This article was originally published in the February 2017 Universal Ship Cancellation Society Log. It was nominated by the Universal Ship Cancellation Society as an APS Articles of Distinction winner. Learn more here.
A 1971 U.S. Postal Service Machine Slogan Cancel
“REMEMBERING OUR/ POW-MIA SACRIFICE/ FOR FREEDOM”
In the 1960's during the Vietnam War, Voices in Vital America (VIVA), a college student organization based in Los Angeles, CA began the POW-MIA bracelet campaign. The concept began by students Carol Brown and Kay Hunter as a way to remember the American POW's (Prisoners of War) suffering in Southeast Asia.
On 24 March 1967, LCDR John Ellison and LTJG Jim Plowman were placed in a MIA (Missing in Action) status after the disappearance of their Buckeye aircraft near the Gulf of Tonkin. They had participated in the strike force against the Bae Glang thermal power plant in North Vietnam. Neither man was reported as captured or dead by the Vietnamese.
In the late 1969, TV personality Bob Dorman (who later became a U.S. Congressman) introduced several members of VIVA to the wives of these missing pilots. The wives and students began to work together to bring a positive involvement of students in a program for the U.S. soldier without becoming embroiled in the controversy of the war.
The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia was formed in Washington D.C. on 28 May 1970. The League was comprised of wives, children, parents and siblings of Americans who were, or were listed, as Prisoners of War (POW), Missing in Action (MIA), Killed in Action, Body not Recovered (KIA/BNR) and returned American Vietnam POW's.
The League originated on the west coast in the 1960's. They believed that the US Government's policy of keeping a low profile on the POW/MIA issue while urging family members to refrain from publicly discussing the problem was unjustified. The League's sole purpose was to obtain release of all prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for the missing and repatriations of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation.
During the spring and summer of 1970, with sample bracelets in hand the VIVA members sought funding to distribute bracelets to college students. To their amazement, they had not realized that adults would be willing to wear the unattractive bracelets and also strongly support their cause. Bob Dorman, who had always championed POW/MIA's and their families, continued publicizing the POW/MIA bracelet on his Los Angeles television show. November 11, 1970, Veterans’ Day, was the official kickoff of the bracelet program in Los Angeles. Eventually, requests for the bracelets reached over 12,000 bracelets a day. The proceeds brought in money for brochures, bumper stickers, buttons and other advertising to promote the POW-MIA issue.
Mrs. Michael Hoff, the wife of MIA Michael Hoff and member of the National League of Families recognized in 1971 the need for a symbol of our POW/MIA's. Mrs. Hoff contacted the president of the flag manufacturer Annin & Company, Norman Rivkees, sympathetic to the issue, with the aid of his advertising agency, designed the POW/MIA flag in three renditions. After the approval of the design, flags were manufactured for distribution. The POW/MIA flag flies over all U.S. Post Offices.
In 1970, the U.S. Post Office Department announced that it would be issuing a special metal machine slogan cancel in recognition of the sacrifices of those POW and MIA's. In my research to find any information on this cancel, I sent a few requests to the Post Office Library and Research Center in Washington, D.C. I was disappointed when my requests were returned as "unable to find information" and "no information on this subject". Philatelic releases vary as to the number to special cancels to be issued ranged from 18 to 26. In collecting this unknown slogan cancel has brought to light many variations.
Slogan cancellations are cancellations that contain words that form a slogan. The type of cancellations can promote the U.S. Postal Service, public service, announcements, promotions for charitable causes and patriotic sentiments. U.S. Post Office rapid cancelling machines that are used are Universal (manufactured by Pitney Bowes Company), International (supplied the International Company) and the Pitney Bowes Mark 11 automatic facer canceller (AFC). The Mark 11 often shows a 1.1 A, l B etc. in the head (CDS) die. These die numbers would identify the cancelling head that applied the cancel.
Most rapid cancelling machines have a single cancelling head which consists of a single Date (CDS) and a slogan (killer.) The killer is usually contained in a frame (Figure b).
Virtually all slogans are printed in capital letters and appear in a single line entry, but most appear over two or three lines. In describing the slogan in the box or box area, the line breaks are identified by "/" mark. The reading for this POW-MIA cancellation would be: REMEMBERING OUR/ POW-MIA SACRIFICE/ FOR FREEDOM. This shows that the wording is on three separate lines.
The head (Circular Date Stamp), is divided into four categories; the Standard USPS format (Figure c), Naval shore activities (Figure d), U.S. Naval ships (Figure e), and U.S. Navy Branch Numbers. (Figure f)
From left to right: Figures c, d, e, and f.
There are two types of slogan killers in this cancel, OPEN and BOXED.
Column 1: Line one is the Address. Line two will be the naval shore activity or installation
Column 2: Shows the date of the cover used in this research
Column 3: States whether the KILLER section of this cancel is OPEN or BOXED
Column 4: Shows what cancelling machine type was used
(I) International cancelling machine
(I*) International machine with a newer type CDS where the year is usually in the center rather than at the bottom of the CDS
(IH) International hand driven machine
(U) Universal cancelling machine
(M) Mark 11 series cancelling machine
Column 5: Shows letter sizes other than the normal standards (n) narrow –(s) small
Column 6: Die information inside the CDS
Column 7: USPS office type used in the cancellations (LOC) local city, (ADC) Regional Distribution Center, and (SFC) sectional Center Facility).
Column 8: USPS assigned ZIP Code for a naval unit
Column 9: Fleet Post Office that serviced the ship or station, (NY) New York, (SF) San Francisco, CA and (SE) Seattle, Washington.