The Joseph T. Dickman and the cover here hits on a couple of great interests in my life. One is history, which I’m licensed to teach, and another is the Coast Guard, where I served. The final piece of the puzzle, of course, is philately.
The Joseph T. Dickman
The cover was mailed by a sailor aboard the Joseph T. Dickman during World War II. The ship was a large attack transport that carried troops throughout the European and Pacific theaters. Commissioned by the Navy, the Joseph T. Dickman and others of her class were crewed by 51 Coast Guard officers and 634 Coast Guard crew. They also carried 35 landing boats.
The Dickman was named for Major General Joseph Theodore Dickman (1857-1928), who commanded the Third Army from 15 November 1918 to 19 April 1919. He was a veteran of many campaigns, including the 1885-86 Apache War, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, the Boxer Rebellion, and World War I.
By the numbers:
- Builder: New York Shipbuilding Company, NY
- Length: 535′ 2″
- Beam: 72′ 4″
- Draft: 31′ 3″
- Displacement: 21,325 tons full-load
- Launched: 1922
- Top Speed: 17 knots
- Commissioned: 10 June 1941
- Decommissioned: 7 March 1946
- Disposition: Scrapped
- Complement: 693
- Armament: 4 x 3″
She participated in invasions of North Africa, Salerno, and D-Day, where she successfully unloaded her assault troops at Utah Beach without incident.
The ship arrived in Glasgow, Scottland, in February 1944 and spent the next several months training for the D-Day invasion. On this cover, the postmark is dated May 23, 1944. This is less than a month before the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944. The Dickman was in the final stages of preparation for the invasion of Normandy.
After Normandy, she also made five successful landings in Southern France as allies pressed the attack northward.
The Joseph T. Dickman headed to the Pacific after her need in Europe ended.
She carried troops to Guadalcanal and then began training for the invasion of Okinawa. During that battle, instead of assaulting the island, she stayed offshore, unloading cargo while also fighting off Japanese air attacks.
Later in the war, she sailed to Pearl Harbor and began conversion to a casualty evacuation ship in preparation for an anticipated attack on the Japanese mainland. However, the war ended before such an invasion was needed.
After the war, she was sailed to San Francisco and decommissioned. She was then transferred to the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In 1948 she was sold to Kaiser Co., for scrapping.
After a cursory search, I cannot find a Charlotte Flask matching the recipient. I do wonder who she is. What was she to the author of the letter? What did he write to her? It’s hard to know.
The cover signifies an important part of Coast Guard history. Coast Guardsmen have fought in every war in U.S. History, but the exact roles are often not very well known. Through this cover and with a little research, we learn of the Coast Guard’s role in manning transport ships during World War II.
A classic example of postal history leading to a greater understanding of history.