They did what?
June 8, 1959: The USS Barbero launches a missile. The Barbero was a Balao-class US Navy submarine. It was one of 128 subs built for use during World War II. They were larger and able to submerge deeper than older subs in use. They were equipped with diesel engines which powered electrical generators to drive the propeller shafts. Their shells were built of higher strength steel allowing for dives to 400 feet. Eight of the subs remain intact and are museum pieces now, open to the public for touring. Manufacture of the subs ended in 1946 with the last being taken out of commission in 1975.
USS Barbero (SS-317) was launched on December 12, 1943 and commissioned on April 20, 1944. She was decommissioned on June 30, 1950 and recommissioned on October 28, 1955. On this day, in conjunction with the United States Post Office Department the sub was used to test a faster method of mail delivery. In 1971 the names changed to the United States Postal Service or USPS. The USPS was copying the first successful rocket mail delivery in the US which took place on February 23, 1936. At that time two rockets were launched from New Jersey at Greenwood Lake and landed 1,000 feet away, on the New York shore.
On this day, the Barbero fired a Regulus cruise missile with its nuclear warhead replaced by two Post Office Department canisters. The Regulus missiles were first used on USS Tunny and USS Barbero in July 1953 when the two were the first nuclear deterrent patrol subs. The USPS containers were added at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station in Florida. The USPS officially established the submarine as a branch office for this test. There were 3,000 pieces of mail sent to Barbero while docked at Virginia. These were mainly commemorative covers addressed to government officials. Their four cent (domestic) and eight cent (international) stamps were cancelled “USS Barbero, Jun 8, 9:30 am 1959.”
Twenty-two minutes later, the missiles were launched with a pair of Aerojet-General 3KS-33,000 solid-propellant boosters. The turbojet engines sustained the long-range cruise flight after dropping the boosters. The missiles made their way back to land and arrived successfully with mail sent to Jacksonville, Florida for processing. The Postmaster General, Arthur E. Summerfield, was elated with the success. The Department of Defense saw the test as a demonstration of US missile capabilities and believed the cost for mail delivery to be prohibitively expensive.
This peacetime employment of a guided missile for the important and practical purpose of carrying mail, is the first known official use of missiles by any Post Office Department of any nation. – Arthur E. Summerfield
Before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail. – Arthur E. Summerfield
Discourse is fleeting, but junk mail is forever. – Joe Bob Briggs
I get mail; therefore I am. – Scott Adams
Also on this day:
We All Scream for Ice Cream – In 1786, the first advertisement for commercially made ice cream is published.
Uncle Miltie – In 1948, Texaco Star Theater debuted.
Newspeak – In 1949, George Orwell’s 1984 was published.