Mercury-Atlas 9 - 16 May 1963vi - L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.

Recovery Force Shipsiv


Designation Covers
Pacific (TF-130)
USS Kearsarge PRS - Carrier CVS-33 Y
USS John A. Bole SRS - Destroyer DD-755 Y
USS Chipola SRS - Oiler AO-63 N
USS De Haven SRS - Destroyer DD-727 Y
USS Duncan SRS - Radar Picket Destroyer DDR-874 Y
USS Epperson SRS - Destroyer DDE-719 Y
USS Fletcher SRS - Destroyer DD-445 Y
USS Frank Knox SRS - Radar Picket Destroyer DDR-42 Y
USS Kawishiwi SRS - Oiler AO-146 Xii
USS Lofberg SRS - Destroyer DD-759 Y
USS Mansfield SRS - Destroyer DD-728 Y
USS Taussig SRS - Destroyer DD-746 Y
USS John W. Thomason SRS - Destroyer DD-760 Y
Atlantic (TF-140)
USS Adroit SRS - Ocean Minesweeper MSO-509 N
USS Beatty SRS - Destroyer DD-756 Y
USS Compton SRS - Destroyer DD-705 Y
USS Davis SRS - Destroyer DD-937 Y (Scarce)
USS Gainard SRS - Destroyer DD-706 Y
USS Harwood SRS - Destroyer DD-861 Y
USS Hyman SRS - Destroyer DD-732 Y
USS Myles C. Foxi SRS - Destroyer DD-828 Y
USS Opportune SRS - Salvage & Rescue Ship ARS-41 N
USS Stalwart SRS - Oceam Minesweeper AM-493 (MSO-493) N
USS Wasp SRS - Carrier CVS-18 Y
Possibly/Probably Involved - More info to come
USS Nantahala Oiler - See Naval History and Heritage Command Site AO-60 Y
USS Corry Radar Picket Destroyer- Canary Island Recovery Ship - See USS Corry Website DDR-817 Y
USS McCaffery Destroyer DDE-860 Y
USS Purdy Destroyer DD-734 Y
USS Charles R. Ware Destroyer DD-865 Y
Tracking & Communication Ships
USAF Coastal Sentry TS - 28°30'N. latitude and 130°00'E. longitude, south of Japan T-AGM 15 N
USAF Rose Knot TS - 25°00'S. latitude and 120°00' W. longitude, near Pitcairn Island in the Pacific T-AGM 14 Xiii
USNS Range Tracker TS - 31°30' N. latitude and 173°00' E. longitude stationed near the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific T-AGM 1 Y
USNS Twin Falls TS - 31°3' N. latitude and 75°00' W. longitude between Florida and Bermuda T-AGM 11 N
Not Involved
USS Charles F. Adams Guided Missile Destroyer DDG-2 Y
USS Bache5 Destroyer DD-470 Y
USS Barry2 Destroyer DD-933 Y
USS Beale5 Destroyer DD-471 Y
USS Bennington2 Carrier CVS-20 Y
USS Bordelon5 Destroyer DD-881 Y
USS Brownson5 Destroyer DD-868 Y
USS Constellation5 Carrier CVA-64 Y
USS Conway5 Destroyer DDE-507 Y
USS Cony2 Destroyer DD-508 Y
USS Corry Radar Picket Destroyer DDR-817 Y
USS Eaton Destroyer DD-510 Y
USS Essex2 Carrier CVS-9 Y
USS Forest Royal Destroyer - was on tentative list to participate DD-872 Y
USS Forrest Sherman4 Destroyer DD-931 Y
USS Forrestal5 Carrier CVA-59 Y
USS Furse5 Destroyer DD-882 Y
USS Gyatt9 Destroyer DD-712 Y
USS Hancock2 Carrier CVA-19 Y
USS Hornet5 Carrier CVS-12 Y
USS Independence2 Carrier CVA-62 Y
USS Intrepid11 Carrier CVS-11 Y
USS Joseph P Kennedy5 Destroyer DD-850 Y
USS John King5 Guided Missile Destroyer DDG-3 Y
USS Kitty Hawk2 Carrier CVA-63 Y
USS Lake Champlain Carrier CVS-39 Y
USS Lexington2 Carrier CVS-16 Y
USS Meredith5 Destroyer DD-890 Y
USS Midway (a different cover5) Carrier CVA-41 Y
USS Murray (a different cover2) Destroyer DD-576 Y
USS O'Brien5 Destroyer DD-725 Y
USS Oriskany2 Carrier CVA-34 Y
USS William V. Pratt5 Destroyer DLG-13 Y
USS Radford5 Destroyer DD-446 Y
USS Ranger5 Carrier CVA-61 Y
USS Rogers5 Destroyer DD-876 Y
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt5 Carrier CVA-42 Y
USS Shangrila2 Carrier CVA-38 Y
USS Charles S. Sperry5 Destroyer DD-897 Y
USNS Huntsville Tracking Ship T-AGM 7 Y
USNS Kingsport5 Tracking Ship T-AG 164 Y
USNS Longview Tracking Ship T-AGM 3 Y
USNS Range Recoverer See also this version Tracking Ship T-AGM 2 Y
USNS Richfield Tracking Ship T-AGM 4 Y
USNS Sunnyvale Tracking Ship T-AGM 5 Y
USNS Watertown Tracking Ship T-AGM 6 Y

