HISTORIC AIRPLANES: Missile
In one of the most unusual airmail transportation methods, the postal service and defense department cooperated in an experiment using missiles to carry mail in 1959. On June 8 of that year,
a missile carrying 3,000 letters was fired from Navy submarine
U.S.S. Barbero to a Naval station at Mayport, Florida, one
hundred miles away. On hand for the service was Postmaster
General Arthur E. Summerfield, who boasted that missiles would
be able to speed mail across the U.S. and overseas. Among
the pieces of mail carried was a letter from President Dwight
the firing was deemed a success in landing safely at its target,
Summerfield's vision of mail-carrying missiles traveling
day and night did not come to be. Flashy as the service might
be, missiles would never carry enough mail to make their use
worthwhile. Also, the defense department was less interested
in delivering mail than scoring points on the accuracy and
magnitude of American missile capabilities at the height of
the cold war.
Rockets have also been used for carrying mail,
although with more frequency abroad than in the U.S. While
the Post Office Department had no official mail rocket program,
unofficial mail rocket launchings made occasional headlines.
One such launching even became an international incident.
On July 2, 1936, members of the American Legion Post in McAllen,
Texas, working with the son of one member and the local postmaster,
fired a rocket loaded with mail from McAllen, aiming for the
nearby Mexican side of the border. The first rocket blew up
in mid-air, sending its contents raining down in pieces. The
second rocket landed on a cantina in Reynosa, fortunately
without hurting anyone or causing much damage. Mexican officials
confiscated the second rocket and its contents.