Military Mail: Korean War (Frame 1)
This web page, published by the Military Postal History Society, contains the text of Frame 1 of the Korean War exhibit pages created by Bob Collins. They are reproduced and distributed to the public with his permission.
To see exhibit frame images, click on Frame 1 exhibit frame images.
While military postal examples from every country involved in the Korean War are shown, the 'featured' country is the United States, which made up the bulk of the United Nations forces.
The Korean War started on June 25, 1950, as thousands of North Korean troops poured over the border into South Korea. To prevent a collapse of the South Korean Army, an advance element of the United States 24th Infantry Division was sent to Korea. They were later joined by other US. soldiers and units from other countries that made up the United Nations contingent. An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, and armed hostilities ceased. Military units from both sides remained in place throughout 1954, but the armistice held.
This exhibit starts with a return-to-sender cover posted to Seoul, South Korea, followed by covers and booklet listed as (1-8) below. (Major events noted periodically on exhibit pages.)
(1) UNITED STATES ARMY, AIR FORCE, MARINES & NAVY -—By date. Duplicate postal numbers indicate a different postmark type or Hubba Hubba marking. Under the cover examples: Date of usage, APO or FPO number or ship name and type, along With location and dates of operation at that location if available.
(2) PRISONERS OF WAR (United States and Great Britain)
(3) UNITED NATlONS FORCES (without United States) —- Land and naval forces, along with non-military Red Cross hospital organiazations.
(4) REPUBLIC OF KOREA (SOUTH KOREA)
(5) DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA (NORTH KOREA)
(6) THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
(7) N NRC AND NNSC (Neutral Nations Repatriation and Supervising Commissions)
(8) CLOSING PAGE —- North Korean and Communist Chinese propaganda booklet.
SPECIAL INTEREST: This exhibit contains many unique postal examples associated with the Korean War. A few of these examples would be the 'Return to Sender Service Suspended' handstamp, followed by two covers sent before Public Law 609 went into effect 12 days after the arrival of the U.S. troops. Examples from the early years of the conflict (l950-early 1951) when there were far fewer soldiers involved are very hard to ﬁnd, as well as covers from smaller countries such as Luxembourg, which supplied just 44-48 soldiers. In the POW section, there are one-of-a-kind Prisoners of War postal markings from Camps #1, #2, and #5, and also two of the three reported covers sent by United States soldiers (Turncoats) Who refused repatriation and moved to the People's Republic of China. Some of the 'Hubba Hubba' handstamps and similar markings are the only reported examples.
3 Army Corps, 1 Tactical Air Force, 1 Bombardment Command, 1 Combat Cargo Command.
APO (Army & Air Force Post Ofﬁce) - BPO (Base Post Ofﬁce) - peak strength 348,000.
Dates of operation for postal numbers in Korea or at hospitals in Japan treating the wounded:
APO #6 - 2/4/52 — 6/15/54 APO #67-1 - 1-15-52 - 4—9-54 APO #358—1 - 3/19/53 - 3/2/54
