By John M. Hotchner
Linn’s reader Alex Hall has come up with one of the most spectacular first-day covers for the 1952 3¢ Service Women stamp (Scott 1013) that I’ve ever seen.
The Service Women stamp was issued Sept. 11, 1952, in Washington, D.C.
In addition to the stamp and first-day cancel, this seldom-seen Schacht hand-colored cachet also bears the 1945-46 stamps honoring the other services that fought and died in World War II.
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On the left side of the cover are the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine stamps (Scott 936, 939) issued Nov. 10, 1945, and Feb. 26, 1946, respectively.
On the right are the Navy and Army issues (Scott 935, 934) of Oct. 27 and Sept. 28, 1945, respectively. At the time these stamps were issued, the Air Force was part of the U.S. Army, called the U.S. Army Air Forces, and is represented by the bombers on the Army stamp.
In the center is the vertical Iwo Jima (Marines) stamp (Scott 929) issued July 11, 1945.
If the cover stopped here it would be a very nice addition to an FDC collection, but this cover has four autographs that match up with three of the services shown on the 1952 Service Women stamp: the Marine Corps, the Army and the Navy. The Air Force, which had become a separate service Sept. 18, 1947, also is represented on the stamp.
Autographing the cover were Col. Mary A. Hallaren, Capt. Joy Bright Hancock, Col. Ruby F. Bryant, and Col. Katherine A. Towle.
Hallaren (1907-2005) was the first woman to officially join the Women’s Army Corps in 1942. She became its director in 1947, serving into 1953.
Hancock (1898-1986), who served in the Navy in World War I, joined the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) in 1942 and was the director from 1946-53.
The second graduate of the Army School of Nursing in 1932, Bryant (1906-2002) rose to become chief of the Army Nurse Corps from 1951-55.
Towle (1898-1986) joined the Women’s Reserve of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943. She served as director from 1945-46 and then director of women’s Marines from 1948 to 1953.
Not represented by an autograph on the FDC is Col. Mary Jo Shelly (1902-76), the second director of the Women in the Air Force (WAF), serving in that capacity during 1951-54. Even without that signature, this is an exceptional and historic cover.