified on 1 July 2023