World War II Patriotic Cover
Featured here is a World War II serviceman's franked letter and a Cinderella label for relief of Bataan War Prisoners. The return address is the USS Zaniah, and the cover has a sketched cachet depicting a Radio Technician and a Purple Heart Medal. It bears a hand stamped censor mark and a US Navy postmark. The National Postal Museum owns one letter associated with this cover, object number 2002.2035.67.2.
A 6-cent airmail stamp of the 1941-1944 issue franks the letter. During World War II, servicemen could write the word "free" on the upper right corner of their outgoing mail, and their letter would be processed as first-class mail. If air mail service was available, it could be used by applying a 6-cent air mail stamp to the letter.
The postmark, dated May 12, 1945, A.M., is a generic US Navy postmark, indicating that this cover might have been posted at a location other than aboard the USS Zaniah. The hand-stamped censor marking reads "Passed by Naval Censor" and is initialed CF in ink.
The cachet features a hand-drawn image of an individual dressed in what appears to be a US Army uniform with the label "Radio Technician." A drawing of a Purple Heart Medal, the medal awarded to individuals injured in combat with an enemy force, appears next to the Radio Technician.
The Bataan Relief of Illinois, a private organization, issued the Cinderella label. The organization is the forerunner of several similar organizations in existence today. The Bataan Death March in 1942 particularly affected the citizens of Illinois because a large number of Illinois National Guardsmen were victims of the march.
Radio Technician 2nd Class August J. Cihanowyz mailed the letter, with a return address of USS Zaniah (AK-120). A Basilan class cargo ship, the Zaniah was commissioned on December 12, 1943, by the US Navy. It was refitted for repairing damaged ships and delivering troops, goods, and equipment to locations in the war zone. The Zaniah participated in the Philippine and Okinawa campaigns and supported the occupation of Japan after the Japanese surrender.
The contents of the handwritten letter show that the writer was a stamp collector with an interest in Polish stamps.