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  Space Cover 71: USS Essex & Apollo 1 Fire

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 71: USS Essex & Apollo 1 Fire

Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 08-22-2010 07:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 71 (August 22, 2010)

USS Essex, CVS-9, the Designated Primary Recovery Ship for the Apollo 204 Mission, Later Renamed the Apollo 1 Mission; Ship's Cover Cancelled the Day After the Tragic Fire that Claimed the Lives of the Crew, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

Space Cover #71, USS Essex Ship Covers for the Apollo 1 Fire Tragedy

USS Essex, CVS-9, Morris Beck Printed Cachet Cover, for Recovery of the Apollo 205 Mission, Apollo 7, but with the Apollo 204 Beck Cachet, in Memory of the Crew Members Who Lost Their Lives in the Apollo Fire. This Rare USS Essex Recovery Ship's Cover is Shown Courtesy of the Space Unit's Eddie Bizub (ex Richard Learn collection).

At ChicagoPex 2010 in Oak Brook, Illinois, held only two weeks ago, an unusual ship's cover was found for the USS Essex, CVS-9, the ship that would have been the primary recovery ship for the recovery of the first manned Apollo flight, Apollo 204. The cover is unusual in that a ship's cover was known for the Apollo 7 recovery, October 22, 1968, paying homage to the crew lost in the Apollo 1 fire, but this cover just found was quite different. It was postmarked the day after the tragic oxygen fed conflagration at Launch Complex-34, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, that claimed the lives of the prime crew, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. The crew was the crew that would have made the USA's first manned Apollo space flight. This newly found USS Essex cover is pictured at the top of the page with a ship's rubber-stamped cachet and a black memorial border in memory of the lost crew.

Previous to this, a USS Essex Beck printed cachet cover was known for the successful recovery by the ship of the Apollo 7 crew, the backup crew that replaced Grissom, White, and Chaffee in the flight rotation. This rare cover has an Apollo 1 Beck printed cachet instead of the normal Apollo 7 Beck cachet. The second cover at the top of the page is from the collection of Richard Learn and now owned by Eddie Bizub is highly sought by ship and space cover collectors and is an extremely difficult and very desirable cover to find.

So, an important cover surfaces forty-three years after this deadly Apollo 1 fire that claimed the lives of this beloved crew and destroyed the operational Apollo 204 spacecraft. The flight of Apollo 1 would have set America's course to fulfill President Kennedy's goal of "...landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Ironically, the cover discovered from the USS Essex, the ship that would have recovered the crew, was found in Oak Brook, Illinois, in the greater Chicagoland area, and appropriately cancelled on the day after the fire that claimed their lives.

A memorial plaque later was posted at LC-34 and dedicated to the living memory of the lost crew of Apollo 1, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. The plaque reads as follows, "They gave their lives in service to their country in the ongoing exploration of humankind's final frontier. Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived." The USS Essex ship's cover found at ChicagoPex only two weeks ago and cancelled the day after the deaths of the crew in this tragic fire is a fitting memorial to their memory and gives homage to this capable crew taken before their time.

Since returning from ChicagoPex, the author was surprised to find that a second cover was in the same glassine envelope as the cover pictured at the top of this article. If there are two Apollo 1 memorial covers from USS Essex, the designated primary recovery ship, are there more?

Steve Durst SU 4379

Bob M

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-22-2010 09:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve (and Eddie) - thanks for sharing these two exceptional covers with us. This is a good example that there are many space cover treasures out there just waiting to be discovered by those willing to look.

Eddie Bizub

Posts: 32
From: Kissimmee, FL USA
Registered: Aug 2010

posted 08-22-2010 05:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Eddie Bizub   Click Here to Email Eddie Bizub     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Glad I could help! Always willing to share rare covers from my collection. I too have a similar 1/28/67 USS Essex cover in my collection. Its been there for many years and I never knew how scarce it was. I just assumed that if Harry Gordon produced them then he did at least a handful of them. Just proves you have to keep looking because you never know what is out there!


Posts: 1239
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 08-22-2010 06:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hey, welcome to cS, Eddie!

And congrats to both you and Steve on these covers!

All times are CT (US)

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