UDT 4: The HIGHJUMP Cachets

Walter L. Cary, USN
Gunner's Mate Second Class

In 1995, naval historian and OPERATION HIGHJUMP postal history specialist Joseph Lynch, Jr. examined various research group cachets used on Highjump mail and published his results in a most interesting article of the JUL-SEP issue of the Ice Cap News, the official journal of the American Society of Polar Philatelists. In his column, Joe stated that "Perhaps unique in the realm of Antarctic cachets is the Underwater Demolition Team 4 cachet." Joe has since indicated that his research of the UDT 4 cachets was originally conducted in the mid-70's and that, quite frankly, he had always been suspicious of the very existence of the cachets since he had only seen a black-and-white photocopy of them on a single occasion. In September 2004, the existence of these cachets was authenticated when the daughter of Walter Cary sent a beautiful example to me ... the UDT 4 cachets on cover. Supporting documentation included personal letters to Walter's mother, a diary, newspaper clippings and photographs. I hope you enjoy reading Walter's story and supporting documentation as it pertains to the UDT 4 cachets, the "Holy Grail" of Operation Highjump postal history.

Gary Pierson

Walter L. Cary was attending West End High School in Birmingham, AL, when he enlisted in the Naval Reserve. He was just 17 years old on this day in July, 1944. He immediately volunteered for underwater demoliton training and upon acceptance into the program, Walter split his training between Camp Peary, VA. and Fort Pierce. Walter Cary was preparing to sail with his demoliton team to participate in the invasion of Japan when the war suddenly ended. As a result, Walter and his mates sailed to Hawaii for more training before going to Japan to help clear the waters of mines and underwater navigation hazards. He spent nearly a year in Japan before returning to the states whereupon he enlisted in the regular navy for two years.Walter was hand-picked from a team of demolition experts to participate in OPERATION HIGHJUMP. The team, UDT 4, consisted of 26 men and five officers. Their assignment was to keep "the channel of an Antarctic harbor" ice-free during the expedition. In a telephone call to his mother, Walter explained how his team would have to explode an estimated six square miles of ice daily to carry out their mission.

Another young man from Tampa FL, Mike O'Conner, would participate in OPERATION HIGHJUMP. O'Conner enlisted in the US Navy in December, 1942, just before he began his junior year at Hillsborough High School. Following boot camp, he was stationed aboard the Naval Transport USS ELMORE. Mike went on to participate in seven major engagements in the Pacific Theater and in the liberation of the Philippine Islands. He was coxswain of one of the landing craft operating from the USS ELMORE on numerous beachhead assaults. In late 1946, Mike found himself in charge of a group of men aboard the USS PINE ISLAND that was responsible for maintaining the platforms on the forward deck of the ship which were used to carry three PBM patrol planes, a small scout plane and two helicopters.


The Letters . . . The Diary


MALA Type B / Hand Cancel Type II / UDT 4 Cachet
Mrs. Velva Cary, Walter's mother, was a widow by the time her son "sailed with Byrd" to the Antarctic. Walter was only 7 years old when he lost his father. Although addressed to the family home in Tampa, this letter had to be forwarded to Rochester, NY, where Velva was staying with her daughter (Walter's sister).
NOV 27, 1946
  Underwater demoliton team four went aboard MOUNT OLYMPUS, flagship for Antarctic operation.
NOV 28, 1946
  The team was given a 4 day pass over Thanksgiving holiday.
NOV 29, 1946
  Twenty seven husky dogs came aboard. Had a ship dance and beer party.
NOV 30, 1946
  All loaded ready for OPERATION HIGHJUMP.
DEC 1, 1946
  Correspondents came aboard.
DEC 2, 1946
  Admiral Richard E. Byrd came aboard ship. Went ashore around 12:30. We shoved off from pier 3 Norfolk VA at 1300. Cold and heavy waves.
DEC 3, 1946
  Around Cape Hatteras and now have calm sea.
DEC 4, 1946
  Second day out, team is working with crew. I am on fire control.
DEC 5, 1946
  NORTH WIND having trouble, pulled into Jacksonville Florida for repairs. Passed Cuba and Haiti.
DEC 6, 1946
  Weather fine, but hot. Continued working.
DEC 7, 1946
  Pulled into Colon Bay Panama -- took off sick CBS correspondent and started through the canal. Also received mail.
DEC 8, 1946
  Starboard section had liberty. Loading ship with more supplies.
DEC 9, 1946
  Starboard side had liberty again. Borrowed liberty card and went ashore.
DEC 10, 1946
  Sailed from Balboa docks -- heading for Scott Island.
DEC 11, 1946
  Polliwog day and we gave the Shell backs "hell".
DEC 12, 1946

