THE PREXIES GO TO WAR
At various times during 1938, 32 denominations of new U.S. definitive postage stamps were issued, in what was called the Presidential Series. They were officially known as the "Fifth Bureau Issue" and more colloquially as "The Prexies" since all but three of the designs depicted the former Presidents no longer living at the time. As the eventual replacement set wasn’t issued until starting in 1954, it is obvious that the Prexies provided the workhorse postage used in the period just prior to, during and following World War II. The purpose of this exhibit is to show examples of all of the values used in a military context of one sort or another. This is not as easy as it sounds since many of the denominations involved unusual usages, not often seen in the ordinary mail activity of our soldiers and sailors.
Initially, members of the armed forces stationed outside the continental U.S. were allowed to send mail at domestic postal rates. However, as of April 1. 1942, surface letters and postcards from military personnel were allowed free franking. However, this did not apply to special services, including airmail, Parcel post, registration, insurance or printed matter. Thus, the Army Post Offices and Fleet Post Offices needed to carry an inventory of postage stamps to meet the requirements of those desiring such services.
Examples have been selected in order to show a wide variety of uses, including from the bases that were leased from Great Britain before Americas entered the war, inbound and outbound covers to or from various parts of the world during the fighting, and occupation mail in the aftermath of the surrender of Germany and Japan.
Considering that the armed forces eventually involved 12 million service men and women, the amount of military mail processed during this period was immense. However, the supply of covers showing the more unusual and higher denomination stamps is relatively modest. In fact, military use of the $5.00 Prexy is negligible, with only a handful (about 5) examples having been reported.