Operation Windmill 1947-48

A Postal History Gallery


The USS EDISTO cover illustrated to your left gives a view of the entire cover bearing both the printed cachet, designed by Walter F. Holtgreve, and the special cancel. A closer look at the cachet clarifies the wording, the dotted course of the vessels, the reference points and the initials of the cachet designers. The cachet was printed in green, of which several shades are known.

The initial covers serviced had the wording South / Pole / 1947-48 between the killer bars. However, when the participants realized the South Pole would certainly never be apropos for the expedition, the wording was changed to read Little / America / 1947-48, which actually was visited between January 31 and February 5, 1948. . .

If you look closely, just above the point of the red arrow, you can spot the initials of the cachet designers, Glen R. Krause (who participated on Windmill) and Walter F. Holtgreve.



 It should most definitely be mentioned here that regular mail exists from the USS EDISTO during the cruise bearing the ships official canceling device without wording between the killer bars. Uncacheted covers of this type are known from November 6, 1947 (when the vessel departed Norfolk, VA) up until late March 1948 when she returned to that same port.

Elusive as the covers are from the USS EDISTO during this cruise, they can be considered relatively common when compared to the availability of those found from the USS BURTON ISLAND (AG-88) which accompanied the USS EDISTO. Most importantly, there are no known printed covers which bear the USS BURTON ISLAND cancel. The few covers known from this vessel during the expedition are uncacheted and generally have cancellation dates of late March, 1948, when she was approaching her home port of San Pedro, CA, which was reached on April 1, 1948. Extremely lucky is the collector who can show a USS BURTON ISLAND cover canceled while the vessel was in Antarctic waters. . .



Upon arrival at the Bay of Whales on January 31, 1948, then only 100 yards wide, the ships moored against the bay ice and parties went ashore. The Weasels were hoisted out and for the next five days, Captain Boyd, USMC and Ensign Mallory directed studies of the structures and equipment left at the former bases, Little America III (1940) and IV (1947). The USS BURTON ISLAND called all parties back to the ship on February 5.


Since 1939, the only privately organized expedition from the United States has been the RONNE ANTARCTIC RESEARCH EXPEDITION.. Ronne's expedition was quite small when compared to scientific expeditions of today. However, significant accomplishments were made during the expedition. A number of governmental agencies, including the Army, Navy and Air Force helped in making the expedition possible, particularly by providing equipment. Individuals from other government agencies provided advice and assistance as well. The expedition's Main Base was set up on Stonington Island, Marguerite Bay, in the buildings used as East Base during Byrd's 3rd Antarctic expedition, the UNITED STATES ANTARCTIC SERVICE EXPEDITION 1939-41. This vicinity was also home to the Falkland Islands Dependencies "Base E" campsite, under the command of Major K. S. Pierce-Butler. A very good relationship was established between the men and as a consequence, some scientific work was shared between the groups. In January 1948, preliminary preparations were made to bring the expedition to an end.

Departure had originally been planned for mid-March, as Ronne assumed the bay ice would be clear enough for their ship, PORT OF BEAUMONT, to get out. Cold weather returned in February, indicating an early Antarctic autumn, risking the probability of another ice-locked winter season. At the same time, the U.S. Navy Task Force 39, consisting of the icebreakers USS BURTON ISLAND and USS EDISTO were approaching the vicinity of Marguerite Bay on their way home from the conclusion of OPERATION WINDMILL . As a result of conversations between Ronne and Commander Gerald Ketchum, USN, of the Task Force, it was agreed that the icebreakers would come to Stonington Island to break a passage for the PORT OF BEAUMONT to open water. The operation was a success, having been accomplished on February 20, 1948. This cover, officially an OPERATION WINDMILL cover, was run ashore, and posted at the Falkland Islands Dependencies "Base E" on the day the USS BURTON ISLAND broke through. To make things even more interesting, the year date is incorrectly applied (1947 rather than 1948).