Blast from the past

Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield, fourth from left, postal officials and U.S. Navy personnel watch the loading of missile mail into the Navy submarine USS Barbero.

You know mail has been delivered by automobile, airplane and the Pony Express, but did you know it’s also been sent via missiles?

On June 8, 1959, 3,000 letters were launched by a U.S. Navy submarine in a nuclear-capable turbojet cruise missile. The letters landed at a naval station in Mayport, FL, after a 20-minute flight.

The launch was “an obvious and self-admitted stunt,” the Popular Mechanics site noted in a recent retrospective. All 3,000 letters were written by then-PMG Arthur Summerfield, who was an enthusiastic proponent of delivering mail via missiles.

“Before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to England, to India or to Australia by guided missiles,” Summerfield said.

History proved otherwise, but this experiment is seen today as an example of the Post Office Department’s pioneering spirit.

“The slight improvement missiles might have offered just wasn’t worth the inflated cost, and the first official missile mail would also be the last. But boy was it ever a delivery to remember,” Popular Mechanics noted.