With a commemorative for veterans of World War I coming out tomorrow, the accent on the military -- the fighting men, their commanders, those who shaped the armed forces and the wars they fought -- that marked this year's U.S. issues is near an end.
The only one yet to come is an 18-cent coil issue in November for George Washington that will restore the nation's first commander-in-chief to a place on American stamps after a brief absence.
The commemorative is being issued in Milwaukee during the annual convention of American World War I veterans, of whom some 248,000 survive. The United States fought only in the last 19 months of the conflict but suffered more than 320,000 killed or wounded.
When the United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, the Russian Revolution had removed that country from the Allied side, freeing German armies for the Western Front, increasing pressure on the French, British and Italian armies. But the most serious crisis was at sea, where German submarines were sinking ships at an alarming rate. The U.S. Navy devised a system of protected convoys that substantially reduced sinkings.
On land, after the Germans were stopped at the Marne in 1914, both sides dug into trenches. Before the war was over, the trenches stretched for 600 miles across Europe, and the armies faced each other in bitter seesaw fighting for the next three years.
The United States declared war on Germany with an army that numbered only 307,000 men, without a unit of divisional strength and with its weapons arsenal depleted. Nevertheless, its commander, Gen. John J. Pershing, patched together a division that went to France to boost Allied morale. The troops paraded in Paris on July 4 in a ceremony honoring Lafayette, during which Col. C.E. Stanton -- not Pershing as legend would have it -- uttered the immortal words "Lafayette, we are here."
But the Americans were not yet really there, and it was many months before the American industrial and military mobilization produced the manpower, ships, food and armaments that broke the deadlock on the Western Front in 1918. In the fall of 1918, in the Battle of the Marne -- the greatest battle fought by American troops to that time -- the last German lines were broken. Within weeks Kaiser Wilhelm fled into exile and fighting ended.
The design of the new 22-cent stamp is based on a charcoal drawing by Harvey Dunn titled "The Battle of the Marne." It depicts American soldiers, with bayonets fixed, moving out over an overgrown field, with the battered houses of a small village at their rear.
The artist, Capt. Dunn, who arrived in Europe early in 1918, was one of eight official artists for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) whose drawings, pastels and paintings were used in support of the war effort and to help maintain a historical record.
The Dunn battlefield drawing was turned into a pencil rendering for use in the engraving by Robert Alexander Anderson.
The new horizontal issue in the standard commemorative size was produced by intaglio in red and green by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. There is one plate number per post office pane of 50 stamps, along with two standard marginal inscriptions.
Collectors of first-day-of-issue cancellations have the customary 30-day grace period from the day of issue, so orders must be postmarked no later than Sept. 25. As usual, there are alternative ways of ordering.
Collectors acquiring stamps and affixing them on their first-day covers, which must be addressed, should send them to Customer-Affixed Envelopes, World War I Veterans Stamp, Postmaster, Milwaukee, Wis. 53201-9991. No remittance is required.
Collectors preferring complete processing of covers by the Postal Service should send their envelopes, which must bear addresses, to World War I Veterans Stamp, Postmaster, Milwaukee, Wis. 53201-9992. The cost is 22 cents for each stamp affixed on a cover. Personal checks are accepted, cash is not welcomed, payment by postage stamps is rejected.