A seaman, informing his correspondent that he could now write only one letter in Italian each week, had his letter returned by a POW unit censor accompanied by a note that he was misinformed of the regulation permitting two letters in Italian.43 Even small violations of the conflicting rules could result in a letter being returned— references to the cold weather, salutations or messages to a third party, inclusion of seemingly harmless personal photographs, or writing a twenty-fifth line of text.
Although the INS remained steadfast in its refusal to forward internee domestic mail to the POW unit, in the summer of 1943 Kelly's office submitted to pressures by the Office of Censorship and the Office of Naval Intelligence to participate in a two-month experiment during which the POW unit would process the domestic mail of the crew still at Fort Stanton.
Useful military information might be gleaned from this untapped resource, it was argued, and such a test would quantify delays in mail transmission caused by POW unit involvement.
For every sixty-four letters opened and read, one submission slip was prepared.
Bits of intelligence, large and small, important and not so important, were collected from 2,120 pieces of mail that were subsequently released, returned to the sender, or condemned.42 With the INS central office and Office of Censorship still adhering to conflicting sets of regulations, administrators frequently found themselves at odds over censorship issues.
One bright spot occurred in the spring of 1943, when internees under army control were returned to INS custody.
Once the Provost Marshal General's office was out of the picture, only two conflicting sets of regulations remained in effect, reducing but not eliminating the inmates' letter-writing woes.
Under the new procedures, all POW and outgoing internee correspondence in army camps had to first go to the POW unit in New York, where it competed with all other mail for the attention of the examiners.
Similarly, incoming mail from all sources had to first go from the camp to New York for censorship before retracing its steps back for delivery to the addressee.
Since the INS, the Office of Censorship, and the army could not agree on one set of regulations, confusion reigned over what writers could and could not communicate.
Invariably, it was the internees who suffered the consequences.