Crossed the Equator at 0000" Longitude and Latitude 84-43 SW.

DEC 14, 1946
  Nothing new. Weather fine.
DEC 17, 1946
  Rough weather. Course 210"-SSW.
DEC 18, 1946
  Good sailing. Had GQ today. Crew has been getting lectures every night on Antarctic life.
DEC 19, 1946
  Still getting a workout on training sites.
DEC 20, 1946
  Rough sea, rain and large swells.
DEC 21, 1946
  Refueled at sea from USS CANISTEO.
DEC 22, 1946
  Dressed in foul weather gear. Getting rain and colder.
DEC 24, 1946
  Christmas Eve. Had a Xmas show. Gets dark only three hours a day.
DEC 25, 1946
  Christmas Day. Thinking of home. Had a swell chow.
DEC 26, 1946
  Sighted first Sperm whales, also first ice-berg. Weather cold and heavy fog.
DEC 27, 1946
  Visibility bad, -- cold and damp.
DEC 28, 1946
  Ice-bergs all around. Radar doing 4.0 job.
DEC 29, 1946
  Crossed Antarctic Circle at 2000 last night.
DEC 30, 1946
  Scott Island, only 600 miles to Little America. Lay at drift while NORTHWIND proceeded to find a way through ice field. Our position at 0200 - 67" South --- 174" West..
DEC 31, 1946
  The PBM is still missing, feared lost. We are now in the "Ross Sea."

Authentication arrives . . .

First mention of the Type I UDT 4 Penguin Cachet arrives in a letter to Walter's mother dated JAN 12, 1947.

"How do you like my penguin on the first page. I made him the other day."

