Korean War POW Mail: 70 years after the armistice

Military Mail

The following is an expansion of two articles which were recently published in the American Philatelist and The London Philatelist. Rather than simply republishing them, they are combined and expanded here to tell a more detailed story. Mail to and from the largest POW components (excluding South Koreans) – American and British – are detailed separately to reflect the differences in handling and the amount of archival information available.

The Korean War provides many opportunities to study the military philately of 18 nations (16 fighting with the United Nations Command (UNC) against North Korea and China) plus the five medical units involved in the conflict.

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Anthony Bard
I collect North and South Korean Postal History from 1945, focusing on the Korean War and the countries involved in the conflict and post-Armistice commissions. I live in London.

9 thoughts on “Korean War POW Mail: 70 years after the armistice

  1. Marvelous. It took me several hours to read. It looks like a synopsis of the Ph degree.
    I am lacking some background knowledge on the first post card on the top.
    Could you explain how the prisoners could use the US post cards in North Korean
    territory? Were those cards before military censor cancellation obtained
    from US soldiers who had them when they surrendered to the NK troops?
    Or were those handed over to the soldiers by NK troops which seized them
    from the US military camp?

  2. Thank you for your kind remarks!

    The US postcard is the reply half of a ‘reply paid’ postcard. This was sent by James ‘Jimmy’ Russell, who was an obsessive collector and early researcher of Korean War military mail. He wrote to hundreds of soldiers serving in Korea as well as UN POWs held in North Korea.

    William Dean was the highest ranking UN POW, and of course Russell and others did their best to maje contact with him. This is the only known item of US postal stationery used from a POW camp, as in general prisoners were only allowed to write on whatever stationery their Chinese captors provided. The fact that this postcard was accepted for exchange at Panmunjom, and not destroyed by the North Korean censors at Kaesong makes it unique.

  3. Thanks. We all know General Dean. Although he was caught as prisoner by NK, he destroyed T-34
    tanks by bazooka. When I was young, there was a rumor that General Dean knocked out altogether
    11 tanks by point-blank rage. I know it was exaggerated in terms of crashed number of tanks. But
    we all understood he did everything as a commander before being caught by NK. Thank you again
    for the never-heard historic materials.

  4. I only wish that it would be possible to write anything at all on the postal history of ROK POWs held in North Korea – I do not know of a single example of this type of mail!

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