Saturday, June 9, 2012

SP 4103 Cachet

I am indebted to Pierre Pepin of Philatelie et Aviation Militaire for discovering this cover and sending it to me. 

The cover, postmarked 29 Nov 1953, is struck with a nice Secteur Postal / Le Vaguemestre hand stamp. The digits at the bottom matches the sender's return address of SP 4103. The style of this hand stamp is a bit different from others I have seen, so I was happy to add it to my collection.

As I've noted before, French postal zones utilized five-digit Secteur Postal numbers to obscure a unit’s designation and location. Under American advisement, the Vietnamese adopted a four-digit Khu Buu Chinh (KBC) code system that served the same purpose. During the transitional period of 1952-1956, one finds various combinations of French and Vietnamese text on the postal markings and addresses of military covers. 

I was able to locate the listing for KBC 4103 in the tome Danh-Luc Buu-Khu (1970) and identify it as serving the 2/43 Infantry Battalion headquartered Long Khanh within Long Nai Province in the southeastern section of Vietnam. While there's no guarantee that SP 4103 was in the same location in 1953, I'd say the chances are pretty good in was in generally the same area. 

As always, if anyone has has more information, please add a comment to this post or email me directly.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

OSS Det. 202 in Kunming, China

In 1945, the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was aligned with Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese in Indo-china. 

Headquartered with the 14th Air Force in Kunming, China, OSS Detachment 202 monitored and influenced activity in the region. A small number of the OSS actually operated within Indo-china and met directly with the Viet Minh. 

Over the past decade I have located two OSS covers from APO 627 in Kunming shown below.

The first cover was sent by Victor Jabson on March 19, 1945 enjoyed free-franking privileges. The enclosed letter is cut in half vertically. It seems innocuous enough, but perhaps the military censor took issue with some of the contents.

Victor writes, "I have seen so many interesting things that I could write volume after volume but I think I [would] rather wait until I come back and then we can have an old fashioned get together with beer, oysters and all the other good things we used to have at our meetings."

The second cover was sent by Jerome Wisniewski, from the HQ & HQ Detachment operating out of China. It was mailed on Aug 20, 1945 - less than a week after Japan's surrender in World War II and two weeks before Ho Chi Minh's declaration of independence on September 2.

This is a fascinating and complicated era of Vietnamese history. To learn more I recommend:

The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War Against Japan by Dixee R. Bartholomew-Feis
Why Vietnam? Prelude to America's Albatross by Archimedes L.A. Patti
Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power by David G. Marr

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thu Duc Infantry School Cover to NJ

You don't see a lot of SVN military correspondence sent outside the country. Here is a cover sent from the Thu Duc Infantry School to the Robert H Sittig Associates in Fort Lee, New Jersey in October 1969. 

From what I can ascertain on the web, the company was an export agent specializing in US-manufactured products, particularly dental supplies. Unfortunately the enclosure is missing, but it's an interesting and attractive cover.