US Stamps

World War II prisoners mail from the United States

May 10, 2023, 11 AM
“Prisoner of War” forms used by enemy soldiers held in the United States during World War II could be sent without postage unless they were sent by airmail, as this was this example, shown front and back.

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

World War II prisoners of war mail includes more than mail from Americans in Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan) POW camps. Axis prisoners also were brought to the United States and housed in camps across the nation.

They were permitted to send mail home using forms provided by the U.S. government. Regardless of where the prisoners were housed, their mail was sent to New York City to be canceled and censored.

Pictured here an example of a preprinted “Prisoner Of War” letter. Note that the cancellation is a New York circular datestamp; the cancellation is below the word “War” near the top of the cover. The censor marking is in the lower left.

The POW who sent this was housed at Camp Mexia in Texas. It opened in 1943, and its first prisoners were men from Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps captured in North Africa.

By the end of the war, the United States held about 430,000 POWs: 372,000 Germans, 53,000 Italians, and 5,000 Japanese. Of these 90,000 spent the years of their captivity in one of 15 main camps, plus satellite camps in Texas.

The POW mail was sent without having to pay postage unless it was being sent by airmail as was the cover shown here.

Much more difficult to find is internee mail sent by Japanese (both citizens and noncitizens) who had been rounded up in Hawaii and on the West Coast in the hysteria following the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack.

More than 100,000, mostly Japanese-Americans, were sent to internment camps. Added to them were 2,000 Japanese who were expelled from countries in Latin America and interned in the United States as illegal aliens.

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