REVIEW: Jon Krupnick publishes Final Flight


Award-Winning Collection of First Day Covers on Inaugural Flights

Reviewed by Peter Leslie

I opened the envelope containing Jon Krupnick’ s new book on Pan American’s storied history of transpacific flights in the 1930’s. I thought, “What more can he say?” His first two books told powerfully the story of Pan Am’s pioneering flights across the Pacific starting in 1933. He used photos, letters, newspaper articles and, occasionally, a first flight cover of a pioneering flight.

This time he tells the story through his gold medal award winning collection of first day covers carried on Pan Am’s inaugural flights across the Pacific.

Pan Am Clipper

A first day cover is a term philatelists use for an envelope that was mailed on the first day a new stamp is issued, or, in this case a new route or new form of transport is initiated. One example is the first day of the flight between two points. What sets that envelope apart from another?  As there was just one headline pioneering flight to that destination there would never be another first day cover for that route or mode of transportation. Mail between those two points would become routine. Often there is a famous story behind those first flights. The flight had been headline news. Sometimes a poignant story, or for any number of reasons.

For example, as I slid Jon Krupnick’s book out the envelope I saw the back cover first. My eye fell on the envelope in the upper right and the words “MISSING IN ACTION” leaped out at me. The envelope was addressed to Miss Helen Snyder in New York. Another rubber stamp had a pointed finger “Return to Sender.”  The letter was from Ensign Belmont Williams, Wake Island. Many of us recall that Wake fell shortly after Pearl Harbor. “What happened after that?” I wondered. I thought how almost cruel it was to inform a young lady that her boyfriend or fiancé might have been killed in combat or captured by the enemy.

Each cover tells a story, sometimes happy sometimes sad, sometimes of failure, sometimes routine, and other times a triumph of engineering and piloting. Jon Krupnick’s book explains the story behind many of these covers. Perhaps there is no better example of the thoroughness and expertise that Jon Krupnick brings to the tales and exploits of Pan Am crews on those initial flights and Pacific bases than this one stamp. Jon traces the names of Miss Snyder and Ensign Williams and finds he did survive captivity and returned in 1945. They were married for 41 years. Although this book focuses on the Gold Medal collection which won the highest award in the contest among collectors, any of us can sit down and turn the pages and feel a strong connection to the story of Pan Am’s pioneering trans-oceanic flights in the 1930s.

The photos and images in this book are done so well that the reader can imagine he or she is holding the original envelope.

I am not a stamp collector, but I know the story well because my father was Pan Am’s Division Engineer in the Pacific during the period of the first Pacific crossings. He would have loved this book and I am confident a fan of Pan Am history will have trouble putting it down.

Get your copy of Pan American's Final Flight by Jon Krupnick