Background on Bob Collins Korean War Postal History Exhibit

[exhibit page]

The following narrative is by Bob Collins, dated 2017, and is supplied as supplementary material to his remarkable Korean War postal history exhibit. Some edits to the original material have been made, and are marked with []:

...I started collecting Korean War covers around 50 years ago. After my Territorial Alaska exhibit appeared in the APS Champion of Champion show, I put it away and started mounting the Korean War covers into exhibit form. I formed the Best collection of that material known worldwide. Yes, I had contact with collectors from several foreign countries who wanted to buy my collection. I even had a collector from Communist China looking for POW covers since the Chinese ran the POW camps along with the North Koreans.

While a Mr. Put in Holland had more covers than I, my collection was composed of a greater variety and I had many cover examples he didn't have. He bought in bulk, while I just bought pieces I could use in my exhibit. One thing I was always proud of is that I found out the Correct way mail to and from the POWs took place. For years and even in a book, the writer stated that Panmunjom was the mail center for POW Mail. Through government documents that were no longer sealed, I found that Yokohama, Japan, was the location of APO 100 and was the center for POW mail to and from the camps. They even had a listing of known POWs at that location. They would go through the incoming mail and placed mail for each POW Camp in SEALED bags marked with the Camp number. Then the Sealed bags would be taken to Panmunjom where they were picked up, and sometimes much later were taken to the proper POW Camp.

Another thing I discovered that no one else knew was the Camp number change that took place a few months after camps opened. Some POW letters were marked with a camp number that had been changed, but the POWs didn't know about it so sometimes the return address was not correct by the camp numbers. I explain that in my exhibit page writings.

For my research, I used a large number of books written by the POWs as my POW section blew the socks off of many Korean War collectors and veterans of the Korean War. I was very proud of that section of my exhibit, especially because no other collector had the variety that I had. I made use of the government documents I had. Talked one on one with a survivor (Mr. Cosin) of the "Tiger" death march north to the POW Camps. This person used to give talks to students and adults on his experiences. He even sent me some of his hand drawn pages he used in his talks. He mentioned that during the first winter in the POW Camp so many died and they could not burry them as the ground was so frozen. He said he carried them outside and stacked them like cordwood until spring when the ground got softer and they were buried. We talked several times at length and when he stopped contacting me, I found out he was set upon by a bunch of young men and was beaten and robbed. He never recovered and spent his last days in a nursing home. How terrible the gang of [removed, ed.] were to beat upon that old man who had been through so much in his military days. I also had a lot of contact with a Mr. Casey, Army retired, who was involved with the Korean War POW association and was the keeper of all their records. Tim told me a story about one of their reunions on the West Coast, possibly Seattle. They got a phone call from a Chinese man (PRC) who was in the city on business, and had heard about their reunion. He asked if he could come to the meeting as he was a Guard at one of the POW Camps. He was told NOT to show up as someone could be armed and he possibly would not get out alive. He didn't show up.

Me? I am long retired and am 82 years old and still collecting. But not like I did years ago. I started with stamps around 72-73 years ago when a man gave me his used stamps collection taken from his daily mail. Years later I got involved with stampless covers and then got involved with Early Alaska mail and formed a 10 frame exhibit that was a constant Gold medal, Reserve Grand, and then a Grand award at National shows.

After appearing in the APS Champion of Champion show I put the Alaska to bed so to speak, and went to work on my Korean War collection that I had started years before. I was drafted into the Army in the later 1950s (86th Engineers) and served with many Korean War veterans and even some WWII vets. I guess that was the idea to start collecting Korean War covers.

The Korean Stamp Society contacted me about a money raising thing for their club. They would take copies of many of my covers from the exhibit that had won several Gold medals and a couple of Reserve Grand awards at national shows (I don't do local shows) and make them into a Monograph. They had done this twice before with different subjects. So some of my Korean War cover material became Monograph 3. The title is "The Postal History of the Korean War 1950-1953 by Robert W. Collins. Published by the Korea Stamp Society. I was told it sold pretty well and I even saw one copy for sale on E-Bay auctions a year or two ago. [ed. note, this book can be found on Google Books: The Postal History of the Korean War 1950-1953 by Robert W. Collins.]

I enjoy exhibiting I guess as besides the 10-frame Alaska and 10-frame Korean War exhibits, I have shown others of less frames, including Collins postmarks and related covers, Dover township from 1834 to the present day Westlake post office, a one frame exhibit of a 17-18 year old boy who joined the Army (forged his parents signatures) and was sent to Korea during the war showing covers from his shipping out- wounded in action- and arriving back in the states when his tour was over. The philatelic judge (A Moron) said I needed to tell a story. What better story than a kid joining the army, going to combat in Korea, almost getting killed, and returning to the states. (Joined the National Guard and got his Jump Wings when he was in his mid 30s.) All shown by his letters home and ones he received! Now I am working on a small exhibit on Women in the military during WWII. WACs, WAVES, and others, along with Army and Navy Nurses. I have been hunting for these covers for less than a year and hope to get enough to do a one frame or three frame exhibit ...

Bob Collins



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Updated 23 July 2023