US Stamps

Dec. 7, 1941, cover reveals the shock of the moment

Nov 15, 2023, 11 AM
Some collectors seek out covers mailed Dec. 7, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. Adding to the challenge is the fact that it was a Sunday. This cover was canceled 9:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 1941, in San Francisco, several hours after the attack.

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

Shock, anger and disbelief were some of the reactions when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands on Dec. 7, 1941.

Some collectors try to find covers mailed on that date, which is not always easy because that Dec. 7 was a Sunday.

But certainly, in larger cities, sorting and cancellation and other back-office functions would have continued even though the public counters were not open.

Shown front and back nearby is a Dec. 7, 1941, cover from one of those larger cities, San Francisco.

Note that the cancellation time on the cover is 9:30 p.m. Dec. 7. Another helpful bit of information is the last-minute note added to the back, “Sunday, glued to the Radio!”

Thus, we can conclude that the letter inside was probably written on Saturday for mailing on Sunday and that the attack had begun prior to the letter being sent.

The time of the attack was roughly 8 a.m. local time. In San Francisco, about 2,400 miles to the east, it was 11 a.m. The letter writer may not have known the full impact of the destruction and loss of life at Pearl Harbor yet, but enough to know there would be more to the story.

Another nice aspect of this cover is the tied 1941 Christmas seal on the reverse. All in all, it’s an interesting, attractive and historically significant piece of mail.

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