1997 US Department of the Air Force
- Issued for the 50th anniversary of the US Air Force becoming its own separate military service
- The first US stamp to utilize scrambled indicia, a security measure against counterfeiting
32¢, First Class Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:
September 18, 1997
First Day City:
Printed for Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd. By Sterling Sommer of Tonawanda, New York; Scrambled Indicia by Graphic Security Systems Corporation of Lake Worth, Florida
Offset with Scrambled Indicia
Panes of 20 (Horizontal 4 across, 5 down)
Why the stamp was issued:
To celebrate the 50th
anniversary of the establishment of the US Air Force as a separate military service.
About the stamp design:
Based on a photograph of foru Air Force F-16C fighter jets flying in a diamond formation. These jets are known as the Thunderbirds and are known for performing demonstrations in air shows and USAF events across America.
Special design details:
This was the first US stamp to include scrambled indicia, a new way to combat counterfeit stamps as well as a fun detail for collectors and to entice younger generations to become collectors.
The scrambled indicia on this stamp consists of the letters “USAF” and stars in circles, repeating diagonally across the design. Like all scrambled indicia, it’s only visible through a special decoder lens. The hidden details appear in contrasting shades of purple that shift as the lens moves.
The decoder was only available through the Philatelic Fulfillment Center, and these tools can be difficult to get your hands on today.
First Day City:
The First Day of Issue Ceremony was held at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, but the first-day cancellations read “Washington, DC.”
History the stamp represents:
The Air Force is the youngest branch of the US armed forces. It was originally developed as an aeronautical division of the Army Signal Corps in 1907. The following year, the Army purchased its first plane, and in 1911, Congress appropriated funds for aviation. Control passed to the aviation division in 1914.
In 1926, Congress established the US Army Air Corps, which was later renamed the Army Air Forces. During World War II, air operations became increasingly independent of the Army. Some felt that to be most effective, air units needed to operate separately from ground units, allowing airpower to be concentrated where it was needed most. Finally on September 18, 1947, President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act which ended a 40-year association with the US Army and created the US Air Force.
With its headquarters in the Pentagon, the Department of the Air Force is organized in eight major commands throughout the world. In addition to carrying out fighting assignments, the Air Force provides airlift, refueling, reconnaissance, and other support to the Unified Combatant Commands.
Celebrating the establishment of the US Air Force as a separate military unit, this stamp also honors the men and women who have protected our country and preserved our freedom.