Recovery Ship Cover Varieties
Gemini 3 - USS Harold J. Ellison
(Revised 24 May 2016)
The U.S.S. HAROLD J. ELLISON (DD-864) is a Gearing Class destroyer and was built by the Bethlehem Steel Company. She was laid down by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation at Staten Island, New York on 3 October 1944, launched on 14 March 1945 by Mrs. Audrey Ellison, the widow of Ensign Ellison and commissioned on 23 June 1945.
When decommissioned in 1982, the ship was the United States Navy's oldest destroyer in active service and one of the most distinguished of her class. She was named in honour of Ensign Harold J. Ellison, USNR, who was killed in the Battle of Midway. In the 38 years since she was launched at Staten Island, New York, she saw service in many parts of the world including Europe, the Mediterranean and Vietnam. The later included a circumnavigated of the globe.
The ELLISON completed a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernisation in January 1963. At that time, she was equipped with the newest and the most advanced electronics an Anti-submarine warfare weapons. By that date she had also been equipped for and was later on station for two Spacecraft recovery missions, including Gemini 3 recovery operations. For Gemini 3 she was part of the Pacific Recovery Force.
By the start of the Gemini program, Morris Beck's covers and Navy rubber stamp cachets designed by Morris Beck had become so successful that they had displaced many other Recovery Ship cover producers. While some cover producers still used general program covers, few still produced specific Recovery ship covers. One interesting sideline is the collecting of the few non-standard covers and variations of the standard covers.
A good example of the later is the cover from the USS Ellison produced for the Gemini 3 mission. Most Recovery Ship covers consist of two main elements, the postmark and the cachet. However, USS Ellison covers add an extra element with the ship's cachet, usually applied to the back of the cover, in addition to the Navy or Beck cachet. However, this is only the beginning. Unlike most covers, the three elements appear in a number of colours, making the potential number of combinations quite large.
The postmark is known in three colours; black, blue and red. This is highly unusual as most postmarks only occurred in a single colour, usually black, or occasionally two colours. The black and blue postmarks are both common, whereas the red postmark seems to be rarer. Two Beck cacheted covers with gold postmarks have now been reported.
The Navy cachet is know in three colours, the common blue one and gold (yellow/brown) one and a less common red(pink) one, while the Beck cover also appears in two varieties, B525 and B526. The two Beck varieties were produced in approximately equal numbers. A recent discovery is a B5291 cover (designated for the USS Sarsfield) with a USS Ellison postmark. This cover may be unique.
The ship's cachet is known in three colours; blue, red and gold. The red cachet appears to be the most common.
Finally some covers have a small circular Morris Beck designed GT-3 cachet. Also see this one. This cachet can also be found on other GT-3 Recovery Ship covers.
The follow table shows the combinations I'm aware of.
Main Cachet Type
Main Cachet Colour
Ship's Cachet Colour
On 1 July 1972, the destroyer was assigned to the DesRon 34 of the Navy Reserve, pending an overhaul. The next cover commemorates the last day of postal service before the overhaul.
Harold J. Ellison was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 October 1983.
1) From the collection of W. Magnus
If anyone has a different combination of colours or a completely different cachet please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This especially applies to anyone with knowledge of a cover with a gold postmark.
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Last modified on 22 September 2020