Lot #: 80418

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Description

September 1950 TWA flight mail seized in Egypt - DISCOVERY PIECE: 15 SEP 1950 airmail cover from BRINDISI (Italy) to HAIFA, franked 145L & tied by 3 strikes of local postmark; subsequently opened & resealed using K-type-C label & tied by K-Type1 (#53) censor. The cover was returned to sender and resent (without requiring additional postage as per UPU regulations) and received in HAIFA (backstamped 25-1-1951 Head Post Office receipt and same day HAIFA-22 post office arrival). Opened partially at left through label; two filing holes; light vertical fold.
Of note, the censor markings are not as those of the April 1948 war period Egypt-seized mails, which were sealed with K-type-A labels (reading "Opened by Censor | Egyptian Censorship Authority"), and this cover is not tied by censor cachets K-Type5 or -6 which Kibble ascribes to the label used on this cover in the period 1949-62.
Furthermore Italian airmail service to Israel was established on 19 July 1948, presumeably a well-established route by 1948 and Kibble has no examples of "mis-routed" European airmail in this period.
Rather, this cover was carried on a certain TWA flight departing ROME on 18 September with 14 passengers and scheduled to arrive at LYDDA the same day, however due to engine trouble the plane was forced to land in CAIRO (reference: Maariv p.1 20-09-1950) where the Egyptian authorities seized and censored the mail on-board, and refused to release it (as of the 20th the flight itself still hadn't arrived at its destination).
The documented story of this flight is vague, barring new research we uncovered: it was generally believed that there were 19 mail bags on board and that only USA-originating mail was released back to its sender - and this after pressure from the American government, and that these US mail were all postmarked between 14 and 16 September. In addition to the referenced article above, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (26-09-1950) reported that Israel's Postmaster General (Zvi Prihar) announced that the seized mail amounted to 21 bags, originating from New York, Boston, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Rome; in a subsequent JTA report from 31 October, mail from Britain was also mentioned.
Though not documented in the press articles, the postmark dates of 14-16 September correspond to Thursday-Saturday which would make sense for a Monday (1st day of the week) departure with weekend mail - which this Italian cover matches (Friday). Kibble (p.95-96) illustrates known American covers from the flight - all with the same censor marks as this Italian cover - whose origins are from secondary US cities, suggesting that the documented cities of origin were the collection centers for the mail and not the specific points of origin for the mail - a characteristic matching this cover. The JTA also mentioned (31 October) that it was the International Postal Union which was protesting to the Egyptian government - and here, already for a second time.
Two elements make this a discovery piece: until now no non-American mail was documented released/returned from the flight and those covers known to be resent to Israel are known receipt-stamped as early as 28 February 1951, and in Haifa at the HAIFA-22 post office - as here, except this cover is backstamped 25 January making this the earliest dated mail from this incident known to be received in Israel.