World War II 50th Anniversary

World War II was one of the most significant events of the 20th century.  The U.S. Postal Service began planning for the war’s 50th anniversary in 1985.  It wanted to honor the key events of the war effort as well as the various aspects of national endeavor that contributed to Allied victory.  But how to do that without producing a thousand stamps?

The solution was a series of sheetlets – one for each year of the war – that consisted of a large center map framed by five stamps on the top and five on the bottom.  Five years of commemorating WWII would yield five sheets, for a total of 50 stamps, enough for an honorable tribute and accomplish Postal Service goals.

The world maps are masterpieces of thumbnail summaries.  They call attention to the major military and political developments of the year and include events not featured on the individual stamps.  Color coded for easy identification of the warring factions, they’re “a year in summary” at a glance.

The 1991 stamps spotlight the world at war in 1941, featuring Burma Road, Peacetime Draft, Lend-Lease, Civil Defense, Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Declaration of War, and more.

US #2559 1941: A World at War
US #2559
1941: A World at War

The next sheetlet commemorated the following year’s events – 1942: Into the Battle.

US #2697 1942: Into the Battle
US #2697
1942: Into the Battle

“1942: Into the Battle” uses text, arrows, and color shading to pinpoint the war’s theaters of operations and historical World War II events, such as the Battle of Midway, the landing of Allied troops in North Africa, and the Battle of the Coral Sea.

US #2765 1943: Turning the Tide
US #2765
1943: Turning the Tide

 

At first the Germans seemed to be winning the Battle of the Atlantic. Each month they sank thousands of tons of Allied shipping. Gradually, the Allied forces overcame the threat of U-boats. Using a convoy system of cargo ships which sailed in large groups escorted by war ships, shipments of guns, tanks, and planes were successfully received by the British.
In addition, improvements made to radar and sonar allowed Allied forces to locate German submarines, which were then bombed when they surfaced. By 1943, the Allies were sinking the U-boats faster than Germany could replace them, and the crisis in the Atlantic had passed.
US #2838 Road to Victory
US #2838
Road to Victory

On June 4th, 1944, Allied forces entered the city of Rome. General Clark, who was at the forefront recalls, “There were gay crowds in the streets, many of them waving flags.… Flowers were stuck in the muzzles of the soldiers’ rifles and of the guns on the tanks. Many Romans seemed to be on the verge of hysteria in their enthusiasm for the American troops .…” The fall of Rome marked the final phase of the war. Two days later, Eisenhower’s forces landed in Normandy.

 

US #2981 Victory at Last
US #2981
Victory at Last

The fifth and final installment of the World War II series commemorates the 50th anniversary of the war’s final year. Titled “1945: Victory at Last,” these 10 stamps chronicle the events leading to Germany’s surrender, the Japanese surrender, and ultimately the Allied victory. Nearly 300,000 American service personnel lost their lives between 1941 and 1945.

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