APO #7 - 9/30/50 — 1/1/65 APO #67-2 - 1/15/52 — 5/10/54 APO #468 - 11/21/50 - 10/23/54
APO #8 - 9/13/50 — 12/4/54 APO #70 - 3/15/51 — 11/2/54 APO #612 - 3/6/51 - 6/?/54
APO #18 - 10/19/50 - 1/1/65 APO #71 - 11/21/50 - 7/9/55 APO #707 - 7/?/50 - 4/24/55
APO #20 - 10/28/50 - 3/15/55 APO #72 - 3/5/51 - 7/9/57 APO #707-1 - 9/29/52 - 1/?/54
APO #24 - 7/2/50 —>11/28/58 APO #76 - 4/30/51 - 1/1/65 APO #709 — 9/1/50 - 1/11/55
APO #25 - 7/3/50 - 1/1/65 APO #77 - 12/30/52 - 4/15/54 APO #901 - 9/23/50 - 6/20/56
APO #25-5 - 9/9/50 - 10/?/50 APO #86 - 12/29/51 — 3/7/54 APO #901-1 - 12/31/51 - 4/21/52
APO #33 - 10/13/50 - 4/9/54 APO #90 - 4/21/52 - 3/20/54 APO #902 - 1/31/51 - 11/19/55
APO #43 — 10/?/50 - 8/14/57 APO #94 - 4121/53 — 5/1/55 APO #909 9/18/50 - 8/2/54
APO #51 -- 4/10/51 - 6/19/51 APO #102 - 8/5/52 - 2/1/59 APO #970 7/?/50 - Ill/65
APO #53 - 3/1/51 - 2/15/54 APO #201 — 7/?50 — 12/29/51 APO #971 10/4/50 - 1/1/65
APO #54 - 3/1/51 - 8/14/57 APO #234 - 7/14/52 - 6/21/55 APO #973 9/26/50 — 5/14/55
APO #59 - 7/?50 - 12/?/53 APO #248 - 7/?/50 - 9/20/54 APO #1007 10/?/50 - 8/12/54
APO #60 — 2/24/51 - 7/21/55 APO #264 - 8/?50 - 11/12/54 APO #1052 3/?/46 - 11/2/54
APO #64 - 4/3/51 - Ill/65 APO #301 - 7/7/50 - 1/1/65 7 BPO ?/?/45 - 10/27/58
APO #67 - 3/17/51 - 6/15/55 APO #358 - 8/29/50 - 1/1/65
One Marine Division.
Dates of operation for Marine (U.S. Navy) numbers in Korea:
12867 9/15/50 — 4/?/55 12867 Unit 8 9/15/50 - 4/?/55
12867 Unit 1 9/15/50 - 4/?/55 14009 10/?/51 - 4/?/55
12867 Unit 2 8/17/50 - 4/?/55 14009 Unit 1 10/?/51 - 4/?/55
12867 Unit 3 9/15/50 - 4/?/55 14009 Unit 2 10/?/51 — 4/?/55
12867 Unit 5 9/15/50 - 4/?155 14009 Unit 3 10/?/51 - 4/?/55
12867 Unit 6 9/ 15/50 - 4/?/55 14011 9/30/50 - 2/23/55
12867 Unit 7 9/ 15/50 - 4/?/55 14012 9/15/50 — 11/30/55
14021 9/15/50 — 4/?/55
A sampling of the many United States Navy ships in Korean waters during the war.
Battle Stars - Given for combat operation or engagement of such intensity to justify recognition.
U.S.S. Fort Marion (LSD-22) - 5 Battle Stars U.S.S. Valley Forge (CV-45) - 4 Battle Stars
U.S.S. Haven (AH-12) - 9 Battle Stars U.S.S. Piedmont (AD-17) - 4 Battle Stars
U.S.S. Wallace L. Lind (DD-703) - 4 Battle Stars U.S.S. Wisconsin (BB-64) - 1 Battle Star
U.S.S. Estes (AGC-12) - 2 Battle Stars U.S.S. James C. Owens (DD-776) - 2 Battle Stars
U.S.S. Whetstone (LSD—27) - 4 Battle Stars U.S.S. Miller (DD—535)
U.S.S. Sicily (CVE-118) - 5 Battle Stars U.S.S. Oriskany (CVA-34) — 2 Battle Stars
U.S.S. Epping Forest (LSD—4) U.S.S. Hanna (DE-449) - 5 Battle Stars
U.S.S. Boxer (CV-21) - 8 Battle Stars U.S.S. McDermut (DD-677) - 5 Battle Stars
U.S.S. LST #1096 -.3 Battle Stars U.S.S. Calvert (APA-32) - 2 Battle Stars
U.S.S. Frank Knox (DDR—742) - 5 Battle Stars U.S.S. George Clymer (APA—57) - 7 Battle Stars
U.S.S. Henrico (APA-45) - 9 Battle Stars U.S.S. Caperton (DD-650) - 1 Battle Star
Mailed from Greenﬁeld, Massachusetts, June 28, 1950, to Seoul, Korea (capital of South Korea) on the day that Seoul was captured by the North Korean Army, 4th day of conﬂict. Nicest of the commercial covers (non-philatelic) bearing the 'Return to Sender Service Suspended' handstamp of the two others I have seen. There have been very few reported.