Postmark Variationsix
Ship Description of Postmark Scarcity
USS Kearsarge Machine Cancel Medium Rarity
USS Kearsarge Hand Cancel Very Rare
USS Kearsarge10 Hand Cancel Variation Only 1 Seen
USS Kearsarge10 Hand Cancel Variation Only 1 Seen
USS De Haven De Haven at bottom of postmark Common
USS De Haven De Haven at top of postmark Hard to find
USS Fletcher Normal Black Postmark Common
USS Fletcherxi Dark Maroon Postmark Only 1 Seen
USS John W. Thomason Ship's name on bottom of postmark - AM time slug Common
USS John W. Thomason12 Ship's name on top of postmark - PM time slug Only 1 Seen
USS John W. Thomason

Ship's name on bottom of postmark - PM time slug. See also this one.13

USNS Range Tracker Hand Cancel Rare
USNS Range Tracker1 Machine Cancel Rare
USS Charles R Ware 15 May A.M. Common
USS Charles R Ware 15 May P.M. Common
USS Charles R Ware 16 May A.M. - May Not Exist Not Seen
USS Charles R Ware 16 May P.M. Common
USS Charles R Ware 16 May No Time Slug U/K
USS Wasp5 A double circle USS Wasp New York postmark Only 1 seen

General Cachets
Cachet Description of Cachet Colours Type
Beck Cachet Shows world map and Mercury capsule Red-Black-Blue Printed
Goldcraft Cachet Shows Mercury Capsule & Recovery ship Yellow1, Blue, Brown5, Possibly Others Printed
Boerger Cachets
(A.B. Covers)
a) b) c)
Other designs may exist
Blue Printed
Sokolsky Cachets Other designs exist Various Printed
Schultz Cachet  Shows Mercury capsule with data on the mission. Maroon, Redxii Rubber Stamp
Fuerst Cachet 1 Shows drawing Mercury capsule, ship & sunrise plus text Bicolour - Various Rubber Stamp
Fuerst Cachet 2 Small circular multicolor cachet Multicolour Printed
Fuerst Cachet 3 The 'Pacific Recovery Force MAJ. L. Gordon Cooper, Jr" appears on all the Fuerst 1 cachets, it also appears on other cachet makers covers such as Morris Beck. Maroon, Green Rubber Stamp
Fuerst Cachet 4 As above but for Atlantic Recovery Force. See this Donald Schultz cover. Green, Black Rubber Stamp
Lorraine Carlson Cachet Atlantic Shows Mercury capsule and Recovery Force
'Salute to U.S. Atlantic Fleet'
Blue Printed
Lorraine Carlson Cachet Pacific Shows Mercury capsule and Recovery Force
'Salute to U.S. Pacific Fleet'
Blue Printed
Highway Stamp Club Cachet Shows NASA Emblem  Blue Rubber Stamp
Type 1 Somewhat similar to Schultz - capsule is larger & text different Maroon Rubber Stamp
Type 2  Simple Drawing of Mercury capsule marked 'MA-9 Recovery Force' Maroon, Black Rubber Stamp
Type 3 Shows a rocket, capsule under parachutes and the PRS - This cachet is hard to find Black-Red Printed
Type 4 Text Cachet in large Ellipse Red Printed
Type 5 Shows Cooper in Hawaii Greyscale Printed
Type 6 Gordon's 22 Orbits Faith 7 Recovery Force Black Rubber Stamp
Type 7 Small General Destroyer Cachet shows a destroyer Maroon Rubber Stamp
Type 8 Small detailed capsule cachet +  text. Incorrect capsule Black Rubber Stamp
Type 9 Similar to Type 8 but with a different capsule Black Rubber Stamp
Type 10 A different small capsule Green Rubber Stamp
Karcher Kover
Type 1
Beautiful Multicolour cachet shows half-earth and rocket in flight. Produced by Frederick L. Karcher of Karcher Kover - Condition .... Go, Go, Go! Also see this one. Various Printed
Karcher Kover
Type 2
