ILLUSTRATED COVERS to Pfc. GERALD O. KEATING, S.A.A.A.B. [U.S.A.]
Two letters to Private first class Gerald O. Keating, both illustrated by the same artist and sent by Mrs J. Keating from Brisbane appeared on eBay the same day. The first had a roller postmark with a boxed BRISBANE/ QLAND/ 2 23 JAN 2/ 1945/ POSTED IN/ PILLARS as well as a boxed 1/ PASSED/ BY/ CENSOR/ 164. The blue 3½d KGVI stamp was applied, and the most obvious finding was a painted tropical scene occupying the left hand side of the envelope. The cover was addressed to Pfc. Gerald O. Keating, A.S.N. (Army Service Number) 19064631, Section E. 1040 AAF. B.U.- R.S #4, S.A.A.A.B, Santa Ana, California U.S.A. (Figure 1).
The reverse showed the full address of the sender, the same boxed Censor mark as on the front, plus a red label 1. OPENED BY CENSOR (Figure 2).
The second cover shows an incomplete boxed 10/ 16 MAY 10/ 1945/ AIR MAIL roller postmark on the blue 3½d Duke & Duchess of Gloucester stamp, and to the left of this a reception date of JUL 3 1945. There is a small purple ‘V in a circle’ which may have censorship significance. The letter is addressed (in the same hand as in the first cover) to Pfc. G.O. Keating 19064631, Squadron C, S.A.A.A.B., Santa Ana, California, U.S.A. A painting of a kangaroo occupies the left hand side of the cover, and the reverse was not seen (Figure 3).
Whereas the first cover pre-dated the victory in Europe, V-E Day of May 8, 1945, the second cover was still before the end of hostilities in Japan, V-J Day of August 15, 1945. The point that stood out in Keating’s address in the 2 covers was the acronym S.A.A.A.B., and this was easily identified as meaning Santa Ana Army Air Force Base in California.
“Santa Ana Army Air Base (SAAAB) was an air base without planes, hangers or runways. It was a huge basic training camp where newly inducted soldiers, earmarked for the Army Air Forces, were given 9 weeks of basic training and then tested to determine if they were to be pilots, bombardiers, navigators, mechanics, etc. From SAAAB, they went on to other bases for training in their specialties. The base was dedicated in March 1942 and grew rapidly as the need for pilots and air crews sky-rocketed”.
“Turnover was rapid so that by the end of the year 23,470 soldiers had passed through SAAAB. By the end of 1943, that number had jumped to 57,895. In the Fall of 1942 SAAAB became an Overseas Replacement Depot (ORD), housing Army Air Forces personnel awaiting transport overseas. In November of 1943 members of the Women's Air Service Pilots (WASP) began training at the base, followed shortly by members of the Women's Army Corp (WAC). In 1945 SAAAB became one of six Redistribution Centers in the country for airmen returning from overseas who were to be assigned stateside duty”.
“Being close to Hollywood and with such a large turnover of service personnel, the base attracted a lot of Hollywood celebrities who put on shows at the base. In late 1945 Japanese aliens from the alien internment camps being returned to Japan by the Immigrations and Naturalization Service (INS) were housed here while awaiting transportation to Japan SAAAB continued as a redistribution and separation center for a short time after the war. On March 31, 1946, the base was officially deactivated”.