When the ﬁrst SMALL group of United States troops arrived in South Korea from Japan just days after the North Korea invasion, POSTAGE was required on any mail they sent. Due to the heavy combat action and our troops being driven back south towards Pusan, they had little time to be writing letters. In over 35 years of collecting postal items from the Korean War, I have found only TWO covers sent from this early time period prior to PL609 (Public Law 609) being enacted. Other collectors I have contact with don't have any.
Cover number l
July 3, 1950 - APO #25 - Taegu, South Korea, 7/3/59 - 9/30/50 The earliest reported date of any postmarks reported from this military post ofﬁce. Thought to be a ﬁrst day of usage example.
July 5, 1950 - United States soldiers (Task Force Smith) make first contact with North Korean forces near Osan, South Korea. This force of 500 soldiers, sent hurriedly from Japan were facing a North Korean Army equipped with T-35 tanks and artillery ournumhering them over 100—l. Their only mission was to slow the North Korean advance until help would arrive.
Cover number 2
July 7, 1950 - APO #301 - Taegu, South Korea - 7/7/50 - 10/25/50
Earliest reported postmark date from APO #301. It is thought to be a first day of usage example. APO #301 became one of the largest United States postal facilities with post-marks readily found. HOWEVER, none of the others show a usage of this postal marking.
Return address: KMAG APO 404. Korean Military Adviser Group composed of US. military personnel attached to, and advising, South Korean military units. APO #404 was set up in Seoul, South Korea, on June 9, 1949, to process mail for KMAG soldiers stationed with South Korean troops in the Seoul area. It is not known whether they processed mail after the North Korean invasion, but are listed as having moved to Taegu, South Korea.
PL-609 - Free postage law passed July 12, 1950 to June 30, l955-—limited to those in combat zone. Mail had to be properly marked 'Free' in upper right and 'Airmail' if wanted. Name, rank, serial number, and military address written in upper left. Also covered wounded military personnel being treated at hospitals in Japan. Extra services not covered.
Note: It is not unusual to ﬁnd a cover bearing a stamp overpaying the free postage, weeks or months after PL-609 was implemented. Remember, these soldiers were in very heavy combat and overpaying postage on a letter was the least of their worries.
August 9, 1950 — Sent to APO #201 Unit 2 —- Zama, Japan — 6/?/50-10/?/50
Veriﬁed Deceased and Returned to Writer handstamps, with several other postal markings.
Letter recipient 1st Lt. Lewis T. Harrison, Jr. now located at APO #970. Taegu. South Korea. Due to the hectic times, letter was sent to many different locations in Japan and South Korea before it was veriﬁed Lt. Harrison, Jr., was killed in combat on November 8, 1950, while on a mission in a Mosquito observation aircraft. The plane was hit by ground fire and exploded killing Harrison and the pilot, Lt. Fred Zenter. Over 20 postal markings applied between August 30th and December 29, 1950, before it was returned to the sender.
August 10, 1950 - Sent to APO #24 - Taegu, South Korea - 7/?l50 - 9/29/50
Return to Writer and Missing in Action handstamps, 7BPO, September 10, 1950. Note: Cpl. Richard A. Johnson killed in action August 10, 1950 (same day letter sent).
August 17, 1950 — Navy Number 12867 Unit 2 - 5th Marines, First Marine Division - 8/17/50 - 4/?/55
August 25, 1950 — 7 BPO - Yokohama, Japan - ?/?/45 - 12/27/58
Note: Addressee was with the 24th Infantry Division at Taegu, South Korea, where he was wounded in combat and evacuated to a military hospital in Japan.
August 28, 1950 - APO #24 - Taegu, South Korea - 7/?/50 - 9/36/50
Note: Old World War 11 type censor marking (lower left corner) no longer required.
September 9, 1950 — APO #25—5 - Osaka, Japan - 9/9/50 - 10/?/50
Note: Still confusion over PL-609 rule. Sender wounded in Pusan Perimeter, evacuated to hospital in Japan. His letter could be sent free; he overpaid with a 25 cent airmail stamp.
