5¢ Flag of France
Overrun Countries Series
Issue Date: September 28, 1943
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: Flat-Plate
Color: Blue violet, deep blue, dark rose, and black
U.S. #915 is part of the Overrun Countries Series, which honors each of the nations invaded by Axis powers during World War II. It pictures the flag of France, which features red, white, and blue vertical bars. Red and blue are the traditional colors of Paris, and white, the “ancient French colour,” was added to make it a tricolor. The flag was adopted in 1794.
France – History
In the century before Christ, France was known as Gaul. Julius Caesar invaded Gaul around 53 B.C. The Franks were among the Germanic tribes who began invading in the second century, taking power from the Romans. Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was a powerful Frankish king who was crowned Emperor in 800 A.D. Many ruling dynasties have come and gone during the centuries that followed.
After the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte became dictator and then Emperor of France. He did much to modernize it by centralizing the government and reforming the tax and civil laws.
During World War I, a small part of northern France was taken over by Germany. France mobilized its small army after World War II began and Poland was invaded. For eight months nothing happened. Inactivity led to boredom, and when the Germans did invade, the collapse of France was swift. This resulted in a divided France – consisting of a German-occupied zone in the North and a French “free-zone” in the South, which collaborated with Germany in some respects. After the war, France was unable to keep its dominating political status but did enjoy great economic growth.
These Stamps Brought Hope to Overrun Countries of WW II
After receiving several designs from artists who felt the current U.S. postage stamps were unattractive, President Franklin Roosevelt began to consider the types of stamps he wanted to issue. He sought to show the world that America was in this war to achieve world peace, not military dominance. With this in mind, the President suggested the U.S. issue a series of stamps picturing the flags of all the overrun nations in Europe.
In the border surrounding each flag, Roosevelt suggested picturing the Phoenix – an ancient symbol of rebirth. He believed “It might tell those suffering victims in Europe that we are struggling for their own regeneration.” The other side of each flag pictured a kneeling woman “breaking the shackles of oppression.”
When the time came to print the stamps, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was unable to print the multiple colors needed for each flag, so the American Bank Note Company received a special contract for this series.
Additionally, a 5¢ denomination – the foreign rate for first class postage – was chosen so the stamps could be used on overseas mail. The stamps were printed in relatively small quantities and were in high demand as soon as they were issued, with stocks across the country running out almost as soon as they were released.
FDR – The Stamp-Collecting President
President Franklin Roosevelt was instrumental in the design and issuance of U.S. #915. Introduced to stamp collecting at a young age by his mother, Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned to his collection throughout his life to relax and unwind.
Elected President four times, Roosevelt served in the nation’s highest office longer than any other chief executive – 12 years. During those 12 years, Roosevelt shared his love of stamps with the nation, personally approving each of more than 200 stamp designs. He suggested topics, rejected others, and even designed some himself. It was his aim to use stamps not just to send mail but also to educate Americans about our history. And as he reluctantly entered America into World War II, he saw these stamps as an outlet to raise spirits and bring hope.
First Battle of the Marne
The First Battle of the Marne began on September 6, 1914. An important Allied victory, it was one of the most decisive battles in history and inaugurated the start of trench warfare that would last for much of the war.
In August 1914, the Germans invaded neutral Belgium and marched toward Paris, France. Along the way, they defeated French armies at the Battles of the Frontiers at Lorraine, Ardennes, Charleroi, and Mons. The French government grew anxious that the German army would reach and take the capital city of Paris by September 5. The city’s military governor, General Joseph-Simon Gallieni, convinced the French commander in chief to save the 6th Army from the front and allow them to defend the city.
By September 1914, the Germans had pushed the French and British forces to within 30 miles of Paris. But as a consequence of advancing rapidly, the Germans had outrun their supply lines and heavy artillery. The Allies took advantage of their enemy’s troubles.
The French had used air reconnaissance and intercepted German radio transmissions to determine the location and state of their opponents. They realized the German 1st Army had crossed the Marne River, disobeying orders from chief of the German general staff, Helmuth von Moltke. This separated the unit from the rest of the army.
Gallieni saw this as an opportunity for his newly formed Army of Paris to attack. The French Army was additionally supported by members of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The battle began on September 6, with 150,000 French soldiers in the 6th Army attacking the German 1st Army’s right flank. The 1st German Army had turned to meet the attack, leaving a 30-mile gap between them and the 2nd Army. The combined French and British assault filled the gap and attacked the German 2nd Army.
Heavy fighting occurred in the marshes of Saint Gond, when the Germans repeatedly attacked the French 9th Army. On September 7, a force of more than 6,000 reinforcements were rushed to the front lines using Paris’s taxis and buses. This was the first use of motorized transports during any war, and the cabs were later called the “taxis of the Marne.”
The reinforcements helped turn the tide of the battle. On the 10th, von Moltke ordered his forces to regroup to the northwest, but the French pursued them toward the Aisne River. This time, the Germans built defenses the Allies could not penetrate. Each side tried to outflank its opponents in a series of maneuvers known as the “race to the sea.” This was the beginning of the trench warfare that would continue for four more years.
The Battle of the Marne was a decisive victory for the Allies. It stopped the German advance and led to the end of their two-front war strategy. It also changed the opinion of many people on both sides of the conflict about the length of the war. When World War I began, the popular belief was it would be a short war. This battle and the subsequent development into trench warfare proved otherwise. Political leaders and military commanders now realized this would be an extended struggle.