US Navy Censored cover from Upham Naval Air Station, 1942
The Isthmus of Panama has had a US military presence since 1850 when US Marines were sent to safeguard the Panama Railroad Company’s efforts to build a coast-to-coast railroad across the isthmus (no small task despite the diminutive distance between coasts).
During World War II, the US Naval Submarine Base named Coco Solo was turned into a US Naval Air Station. Perhaps because of the somewhat whimsical name of the base (meaning “Lonely Coconut”) it was renamed Upham. Upham served as the base of operations for a squadron of P38 Lighting aircraft for defense of the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal was seen as a strategic resource during World War II because it offered the ability to move resources from one ocean (and one front) to the other with relative ease.
There were only two types of hand cancel devices used that featured the base name of Upham. This one was used from December 1, 1939 to September 15, 1942*. What I find particularly striking about this cover is that the censor marking was made with a bright blue ink. The majority of censor markings I have seen from Upham were made with black ink.
* The Postal Markings of the Canal Zone, 2nd Ed. by Lawson Entwistle, Canal Zone Study Group, 1992
This cover was mailed from Cristobal, Canal Zone to the US Army Armory in West Saint Paul, Minnesota.
The sender lived in Rainbow City, but Cristobal is just a short drive of about four miles from Rainbow City, and the sender may have dropped off the letter while doing errands in the shopping center of Cristobal.
What is unusual about this cover is that it has been given a cancel (the one that covers the stamp) that says “PAQUEBOT” in the lower arc of the Circular Date Stamp (CDS). This postal marking is intended for items that were posted on board a ship while it was en route from one port to another.
Because the sender of the letter was living in the Canal Zone at the time it is most likely this was a mistake. I suspect this is why the stamp was re-cancelled with the proper cancel for regular postal service (there were no special cancels for Air Mail postal service at this time)
The stamp on the cover is Scott# C49 and as two sides of the stamp are straight, rather than perforated, we can tell this stamp came from a booklet pane of four. This particular stamp was issued in both sheet and booklet format. This stamp was put into use in 1971, one year prior to the sending of this letter.
The 11¢ rate was the appropriate Air Mail rate to the United States at this time.
I am rather curious about the number “2398” written on the left margin of the cover with what appears to be a black felt-tip pen.
It is interesting to note that the name of Rainbow City was the only city name chosen by popular vote in the Canal Zone. It was previously called Silver City.