Military Mail: Korean War (Frame 6)
This web page, published by the Military Postal History Society, contains the text of Frame 6 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 6 exhibit frame images.
An exchange of sick and wounded POWs. 150 non-Asian prisoners released between April 20 and 26, 1953. Chinese included POWs who were co-operating in hopes of spreading communist propaganda. See example from Camp #3 fancy envelope type.
4,853 United Nations prisoners of war released between August 5 and September 6, 1953. After the ﬁnal prisoner exchange, there was one British and 21 United States soldiers who refused to go home to their native countries. These POWs were called "Turncoats" and are hated to this day. Covers from these 22 Turncoats are extremey rare, with any three examples reported. two of which are seen here in the POW Camp #1 and Cam) #3 sections.
One of the United States prisoners of war released with injuries from POW Camp #5, during "Operation Big Switch"; writing from the Army hospital at Inehon just days before boarding a ship for home; member of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division; captured December 1, 1951; released on August 8, 1953.
Not until December 1951 to January 1952 did the Chinese, who had taken over running the POW camps, agree to a mail exchange. A mail route was later established: Peking, China to Panmunjom, then to the United States via Yokohama, Japan (the location of APO #100) where it was processed. However, mail to Great Britain was routed through Hong Kong.
On the earlier prisoner mail, the Chinese demanded the phrase "Via The Chinese People's Committee for World Peace and against American Aggression, Peking, China" be written in return address area. Almost all the prisoners refused (I show one scarce example where this phrase was used from POW Camp #3), so the Chinese used a handstamp on the covers.
One reason for the scarcity of Korean War POW mail was that many POWs on work details found large piles of their written letters dumped in surrounding fields and woods.
January 20, 1952 - Mailed to APO #100 (Yokohama, Japan) where POW mail was handled and double circle receiving mark was applied. Opened and sealed by Captain at APO #100 looking for return address.
Note: "NL HOLD" marking in pencil meant that addressee was not listed with the known POWs, which was not unusual; Chinese and North Koreans held back the names of many prisoners, and many were never accounted for. Letters to POWs could be sent postage free — see following page and Camp #5 turned cover example.
All covers sent from the United States to the POWs received a double circle, APO #100 (Yokohama, Japan), receiving mark.
Mail to the POWs that actually arrived in the POW camps is very scarce because they had no place for storage, and one must remember the very primitive conditions of these camps.
See POW Camp #2 section
To Navy POW being held in Prisoner of War Camp #2, arrived at APO #100 (Yokohama, Japan) where a BIG receiving mark, May 24, 1953, was applied; arrived at Camp #2 on June 25, 1953.
Note: "OK Camp 2" circled marking, in pencil, means addressee's name was on list of POWs being held in Camp #2; "Rotorhead" (POW nickname) was one of the last POWs to be released. See the very unusual cover sent "from" this same POW (John W. Thornton) in Camp #2 section.
POW MAIL CAN BE SEPARATED INTO 6 BASIC TYPES (starting with the scarcest), but remember, there is no such thing as a common POW cover from the Korean War. However, early WE of covers are much harder to find than others.
Variations of the above:
(1) Only reported North Korean town postmark on POW letter (Camp 1).
(2) Only reported "turned cover" handmade from incoming letter (Camp 5).
(3) Mother's Day Greetings, preprinted envelope (Camp 5), supplied by Chinese prison ofﬁcials. Also used for propaganda purposes by sending unsolicited to POW families.
Example of handstamp phrase (in red) added as cover was ready to send from POW Camp #5. Received at Clay Center, Kansas, December 19, 1951; an early example of Prisoner of War mail. The (purple) handstamp reads "Prisoner of War Postal Service." The letter writer was a member of Medical Company, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. He was captured December 1, 1950, and released September 3, 1953.
Located at Chang-song, North Korea, on the Yalu River 50 miles northeast of Sinuija; established in March/April 1951. Early type with handstamp applied when the cover was ready to send. Letter writer was a member of A Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team, 24th Infantry Division, and was captured on April 23, 1951, and was released August 15, 1953. Camp number changed from POW Camp #3 to POW Camp #1 a few months after opening; physically it was the same camp but POWs were not aware of the number change.
Note: North Korean postmark (only reported example) reads Byuk—Dong, North Pyong—An Province, North Korea. The Chinese backstamp reads Quang—Ju, which is Canton, China. A very rare example before the later postal route Peking to Panmunjon was established.
Backstamp: Canton, China, December 9, 1951
Early type with the handstamps applied to the cover after the letter had been written. Another example sent before the later postal route Peking to Panmnnjon was established. Member of C Company, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division; captured on February 6,1951, and released on August 10,1953. Same #3 to #1 camp number change.
