Vittel, France: 1917. Envelope or Cover. This envelope is addressed to East Orange, New Jersey and franked with a manuscript “soldiers letter” annotation in the upper right corner. It bears both blue French “Hopital Complementaire (Supplementary Hosptial) No 10 bis” and purple A.E.F. “Passed as Censored No. 24" handstamps. A 2-cent postage due postmark was applied at the New York’s Penn Terminal Station on 28 August 1917, and a 2-cent postage due stamp (Scott #J52) was later affixed and cancelled at East Orange, New Jersey. The cover is sound although soiled and with folds. Very good. Item #009032
In July of 1917, just shortly after the A.E.F. headquarters staff began arriving in France, representatives from the Chief Surgeon’s Office met with counterparts from the French Service de Sante to ensure adequate numbers of hospital beds would be available to support the arriving American force. It was decided that care would initially be provided by French military hospitals, and as American medical units arrived they would fall in upon existing facilities. To that end, studies of prospective hospital sites were made near twenty-seven cities. The studies were completed in August. This envelope was undoubted mailed by a study participant at one the prospective hospital sites, Vittel, where Hopital Complementaire No. 10 bis was located; at the time, no other American were anywhere near the area. From Vittel, it was turned over to the Army Postal Service where it was censored and sent on to the United States. At the time, soldiers were allowed to send mail without stamps affixed, but if they did, addressees were assessed postage due. (It would not be until 20 October 1917, after American troops had begun to arrive in larger numbers that military mail was allowed to be sent free of charge.) The Army would eventually locate two facilities at Vittel in November and December of 1917, Base Hosptials 23 and 36. As noted in Van Dam’s The Postal History of the AEF, 1917-1923, examples of American Expeditionary Force mail from before September 1917 are scarce.