On the surface, the cover is plain on the front. A stamp. An address. A postmark.
It is often … frustrating when someone is actually looking at my collection and they see just that plain jane cover.
But there’s more to it, right?
This is where the interest begins, but you can’t casually scan the envelope.
There are two postmarks on the front of this cover.
The earliest is May 31, 1974, USCGC Southwind. This cover was originally postmarked aboard the Southwind, a Coast Guard ice breaker.
Then she was postmarked again on June 9, 1974 by the US Postal Service.
When you flip the envelope over (not all good stuff is on the front), there’s more.
There you’ll find a nice ink stamp (not really a cachet) referring to the Southwind as a “polar prowler” and referencing visits to the “top and bottom of the world.”
This makes it a great addition to my USCG postal history collection.
The USCGC Southwind (WAGB-280) has served the Coast Guard twice, the US Navy, and even the Soviet Union once! An outline is below, but you can get a more detailed account of her history here.
The ship was laid down in 1942 and completed in 1943, and commissioned as the Wind-Class Icebreaker USCGC Southwind (WAG-280) in 1944.
She was a serious ice breaker. I mean, The Red Cedar, on which I served, broke some ice, but we were only on rivers.
In March, 1945, she was decommissioned and transferred to the USSR, where she was renamed the Admiral Makarov, part of the Soviet merchant marine fleet.
In 1949, she was returned to the US and in 1950 was commissioned as the USS Atka, serving in the United State’s Atlantic fleet.
Finally, in 1966, she returned to her rightful home in the US Coast Guard, recommissioned as the USCGC Southwind (WAGB-280). During this time, she made six Arctic and three Antarctic deployments.
The Southwind had the distinction of, in 1971, being the first U.S. warship to visit the Soviet Union since the start of the cold war, when she visited Murmansk. There, she took on a boilerplate from the Apollo program that had been recovered by a Soviet fishing vessel.
She was decommissioned May 31, 1974 – the same date as the first postmark on this envelope – and sold for scrap.
A great cutter with a great history. And an interesting add to my collection.