The last of Babe’s letters that I transcribed — and the next two to come — got me wondering what it really means when a postmark is applied to a letter. The last letter was dated Feb. 16, 1944, but not postmarked until March 6, nearly three weeks later.
The next two letters were postmarked before, but dated after. Babe’s next letter is dated Feb. 19 and postmarked a week later, on Feb. 26. The letter after that is dated Feb. 29 and postmarked March 6.
Is it reasonable to assume that his family received the second two letters before they received the first one?
Wikipedia’s entry defines a postmark as “a postal marking made on a letter, package, postcard or the like indicating the date and time that the item was delivered into the care of the postal service.” The U.S. Postal Service itself has a similar definition, saying the postmark “indicates the location and date the Postal Service accepted custody of a mailpiece, and it cancels affixed postage.”
What difference, if any, does it make if the postmark is applied by the “U.S. Army Postal Service” (like the one on the left)? This letter was dated Nov. 15, 1943, and postmarked (as you can see) seven days later.
Obviously, it matters how long the letter’s author hangs onto it before he mails it. But once a letter gets a postmark, do they all travel the same route through the postal service? Was there always a place for an infantryman to turn in a letter? What was the equivalent of “going to the Post Office” for a serviceman? Should two letters with the same postmark, heading to the same place, take the same amount of time to get to their destination?
I’ve been reaching out to some other sources to try and get some answers because I’m just curious to understand, step by step, how a letter got from the serviceman to the parents’ mailbox.