North Korean handstamp and US. APO #100 (Yokohama) handstamp. Member of F (30., 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division; captured April 25, 1951, and released August 19, 1953.
April 24, 1951 — APO #25, Yongdunpo, South Korea - Headquarters APO #5330, Tokyo, Japan.
Plain lettersheet type with North Korean handstamp and US. APO #100 (Yokohama) handstamp. The letter writer was a member of A Battery, 15th Field Artillery Batallion, 2nd Infantry Division captured February 13, 1951, and released Deptember 5, 1953. In August of 1952, he moved to Camp #4.
Small Dove lettersheet with North Korean handstamp and US. APO #100 (Yokohama) handstamp. Member of L Company, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division captured on December 12, 1950 released August 6, 1953.
Large Dove lettersheet with North Korean handstamp and United States APO #100 (Yokohama) handstamp. Also held at "Bean Camp" (name came from soy bean diet) and "Mine Camp" (located in an old French mine). Member of C Company, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, captured February 12, 1951, released September 3, 1953.
Extremely rare —-#1 of only 3 reported covers from any of the 22 turncoats.
PFC. Richard R. Tenneson, member of Medical Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, captured May 18, 1951, in the "May Massacre." Held to end of conﬂict in POW camp #1. At the time of his release, he chose to go and live in Communist China.
Writing from Shantung Paper Mill in Tsinan, People's Republic of China. Note how he hid his name in the upper left corner of the cover. In December of 1955, he returned to the US.
Photocopy - Back of Cover
(Any mail from Camp #2 is rare - least amount of mail of the 5 regular camps) Only reported example of its kind, see "Note" below.
Located at Pi-Chong—ni, North Korea, near the Yalu River, 70 miles northeast of Sinuiju, POW Camp #2 was established in October 1951. Early type with the handstamps applied when cover was ready to send. Letter writer held in and out of the "Reactionary" section.
Of the 7,140 United States military personnel captured during the conﬂict, only 35 were members of the Navy. Letter writer was a member of 2nd Helicopter Squadron, and was the first helicopter pilot to be shot down by hostile fire - on March 31, 1951. This prisoner was captured on April 10, 1951, and he was later released on September 6, 1953.
Note: Thornton was allowed to write a letter home, but due to his refusal to write the phrase "Against American Aggression" in return address, there is no return address. This cover was addressed at a later time by the Chinese security personnel using a typewriter —- something the prisoners did not have access to. (Just check the spelling of "Philadelphia.")
"FREE VIA AIR MAIL (P.L. 609)" placed on POW mail by Army—Air Force postal service prior to dispatch was applied by Addressograph machine, unless the notation was already there. After March 1952 most of the mail received from the exchange point had the notation either printed or written, so the machine use was ended (This information was received courtesy of the Headquarters of the U.S. Armed Forces, Far East Command).
However, a later example is known from Camp #5 (May 7, 1952).
Plain cover with North Korean handstamp and United States APO #100 (Yokohama) handstamp. Letter writer was a member of 372nd Bomb Squadron, 307th Bomb Wing, and he was captured on August 24, 1951, and released on August 30, 1953. Reactionaries, ofﬁcers and air crews were moved here in October 1951 - very little mail.
Located at Chang-song, North Korea, north of Camp #1; established in August 1951. North Korean handstamp & U.S. APO #100 (Yokohama) handstamp on fancy cover. "Against American Aggression" in return address veg unusual. Member of F Co., 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division; captured on May 31, 1951, and released on April 21, 1953, Operation Little Switch. One of the 150 non-Asian POWs released then.
Plain cover with United States APO #100 (Yokohama) handstamp -- North Korean handstamp on back. Letter writer was a member of L Company, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, captured July 11, 1950, and released August 23, 1953.
Small Dove lettersheet with a North Korean handstamp and the United States APO #100 (Yokohama) handstamp. Member of A Company, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division; captured November 26, 1950, and then released on August 24, 1953.
Note: Letter was sent to Pvt. Lester Todd, who had also been a prisoner at Camp #3 - Private Todd had been released on April 21, 1953, during Operation Little Switch.
Extremely rare - #2 of only 3 reported covers from any of the 22 turncoats.
Cpl. Albert C. Belhomme, who was a member of Battery C, 37th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, was captured November 25, 1950, in Kunu-ri, North Korea. Interned at 'Death Valley' transient camp, then to POW Camp #5, and ﬁnally to POW Camp #3. When he was released, he chose to go and live in Communist China.
Writing from Shantung Paper Mill in Tsinan, People's Republic of China, where he and other POWs were now living. In 1963, moved to Belgium with Chinese wife & children.
Photocopy - Back of Cover