Hubba-Hubba Cachets

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One of the interesting subtopics for a collection of Korean War covers is that of “Hubba-Hubba” covers. These have hand-struck cachets from rubber stamps and usually, but not always, have “HUBBA-HUBBA” somewhere in the design. Covers with these markings represent a form of “patriotic envelope” which has derived from the elaborate, printed envelopes of the U.S. Civil War. The form continued in use through World War II, but more-or-less has died out.

In addition to providing a little boost to morale, some of the stamps were intended to replace the postage stamp that was not required in the war zone. However, regulations did require the sender to write “Free Air Mail” in the upper right corner. A few of the covers do show the imprint as substitute postage — no mail clerk wanted to take a letter back to the front or tell the soldier that his letter was contrary to regulations.

So far, I have found only one cachet used from a non-U.S. unit — and the identifying return address had been removed! –the example being from a British soldier as indicated by the stamp and cancel. Examples from naval and marine units are not common: the markings seemed most popular with ground and air force personnel. The rubber stamp would normally be personal property; but, like most personal items, was shared with buddies and probably remained in the unit when the owner returned to the Land of the Big PX. Many of the stamps were acquired in Japan during a leave; some were definitely made in Korea. Although a rubber stamp and ink pad were most likely to be in a unit, I am certain some were available at rear area U.S.O. clubs.

The designs varied with the imagination of their creators. Some were stock designs (for example: the Pup and Bee), but it seems a few may have reflected the mission of the unit, its motto, or its “knickname.” The color of the ink used reflected the pads that were available: black, blue, violet, magenta, and red are most common. As impressions were often weak, I have strengthened those light places in the photocopies.

What does “Hubba-Hubba” mean? From three sources, I found three answers. The best, and in keeping with the spirit of soldier use, is from the Dictionary of American Slang: “An expression of approval and delight”. Older readers may recall Bob Hope’s frequent use of the expression in his WW II radio shows. The expression was often used to mean “Hurry up!” and thus may be a corruption of the phrase “haba haba” which was a WW II expression meaning just that (especially in the Pacific Navy) which is probably derived from “have at it”.

Where was the source of the expression? Some think it is a Pidgin-English form of “hurry.” Another source reports that it originated in Australia during the mid-1930’s as an expression of approval; and it may have derived from a Cornish cry. Two of the sources assert it derived from the Chinese hao, pu hao, a common greeting (or reply) meaning “good, not good” — equivalent to our current “so-so.” The derivation was developed into an Air Corps expression by those who helped train Chinese pilots in Florida during WW II.

The designs, for the most part, are self-explanatory, so I have only indicated the unit of the sender (and the mailing APO if different from the return address). A few not from the Korean area are so marked. It is interesting to see the varieties of the “pup and bee” which are “pup and hypo-needle.”

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