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"Hitler is a Schickelgruber!", 1943

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

In addition to fighting on the land, in the air, and on the sea during World War 2, the combatants also were engaged in a propaganda war to belittle their opponents and to boost morale on the home front. This cover (Figures 1 and 2) is an example of that effort.

The cachet pokes fun at Adolf Hitler and says to call "Him by His Right Name...Schickelgruber!" "Shickelgruber" certainly sounds more ridiculous than "Hitler" and that was the whole idea - make fun of him by using a ridiculous sounding name.

There is a wee bit of truth to calling Hitler "Schickelgruber. Hitler's father Alois was illegitimate, and for many years Alois bore his mother's last name, which was - you guessed it - Schickelgruber. However, by 1876, Alois laid claim to the last name of Hitler (i). Adolf was born in 1889 so his surname was Hitler and never Schickelgruber. But from a propaganda perspective, especially when the target is your enemy, the truth is of little importance; it's what sticks that matters.

This cover also celebrates the first anniversary of the "Women's Army Auxiliary Corps," or WAAC for short, which is obvious from the blue sticker on the front: "FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF OPENING ON JULY 20, 1942, OF FIRST WAAC TRAINING CENTER IN DES MOINES."

Congress approved the creation of the WAAC on May 14, 1942, adopting a proposal introduced by Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers (Figure 3) of Massachusetts. Rep. Rogers, who was first elected to Congress in 1925 after the death of her husband and was just one of nine women in the 77th Congress, wanted to ensure that if American women served in support of the all-male US Army, they would do so with all the rights and benefits given to male soldiers. President Roosevelt signed the bill into law on May 15 and on May 16, Oveta Culp Hobby (Figure 4) was sworn in as the first WAAC director (ii).

Fort Des Moines in Iowa was chosen as the first WAAC training center, and it opened on July 20, 1942. The base was located south of downtown Des Moines near the present-day location of Blank Park Zoo. After training, WAAC officers or enlisted personnel were assigned to clerical positions (e.g., switchboard operators and typists) or worked as mechanics, drivers, or cooks.

On July 1, 1943, Congress passed a bill dropping the word "Auxiliary." The now Women's Army Corps or WAC allowed women to serve overseas and gave them all the rank, privileges and benefits of their male counterparts. The WAC wasn't disbanded until 1978 when all its units were integrated with male units (iii).

This cover bears a Des Moines cancellation with the date of July 20, 1943, exactly one year after the WAAC training center opened in Des Moines and less than two weeks before the WAAC was converted to the WAC. The killer cancel is an encouragement to "BUY WAR SAVINGS BONDS and STAMPS."

The 3-cent stamp is US Scott #905 first issued on July 4, 1942. More than 20 billion of these stamps were printed, and it was the most used stamp during World War 2 (iv). If you receive The United State Specialist, check out the March 2023 issue for a great article on this stamp titled, “FDR and the 3-cent Win the War Stamp” by Paul Holland.

I don't know who designed the "Schickelgruber" cachet, but it might have been the sender, William Anthony Temple. William, an Iowa native, was an employee of the advertising department for Younkers, a local department store. William was born in 1891 in Pioneer, Iowa, a town about 120 miles northwest of Des Moines, and died in 1975 at age 84 in Des Moines.

William Temple sent this cover to another William - William Nelson Shepard of Jackson, Michigan. I don't know the connection between the two. This cover seemed tailor made for a collector, so perhaps Temple was a budding cachet designer and Shepard a stamp collector? William Shepard was a life-long resident of Michigan, born there in 1916 and dying there at age 62 in 1979.

Figure 1 - Front of cover.

Figure 2 - Back of cover.

Figure 3 - Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers (1881-1960)

Figure 4 - Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby (1905-1995), circa 1942

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