The U.S. Navy’s rating system is always in flux. As new technology replace old, new rates are created and old ones become obsolete. In other cases, old ratings are merged into a new rating. Such is the case of the Specialist (M) rating, which existed for only two years (1942-1944). A recent donation of q uniform with the Specialist (M) Third Class rating led us to investigate this now-defunct rating.
A variety of Specialist ratings existed in the Navy from 1942-1948. These were made to accommodate special skills needed in wartime that didn’t fit into the ratings structure already in place. Specialist (M) was created for Navy mail clerks. This became the Mailman rating in 1944. But just four years later, Mailman, along with Radioman, Telegrapher, Specialist (Q) (Registered Publication Clerks), and Yeoman, became a part of the job function of the newly-established Teleman rating.
The year 1959 saw the establishment of the Postal Clerk rating, once again giving Navy postal workers their own separate rating. Postal Clerks operated U.S. Navy post offices and performed all job functions related to postal work for the Navy. This rating lasted until 2009, when, along with Storekeeper, it became a part of the new Logistics Specialist rating, still in use today.
How does mail operates in the Navy? The U.S. Military Post Office (MPS), which encompasses the Fleet Post Office (FPO) used by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard, follows all of the same rules as the United States Post Office (USPS) as well as additional applicable federal laws and international laws and agreements. Most of the services provided by the USPS are available from the MPS. But each branch of the military is completely responsible for the costs, manpower, and facilities for mail that pass through their branch.
Researching the history of the rating badge on this seventy-year-old uniform not only taught us about the rating itself but also led me to explore how the U.S. Military Post Office operates today. This experience serves as just one example of how historic artifacts can lead to a better understanding of both past and present. If you haven’t done so recently, come visit the National Museum of the American Sailor and explore the many artifacts highlighted in our exhibits.