World War II 50th Anniversary Stamps 

U.S. #2559 was issued on this day in 1991.

On September 3, 1991, the USPS issued the first of five souvenir sheets (later classified as commemorative sheets) honoring the 50th anniversary of America’s entrance into World War II.

By the mid-1980s, Americans were already writing in to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) suggesting stamps honoring the upcoming anniversary of World War II. The challenge would be creating enough stamps to appropriately honor the war, while not adding an extra 100 stamps to each year’s schedule.

U.S. #2559 FDC – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

To aid in this process, CSAC created a three-member World War II Subcommittee to figure out how to select subjects for the stamps. The committee then worked with Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine historians to develop a list of appropriate topics. By April 1986 they had a list they believed would “properly recognize and honor all facets of national endeavor that contributed to victory.” They also selected the themes for each year and recommended that the center of each sheet feature a world map surrounded by 10 stamps honoring significant events.

U.S. #2559 FDC – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

At various times, the group considered issuing a variety of stamps such as singles, se-tenant blocks of four, and souvenir sheets. They also considered beginning the series in 1989, which would have marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the war in Europe.

British-born artist and World War II veteran William H. Bond of Virginia was selected to create the art for the stamps. He’d never designed stamps before, and this set of 50 would be quite a challenge. The stamps had to be immediately recognizable for each event, and their designs and color schemes had to vary enough that they didn’t look similar, but also appear balanced across the sheet. It was also extremely important that the illustrations be accurate as millions of people who had participated in the war would be looking at them with a very critical eye.

U.S. #2559/2981 – Click to get all five WWII stamp sheets.

President George Bush, a World War II veteran himself, helped unveil the stamp designs at the White House in December 1990. The first sheet in the series was issued on September 3, 1991, at the American Legion’s national convention in Phoenix, Arizona. At this ceremony, the USPS also offered a 44-page book, A World at War: 1941, which outlined the events of the year and had spaces for the stamps.

Click here to view all the sheets and individual stamps.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. I always love it when these informative essays touch on how notable stamps, and in this case, a commemorative sheet as detailed as this one come into being.

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