JAN 1, 1947
The Mighty "O" has sprung leaks from hitting the ice. Sea very calm.
JAN 2, 1947
We moved only 30 miles today. Ice is very thick. The MERRICK sprung a bad leak. Taking in 120 gallons of water a minute.
JAN 3, 1947
We started through the ice pack again but had to stop while the NORTHWIND went back to help the submarine SENNET out. You can now see large mountains of ice.
JAN 4, 1947
At this writing, there is no official information as to when we will be able to start forward again. During the 24 hours ending 2000, January 3, we made good only 5 miles. The SENNET has been taken back to Scott Island by the NORTHWIND. Bad weather still prevents any search for the missing plane.
JAN 6, 1947
The NORTHWIND had to return to cut the MERRICK, YANCEY, and the OLYMPUS away from the ice. She took the ships to more open water. Then she went back to the SENNET. We are now about 100 miles from Scott Island.
JAN 7, 1947
Yesterday the NORTHWIND finished taking the SENNET north beyond the ice pack, and came back to lead us southward. For 24 hours ending at 2000 yesterday we made good 78 miles.
JAN 8, 1947
Despite many bangs and bumps, we are going steady forward at 0400, the NORTHWIND ran into a floe estimated to be at least 30 feet thick, and we had to turn back 15 miles to an open "Lake", where we are until we find a way through. From the Western Groups we learned that two PBM planes from the CURRITUCK took off to try to find a way through the ice for us, but were forced back by bad weather.
JAN 10, 1947
We are still within a few hundred feet of the same place, or so it seems. At last, about 0830 a PBM flew over scouting a way for us through. We went ahead about 2 miles then had to stop. Ice too thick.
JAN 12, 1947
The PBM plane known as "George II" left the PINE ISLAND at 0200 (our time). Shortly before 0700, we heard from messenger in quick succession from the PINE ISLAND stating that "George II" had found the burnt wreckage of "George I" at latitude 71" 03' S., longitude 98" 47' W., and saw men alive. The downed plane was first sighted by W.A. Long of North Carolina. It had crashed on a plateau 1000 feet high, 8 or 10 miles from the edge of open water -- we got underway again yesterday at 0920. Went through much ice, and had to make many stops. At least twice the NORTHWIND circled back to help us out. At 2330 we were still moving, making good about 18 miles. Our position at 2000 was Latitude 70" 41' S, Longitude 178" 34' W.
JAN 14, 1947
At 0800 yesterday there was very little ice, now even at 1000 the water was again full of ice cakes. As on the previous day, there was enough open water so that we could go right along at a speed of 6 knots. For 24 hours ending at 2200 yesterday, we made good 134 miles and reached approximate position: Latitude 74" 43' S. - Longitude 179" 44' W. The depth of the water was 203 fathoms. Little America is 315 miles away, and have 144" true.
JAN 15, 1947
The famous Ross Sea Barrier was sighted, according to the official log, at 0005 we reached it at the peninsula on the north side of Discovery Inlet.
JAN 16, 1947
The NORTHWIND found the Bay of Whales at 0835. Entering the bay the NORTHWIND found it frozen over. She spent the day breaking ice. The current washed the ice out into the Ross Sea for us to look at -- as if we haven't seen enough. The Bay of Whales is 400 yards across the mouth and 2 1/2 miles deep. Six years ago it was 1 1/2 miles wide at the mouth and five miles deep.
JAN 17, 1947
The NORTHWIND, up to last evening, had broken an estimated three square miles of ice in the bay. A party of nine officers, two correspondents, and a scientist went ashore. Came back very sun burned even though it was a cloudy day.
JAN 18, 1947
The YANCEY went into the Bay of Whales. She moored to four dead men, and started to unload cargo onto the bay ice which is about 10 to 15 feet thick. First came the cargo-handling equipment, weasels, trucks, jeeps, caterpillars, go devils and sleds. The road to the top of the barrier was built over a crevice and trails were marked with flags. The first sled moved over the pressure ridge at 1600.
JAN 19, 1947
The MERRICK was scheduled to move into the bay and start unloading. It is now considered safe for two ships to unload at once. There is a large open space, large enough to maneuver if the ice should break up. The MERRICK was tied up where the NORTHWIND had been, to the west of the YANCEY. There has been trouble in pulling loads up the Barrier, but not as much as expected. Special treads have been put on tractors to enable them to pull in the snow.
JAN 20, 1947
Mail went out from Little America by the NORTHWIND at 1630. She had sixty bags. -- Base camp has reported that 18 tents are up and a 30 foot x 15 foot x 7 foot ice box for the base camp has been completed. The refrigerator is built of ice blocks and took 12 hours to construct.
JAN 21, 1947
A man, not yet 17, was killed yesterday on the ice while loading a sled. Went on board the MERRICK. Will help build the base camp.
JAN 22, 1947
The team is working in two shifts, twelve hours each. Working on the "Hill" is very tough and cold.
JAN 23, 1947
All ships had to leave the ice barrier because an iceberg was threatening to block the mouth of the bay.

The UDT 4 Type II Cachet

NEW YEAR'S DAY, 1947. In a letter to his mother, Walter mentions the rubber stamp applied to the top of the first page. This authenticates the existence of another UDT 4-designed cachet, but the creator remains anonymous ...

"The stamp on the front page was made by one fellow in the team. Not bad."


