3¢ Win the War
Issue Date: July 4, 1942
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforations: 11 x 10.5
U.S. #905, the “Win the War” stamp, was issued on the anniversary of American independence in order to bolster American support of the war effort.
This stamp was honored in the 100 Greatest U.S. Stamps book.
Win the War
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Americans rallied together, ready to prove to Japan, Germany, and the rest of the world, how strong their resolve was to defend their home. The day after the attack, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”
It was not long before Americans around the country began writing the Post Office Department and the White House requesting stamps representing America’s dedication to winning the war.
The selected design for the stamp was based on a poster by artist Mark O’Dea picturing the American eagle. When he received the early designs, President Roosevelt liked the stamp, but suggested that the eagle have very little engraving, to make it stand out from the background.
Surprisingly, when the stamp was issued, it received such negative criticism, many speculated it would be removed from sale and reissued. The problem with the design lay in the direction of the eagle’s gaze and arrows. Historically, depictions of the American eagle in wartime pictured the eagle facing the same direction his arrows pointed, so that both the eagle and weapons are directed toward their objectives. Some have speculated that President Roosevelt realized this, and deliberately accepted the printed design, so that the weapons point toward the enemy while the eagle looks the other way, toward peace.
Despite criticisms over the design, the Win the War stamp was one of the most commonly used 3¢ stamps during the war, and was often sent on mail to U.S. soldiers fighting overseas.
Start Of V-Mail Service
On June 15, 1942, the Post Office Department inaugurated its V-Mail service.
Prior to the war, ships and airplanes that operated on regularly scheduled routes transported mail intended for an overseas destination. A friendly Europe saw to their safe and speedy delivery under the terms of the Universal Postal Union.
The outbreak of World War II changed all this; ships no longer sailed on a regular schedule and enemy submarines lurking in the water made it impossible to guarantee delivery. Planes had to fly a roundabout route. That meant using more petroleum which was already quite scarce. Since fewer flights were made, cargo space became extremely valuable.
Recognizing that correspondence to and from the Armed Forces in battle zones was vital to the war effort, the Postal Department introduced its V-Mail Service on June 15, 1942. The service took its name from the “V for Victory” symbol developed during the war.
Those sending messages by V-Mail used a special combination letter and envelope that was given preferred sorting and transportation. Specially designed forms were made available for free at stationery stores and distributed to service personnel overseas. V-Mail forms had limited space for a message on one side and instructions for sending on the other. Once sealed shut, they would apply a stamp. At first, people weren’t allowed to enclose any other items, but eventually, the post office allowed people to send pictures of babies under a year old, or those that had been born after their fathers had left for the service. Military authorities read all of the letters and censored them if need be.
Once received at the V-Mail stations, these letters were opened and then filmed at a rate of 2,000 to 2,500 per hour to be transferred to microfilm. About 1,600 letters could fit on one roll – making them about three percent of their original weight and volume. For instance – 150,000 regular letters would weigh about 1,500 pounds and fill 22 mail sacks. The same letters microfilmed weighed just 45 pounds and fit in one mail sack – which freed up valuable space for other items on transport planes.
When the letters reached their destinations, they were reproduced onto five-by-four inch photographs and sent to the recipient in special V-Mail envelopes. The film wouldn’t be destroyed until the recipient received their letter. If they didn’t, the letter would be reprinted.
Servicemen and women could send their letters for free. They simply had to write “Free” along with their name, rank, military branch, and return address in the upper left corner. For civilians, the cost was 3¢ for surface mail and 6¢ for Airmail, which was later increased to 8¢.
During 1943, V-Mail reached its peak – in one month 20,120 rolls of film containing 33,355,554 letters were handled. By the time the service was suspended on November 1, 1945, more than one billion letters were sent by V-Mail. After that, people were allowed to continue to use V-Mail stationery until the remaining supplies ran out in March 1946.