Beautiful Multicolour cachet shows half-earth and rocket in flight. Produced by Frederick L. Karcher of Karcher Kover - Its Gordo all the Way Various Printed
Gordon Cachet Type 1 ON STATION FOR ASTRONAUT COOPER Purple Rubber Stamp
Gordon Cachet Type 2 MAJOR L. GORDON COOPER 4TH AMERICAN IN ORBIT etc. Purple Rubber Stamp
Joe Frasketi Cachet Type 1 Text cachet 'L. GORDON COOPER JR. 22 ORBIT SPACE FLIGHT etc. Red, Black Rubber Stamp
Joe Frasketi Cachet Type 26 Cachet shows a Mercury capsule. Usually with above text. The cachet also exists with a smaller version of the capsule. Various but mainly Red-Black or Black-Red Rubber Stamp
United States Destroyer Mail Cachet shows an emblem including mermaids and ships Black Printed
Mike Brock Cachet Cachet of an amusing Man in the Moon Black Printed
Charsabatano Sbatano Cachet xiii Cachet shows waving Cooper, spacecraft & earth Red Rubber Stamp

Beck Cachet Numbers


Beck Numbers


Beck Numbers

USS Kearsarge 323 USS Beatty 333
USS John A. Bole 318 USS Compton 335
USS De Haven 322 USS Gainard 331
USS Duncan 321 USS Harwood 339
USS Epperson 326 USS Hyman 338
USS Fletcherviii 317 USS Myles C. Fox 332
USS Frank Knox 320 USS Wasp 341
USS Lofberg 325 Possibly Involved  
USS Mansfield 319 USS Corry 342
USS Taussig 324 USS McCaffery 337
USS John W. Thomason 327 USS Nantahala 334
    USS Purdy 340
    USS Charles R. Ware 336

Interesting Cachets & Covers (including Ship Cachets)
Cachet Description of Cachet Colours Type
USS Kearsarge Ship's cachet Maroon, Blackv Rubber Stamp
USS Kearsarge Ship's cachet with a Cape Canaveral postmark Black Rubber Stamp
USS Kearsarge USS Kearsarge cover with a Type 3 cachet and a hand cancel Maroon & Black Rubber Stamp & Printed
USS Kearsarge A different text cancel Maroon & Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Kearsarge Interesting Project Mercury Team stick-on Multicolour Stick-on
USS Kearsarge Aerogram with a Hand cancel Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Kearsarge / USNS Range Tracker A USS Kearsarge cover with a USNS Range Tracker corner card and a MSTS cachet. Maroon & Black Rubber Stamp
USS Epperson Ship's cachet Black Rubber Stamp
USS Fletcher Ship's cachet Black Rubber Stamp
USS Hyman Ship's cachet Maroon Rubber Stamp
Versatile Spearhead of Seapower Shows the Earth and an orbital path Black Rubber Stamp
USS Epperson Interesting cover has three cachets; a Type 5 plus the ship's cachet on the front and a Schultz cachet on the back - first seen Maroon & Black, Black plus Maroon Rubber Stamp
USS Mansfield A very interesting cover with a Desron 9 cachet in addition to a KK cachet and signed by the Commanding Officer Various Printed & Rubber Stamp
USS Frank Knox On a general US Project Mercury cover B/W Printed
USS Frank Knox Michael Herbert Cachet (1 of 1) shows the Destroyer. Similar cachets are available for other ships Greyscale Printed
USS Gainard Black Mercury capsule cachet Black Rubber Stamp
USS Lake Champlain2 A general MA-9 cachet Brown Printed
USS Wasp Houston Philatelic Society cachet Blue & Red Printed
USS Wasp4c Wonderful cover and letter from a member of  the U.S. Navy Carrier Anti-Submarine Air Group 52 on the USS Wasp. Probably printed aboard the Carrier. First one seen. Red & Black Printed
USS Wasp4e Shows sketch of the USS Wasp Black Printed

