By Calvin Mitchell, NPM Research Associate
This past Veterans Day, November 11, 2013, the United States Postal Service in conjunction with the Friends of the National World War II Memorial held a first day ceremony to dedicate the two set World WAR II Medal of Honor (MOH) Stamp. The ceremony was held at the World War II Memorial and was accorded a full military dedication under a beautiful sky and cool temperatures.
Judging from the medals and military insignias worn by members of the audience, the ceremony was attended by veterans who served in World War II through the current Afghanistan Campaign. But the audience came to dedicate the stamps, honor the 424 MOH recipients and the 12 surviving recipients. Sadly, four of the recipients, including Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), died prior to the stamp being issued (and another recipient, John D. “Bud” Hawk, died November 4, exactly one week before the stamp dedication ceremony). Two of the eight living recipients, Wilburn Ross of Dupont, Washington and George Sakota of Denver Colorado, both Army MOH recipients, participated in the stamp dedication ceremony. Other participants included the widow of Senator Daniel Inouye, Irene Hirano Inouye of Honolulu, Hi; past President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society/Marine Corps retired Colonel and Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient Harvey”Barney” Barnum; Chairman, Friends of the National World War II Memorial/retired U.S. Army Lt.Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter; Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley--who served as the keynote speaker; and National Parks Service Superintendent Robert Vogel.
"Our challenge as a nation is to never forget the sacrifices all of these individuals made on our behalf,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in dedicating the stamps. “We hope these new Medal of Honor Forever stamps will provide everyone with one more way to preserve our veterans’ stories for future generations. I urge you to use these stamps and mail them around the nation and the world. Save them for your children and grandchildren. Let them serve as small reminders of the giant sacrifices made by the heroes of World War II.”
This event follows the enshrinement of a National Medal of Honor on September 22 in the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery during a public ceremony celebrating the opening of the world’s largest stamp gallery within the National Postal Museum. This medal was awarded to First Sgt. David McNerney, an avid stamp collector, for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War.
In 2011 Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe expressed a desire to honor living people on stamps, but the Postal Service Board of Governors gave mixed reviews to this policy change. The innovative design of the stamp folio demonstrates how the USPS addressed this policy in a very selective and thoughtful manner, and reflects the USPS desire to become more creative and appealing to the general public when issuing stamps. Although the stamps only depict the two different medals awarded during World War II, the front cover of the stamp folio shows the stamps surrounded by photographs of the 12 living World War 2 recipients—and the USPS displayed this cover during the stamp’s unveiling. This interesting and direct reference to living people being honored on a stamp even surprised one of the living recipients. When asked about the honor, Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, one of the MOH honorees said: “It’s a wonderful thing, it really is. I never dreamed anything like this would happen. I didn’t think you could be on a stamp if you were still around. I guess I’m surprised by all this.”
The design of these stamps and related philatelic material demonstrates that the USPS can address the issue of showing living people on a postal stamp in creative and unique ways.
The United States Postal Service recently announced the issuance of a stamp in 2014 commemorating the MOH awarded during the Korean War. Hopefully, the precedence set with the issuance of the World War II MOH Stamps will result in the release of a MOH stamp honoring the 137 recipients, both living and deceased, of the Korean War.
Interestingly, there were two first day programs (above) distributed for the event: Program 1 was prepared by the Friends of the National World War II Memorial and Program 2 was distributed by the USPS. The envelope enclosing the USPS program was postmarked with one of the dual-set stamps and tied to the envelope with a lovely pictorial postmark.
Both stamps are issued as nondenominated forever stamps and in a new and unique format called the prestige folio. The cover page (below) shows both versions of the Medal of Honor awarded during World War II surrounded by portraits of the 12 remaining recipients. These individuals were alive when the USPS approached them to have their photographs shown on the front cover. The back page (below) shows the remaining 18 stamps. The inside page (below) identifies the names of all of the 464 recipients.