Addition of Fiji to FAM 19, November 1941

For the flight leaving San Francisco on Wednesday 5 November 1941, Suva in Fiji was added to the Pan American route FAM 19 from USA to New Zealand as an extra stop between Canton Island and Noumea.

Another change was that mail was now accepted from San Pedro, but as that was the flying boat base for Los Angeles, this had no effect on the actual route. Pan American Airways also planned to use Palmyra, an atoll between Hawaii and Canton Island, as an extra stop on the route, but it was not used.

The plane was the Boeing 314 Pacific Clipper. As this was the first flight from the United States to Fiji, special cachets were applied and the mail was backstamped on arrival in Fiji on 9 November.

Fiji - New Zealand and Return

Flight Fiji to New Zealand


Mail from Suva to New Zealand is postmarked 9 November and a special cachet was applied. The flight left Suva for New Caledonia at 9am on 10 November and flew from there to Auckland on 11 November.

The postal rate was 1s 2d.

Fiji back

The mail was backstamped on arrival in Auckland with the date and the war-time slogan Lest we regret Don't Talk.


This second cover was sent by a member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) and has a N.Z.E.F. Field Post Office mark in purple and a signed censor stamp as well as the first flight cachet.

It also has a By Air Mail Par Avion purple cachet.


The total number of letters flown from Fiji to New Zealand was 15,100 including 3,906 like this one from New Zealand forces based in Fiji [3].

Return flight New Zealand to Fiji

Fiji Suva The mail for the return flight to San Francisco closed in Auckland on 11 November and left at 8 am on Thursday 12 November [2]. It arrived in San Francisco on Monday 17 November having crossed the International Date Line.

The flight was scheduled to arrive in Fiji at 3.30pm on 13 November and the mail was backstamped in Suva at 5pm.

This cover was postmarked on 10 November 1941 in Eastbourne, a suburb of Lower Hutt near Wellington.


As this was the first time that Fiji was included in the route from New Zealand to San Francisco, a special cachet was applied in Auckland. This cachet originally had the month as well as the year on the bottom line, but that was removed when the flight took place later than had been expected. That is why the year in the cachet is not in the centre.

Fiji back

Mail from Fiji for Canton Island, Hawaii and the USA also had special cachets.

The second example is a postcard. It is correctly franked at the 8d postcard rate while the previous cover is franked with the letter rate of 1s 3d [3].

To UK via Fiji

This censored cover is from New Zealand to UK. As it is postmarked in Auckland on 3 November and the PanAm service was fortnightly, it was flown on the first flight via Fiji on 12 November.

As the service between New Zealand and the UK was well established, no special cachet was applied. The rate from New Zealand to UK remained at 5s 9d.

US to Fiji

A range of attractive cachets were produced for the first flight to Suva, Fiji from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Pedro, Hawaii and Canton Island.

From San Francisco

This cover from San Francisco is addressed to the USA and so was presumably returned by sea.

from San Francisco backstamp

According to the timetable in Proud [4], the scheduled time for the service to leave San Francisco on 5 November was 12 noon. It was scheduled to arrive at Lauthala Bay, Suva at 2.30pm on 9 November [3]. Covers were backstamped at 4pm.

The airmail rate was 40c.

From LA
From Los Angeles
From LA backstamp

After flying from San Francisco, the flight was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles at 3pm and depart again at 4pm [4]. The Los Angeles date stamp does not have a time, just P.M. on 5 November.

This cover from Los Angeles has a different Suva backstamp on 9 November from the previous cover. Presumeably several backstamps were required due to the volume of mail.

From San Pedro
From San Pedro
From San Pedro backstamp

This flight was the first time that mail was accepted from San Pedro. However, this did not mean that there was an extra stop as San Pedro Harbour had always been the Los Angeles flying boat base.

The San Pedro postmark is at 12 noon on 5 November.

From Hawaii
From Hawaii
From Hawaii backstamp

The flight was scheduled to leave Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii at 6.15am on 7 November [4]. The time on the postmark is 4am.