JAN 24, 1947
  Return to the ice barriers and started working again on the ice.
JAN 25, 1947
  The team transferred back to the MOUNT OLYMPUS from the MERRICK.
JAN 26, 1947
  Had General Service on the ice. Believed to be first public worship offered from Antarctica. Word is expected any moment from the PHILIPPINE SEA that Admiral Byrd has taken off.
JAN 27, 1947
  The plane crash survivors are now aboard the PHILIPPINE SEA -- Bad weather in the area of the PHILIPPINE SEA has deferred the flight of the R4D's and the arrival of Adm. Byrd.
JAN 28, 1947
  As the bay ice, to which we were tied, began to break up, the whistle blew, we abandoned our dead men and the bay and were soon going round and round in the sea again. The NORTHWIND on way back with mail.
JAN 29, 1947
  The base camp has requested bread and men. The MERRICK will supply them with 25 men and bread as needed.
JAN 30, 1947
  As the berg moved out to sea and weather at both ends became good, the MOUNT OLYMPUS, MERRICK and YANCEY were ordered into the bay to tie up and two planes, carrying Adm. Byrd, were ordered to take off from the PHILIPPINE SEA for our air strip on the base camp. Our second ice breaker is now halfway between the equator and Scott Island.
JAN 31, 1947
  Admiral Byrd arrived. Six planes landed. They are C47, making a world record of large air craft taking off from a carrier.
FEB 1, 1947
  Again the team transferred off the OLYMPUS to the MERRICK and YANCEY. We came by a LCM. Having a snow storm and rough water. Visibility about 20 feet.
FEB 2, 1947
  Started unloading the explosives aboard the MERRICK.

FEB 3, 1947
  Making experiment on the ice by blasting holes into the ice barriers. Had "E" rations for chow.
FEB 4, 1947
  Carried out more experimental work. Largest charge used was 1200 lbs. I went swimming in the Bay of Whales. Water temperature was 27" above zero.
FEB 6, 1947
  Had team picture made. At a press conference granted yesterday, Adm. Byrd summarized the accomplishments of OPERATION HIGHJUMP to date as follows: Bay discovered: Four good sized bays have been discovered. One of these discovered by the Eastern Group along the Walgreen coast, is 180 nautical miles north and south, by 120 nautical miles east and west. Three other sizable bays were discovered by the Western Group. Islands discovered: At least 20 islands have been discovered. They are comparatively small but substantial. They constitute approximately 125,000 nautical square miles of continental territory unknown until now. Ocean area: About 75,000 square miles of unknown ocean area have been flown over and observed. Mountain Groups Discovered: About three or four mountain groups have been discovered. It is explained that a mountain group differs from a mountain range in that the group is shorter, does not extend as far as the range. Mountains Discovered: About eight new mountain ranges have been found. They range from heights of 1,500 to 15,000 feet.

"In a few years it may be very valuable" ...

Who would have known that Walter's creation would become the most unique of all OPERATION HIGHJUMP cachets? Apparently there was at least one person who thought so.

"Admiral Byrd's nephew had my stamp of the UDT penguin and told me to keep hold of it because in a few years it may be very valuable. He all so wanted me to sign my name and home address on back of the envelope which he had the stamp on."

For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that the cover illustrated below appears to be unique as well. This photocopy was obtained back in the 1970's, however the cover itself has never been located. It should be noted that no authenticated covers have surfaced with the impression of a "boot heel" encircling the UDT cachet. There are also a number of additional discrepencies, primarily 1) slight, but noticeable variations between the the penguin designs, 2) the design of the figure "4" differs as well as the design and placement of "UDT" in relation to the penguin, 3) all known examples are imprinted with red-violet ink, not black as was noted in this case, and 4) all examples are known only with a Type II USS MOUNT OLYMPUS hand cancel. This cover has a full strike of the TYPE 1B canceller which only appeared on mail processed very early in the expedition, thereby pre-dating Walter's cachet by many weeks. Although there is no certainty, it appears that this piece is a forgery.

The Stamp Revealed

Prior to his passing, Walter Cary donated his "stamp" and "lots of pictures" to the UDT - SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, FL.


I wish to thank the daughters of Walter Cary for supplying all of the supporting documentation presented here. Your generosity has been overwhelming.


The "Holy Grail" of OPERATION HIGHJUMP postal history. An extraordinarily rare TYPE II cancellation date, JAN 18, 1947, adds to its uniqueness.


Walter Cary's hand-drawn "MAILED AT LITTLE AMERICA" cover
Printed "MALA" envelopes were used on the USS MOUNT OLYMPUS

Reverse w / UDT 4 Type I and II Cachets
Back-stamped Tampa, FL FEB 20, 1947



Covers with BOTH Type I and Type II cachets applied:
Covers with only the Type I cachet applied:
Covers with only the Type II cachet applied:

Walter L. Cary
1927 - 1991