Signed PRS Covers including Helicopter Recovery Covers - these covers were actually aboard the PRS during recovery
Postmark Description of Cover Postmark Date
USS Kearsarge An interesting PRS Cover postmarked at Cape Canaveral and signed by the Commanding Officer Captain E. P. Rankin. Here is the equivalent Crew Cover . 15 May 1963
USS Kearsarge PRS cover signed  by the Commanding Officer Captain E. P. Rankin. 16 May 1963
USS Kearsarge Both a Lorraine Carlson and a ship's cachet and signed by the Commanding Officer 16 May 1963
USS Kearsarge Beck B323 cover signed by a future Commanding Officer, Capt. Merle Murray Hershey 16 May 1963
USS Kearsarge7 A very rare Beck Crew cover with the ship's cachet on the front and signed by the Commanding Officer Captain E. P. Rankin. Another was sold on eBay during 2013. 16 May 1963
USS Kearsarge8 Great Helicopter Recovery Cover signed by the Pilot Mead Massa and co-pilot! First one seen. And with an associated letter from Massa. 16 May 1963
USS Fletcher4a Signed by the Supply Officer 15 May 1963

Notes General:
i) A letter from the US Navy suggests that the USS Myles C. Fox was not involved in Mercury 9. However, other sources state that it was involved.
ii ) A single standard cover has been reported from the USS Kawishiwi. In addition two inter-ship covers from the USS Kawishiwi to the USS Thomason exist. One such cover is illustrated.
iii ) Steve Durst has a Rose Knot cover postmarked in Tahiti on 22 April 1963, just prior to Astronaut Gordon Cooper's flight
iv ) The Mediterranean Sea Recovery Force (TF 109), consisting of two Destroyers, was on Standby
v ) The black cachet is extremely scarce. Most are signed by the Commanding Officer such as this one. A second example.
vi ) Liftoff was posponed from 14 May due to problems with the launch vehicle gantry and a computer problem at the Bermuda tracking station after being originally delayed from February.
viii ) A small number of Beck B317 covers have been found with different postmarks including the PRS USS Kearsarge. Morris Beck sent a second batch of 42 B317 covers to the Navy (the first batch consisted of 311 covers plus 25 crew covers). Since the ship's name is not printed on the cover, the covers may have been distributed in any manner by the Navy. See Owen Murray's website .
ix ) See article 'A Study of MA-9 Postmarks' for a full list of variations in dates
x ) These covers mark the launch scrub of 14 May
xi) Postmark is a very dark maroon (much darker than appears in the scan) which actually appears black under compact fluorescent light. Only one copy has been seen.
xii) Only one red cachet has been seen on the back of a USS Kearsarge
xiii) See this note11 for a list of the ship's that were cacheted.

Notes Other:
1) From the collection of Steve Durst
2) From the collection of Eddie Bizub
3) From Owen Murray's website
4) Sold on eBay in 2009 a) 2015 b) 2018 c) 2021 d) 2022 e) 2023
5) From the collection of Tom Steiner
6) From the collection of Joe Frasketi
7) Thanks to Owen Murray's website with a cover from the collection of Martin Schwebs Rasmussen.
8) From the collection of Timothy Preston
9) From the collection of Roland Mantovani
10) From the collection of Lee Kok How
11) From the collection of Anthony O'Brien
12) From the collection of Andre Gutmann
13) From the collection of Eugenio Vespiano

This page © Dr Ross J Smith
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Last modified on 15 September 2023