September 15, 1950 — Because of the successful Inchon invasion, United Nations have broken out of the Pusan Perimeter and are ﬁghting northward
September 26, 1950 - APO #973 - Inchon, South Korea - 9/26/50 - 11/23/50
First day APO #973 opened.
September 13, 1950 - APO #301 - Taegu, South Korea - 7/?50 - 10/26/50
Envelope and enclosure, along with a propaganda leaﬂet, were sent by Capt. Phyllis LaCuste, Chief Nurse at the 8055 Surgical Mobile Unit. She states the leaﬂet was just dropped by a plane to the refugees Who are milling around everywhere. The leaﬂet states, among other things, the Greeks are sending troops, 10,000 North Koreans were killed, and the American and British troops are holding the line. She also mentioned they are a bit cold and damp in their tents and are sleeping in their socks, and are pretty busy at work. While many later propaganda leaﬂets are relatively common, this very early one is not! And yes, it does read from right to left and is not mounted sideways in the wrong direction.
October 4, 1950 - APO #901 - Taegu Air Base, South Korea - 9/23/50 - 6/20/56
Note: A civilian working with the Army (Philco Tech. Rep.) no free mail privileges.
October 8, 1950 - U.S.S. Fort Marion - Dock Landing Ship
Arrived at Pusan Harbor August 2, 1950, with contingent of US. Marines and their equipment. Landed men of the First Marines on Wolmi—do Island thus making possible the Inchon invasion.
October 15, 1950 — U.S.S. Henrico — Attack Transport
Operating in Korean waters July 1950 to July 1953; received unit commendation.
Written aboard ship by a US. Marine 1st Lt., 3d Bn., 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.
October 30, 1950 - APO #7 - Suwon, South Korea — 10/5/50 -— 11/5/50
Sender had free mail privileges, but apparently used an envelope he had on hand.
November 11, 1950 - APO #358 - Munson-ni, South Korea - 10/26/50 - 11/29/50
November 12, 1950 - Bombing is underway of Yalu River bridges and factories, along with cities and villages, in North Korea as ordered by Gen. MacArthur.
November 12, 1950 - APO #970 - Seoul, South Korea - 10/17/50 - 12/15/50
November 22, 1950 - Navy Number 12867 - 5th Marines, First Marine Division - 9/15/50 - 4/?/55
Cover was sent 5 days before the Marines were attacked and surrounded by a large force of Communist Chinese soldiers who had secretly moved into North Korea.
November 27, 1950 - The United Nation troops had driven the North Korean Army north through North Korea, all the way to the Chinese border. On this date, Chinese Army troops attacked the United Nations forces, including the First Marine Division, in a battle named for the 'Chosin Reservoir'.
This was the start of the UN Forces being driven back into South Korea.
December 4, 1950 - U.S.S. Haven - Hospital Ship
Sailed for Korea September 25, 1950, serving sick and wounded at Inchon and Pusan, except for normal repairs & installation of helicopter landing deck, until August 1953.
December 7, 1950 - APO #264 - Pyongyang, North Korea - 11/29/50 - 1/22/51
His letter could be sent free; he overpaid with 6¢ airmail stamp.
Note: Pyongyang was and is the capital of North Korea.
December 15, I950 — The 8th Army and South Korean troops, along with other United Nations forces, have been driven back south of the 38th Parallel.
PFC Theodore P. Tracy was captured on December 1, 1950, and died in captivity at POW Camp #5 at Pyoktong, North Korea, on March 28, 1951.
December 19, 1950 - Sent to APO #248 - Pyongyang, North Korea - 11/29/50 - 1/22/51
Return to Writer & Missing in Action handstamps; Backstamp APO #500 April 4, 1951
In the early days of the Korean War, the North Koreans took great pleasure in brutalizing captured soldiers of the United Nation Forces. Many were just tortured and shot within a day of their capture, and many died on the 'Death Marches' north to the POW camps. The prisoners were denied Winter clothing, food, and even medical care for their wounds. A lot were just simply shot at random by brutal guards who abused them. Many who reached the POW camps simply froze to death in the below zero cold or just 'gave up' and died of other causes during that ﬁrst winter when conditions were so bad in the camps.