A Great Wartime Journey Bern to Gilbert is.

August 28, 2023

The 2 year and 2 month journey of this fascinating cover tells us much about international mail services during the Second World War.

On 16th August 1941 a wrapper from the International Telecommunications Union at Bern, Switzerland was sent to Fanning Island, one of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. Normally such a cover would have gone to the islands capital Tarawa, where it would have been put aboard the next tramp steamer to Fanning Island.

However, the Japanese invaded Tarawa in early December trapping the cover there for a year-and-a-half as the Japanese planned an invasion of Fanning Island that never materialised, the US military presence on that island being too strong. Eventually the Japanese administration sent it on to Yokohama, where it was postmarked on January 6, 1943.

It appears that because of Switzerland’s neutral status the wrapper was marked “RETOUR” (Return) and handed to the neutral Russians. Since the Russians had service with the United States, the RETOUR was crossed off and the wrapper was put on a ship from Vladivostok to San Francisco. The northern sea lanes being relatively secure from Japanese attack during this part of the war. The “U.S. CENSORSHIP-V- ” was applied in San Francisco and the cover was sent on to Oahu, Hawaii, where the August 28, 1943, U.S. Army Postal Service APO 967 marking was applied and the wrapper sent on (this APO mark had in fact been on Fanning Island until Feb 14th).

The cover finally reached Fanning Island and was postmarked on October 18, 1943. A final “PASS U.S. ARMY EXAMINER” marking being applied at the end of this incredible twenty-six month journey.

This cover was sold by us in 2016

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