It was due to arrive in Canton Island at 5.15pm on 7 November. The airmail rate from Hawaii to Fiji was 20c.

From Canton Island
From Canton Island
From Canton Island backstamp

The flight was scheduled to leave Canton Island at 6am on 8 November and then, after crossing the International Date Line, to arrive in Suva at 2.30 pm on 9 November [4].

The airmail rate to Fiji was 10c.

The Suva backstamp on this cover differs from all the others.

UK to New Zealand via Fiji


Cover postmarked in UK on 24 October and correctly franked with 4s 6d.

Trans-atlantic flights left Lisbon on 29 October and 1 November arriving in New York on 31 October and 2 November. If this cover had been carried on either of these flights, it would have reached San Francisco in time to be carried on the first flight to New Zealand via Fiji.

However, the build up of mail in London for the flights to Lisbon means that it may have missed these flights. The next flights from Lisbon were on 10 and 11 November and so if it missed the first flight via Fiji, it seems likely that it would have been carried on the second flight from San Francisco which left on 17 November.

Fiji to New Caledonia

New Caledonia New Caledonia

Mail from Fiji to New Caledonia is postmarked 9 November. It left Lauthala Bay in Fiji at 9 am on 10 November and was backstamped in Noumea on the same day.

The cover is franked with 9½d.

Although the basic design was the same, there were different cachets for the different destinations from Fiji. The cover has a Passed by Censor 1259 diamond handstamp.

Return Flight: New Caledonia to Fiji

New Caledonia New Caledonia

Mail from New Caledonia is postmarked 13 November when it was flown to Fiji and received a backstamp on the same day.

It was scheduled to leave Noumea at 8 am and arrive in Suva at 3.30pm [4]. Covers were backstamped at 5pm.

Return Flight: Fiji to Canton Island, Hawaii and USA

Canton Island
To Canton Island

Similar cachets, but differing only in their destination, were applied in Fiji on covers for onward transmission to Canton Island, Hawaii or America.

CI back

The flight left Fiji on 14 November (scheduled at 6.30 am) and, because it crossed the International Date Line, arrived in Canton Island on 13 November.

Hence, the backstamp on this cover shows an earlier arrival date than the departure postmark!

To Hawaii
Hawaii back

This next cover was flown from Fiji to Hawaii, where it was backstamped on arrival on 15 November. It was scheduled to arrive at 7.45pm and covers were backstamped at 10pm.

The rate was from Fiji to Hawaii was 1s 6d.

San Pedro
To San Pedro

For this flight, San Pedro in California was added as a destination as well as Fiji.

This made no difference to the route as San Pedro was the flying boat base for Los Angeles!

San Pedro back

This cover was flown from Fiji to San Pedro where it was backstamped on 17 November. The schedule was to leave Hawaii at 1pm on 16 November and to arrive in San Pedro at 10.10 am on 17 November. As the backstamp is not until 4.30, it seems that this schedule was not achieved.

To Los Angeles

LA back

This cover was offloaded in San Pedro and, as it had then to be taken to Los Angeles, it was not backstamped until 5.30pm - an hour after the San Pedro backstamp.

The rate from Fiji to USA was 2s 10d.


This next cover was also off-loaded at San Pedro and backstamped in Los Angeles at 5.30 pm. It differs from the previous cover in that it does not have routing instructions to Los Angeles and so might have been expected to have continued to San Francisco.

LA back

It has a Los Angeles handstamp on the front as well as the back. The one on the back is significantly different from the other backstamps.

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All scans were made by the author.
[1] O.R.J. Lee, Australia and New Zealand to Great Britain (Wartime Services 1939-1945), Aero Field 1961.
[2] J.E. Krupnick, Pacific Pioneers, PH Publishing, 1997.
[3] R.M. Startup, Airmails of New Zealand, vol 3, Air Mail Society of New Zealand, 1997.
[4] Proud, E.B., The Postal History of British Air Mails, Proud-Bailey, 1991.