1995 32¢ POW & MIA, Never Forgotten
· The second US stamp to honor POW and MIA
· The USPS waived licensing and royalty fees to nonprofit organizations to allow them use this stamp image on their merchandise.
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Value: 32¢, rate for first-class mail
First Day of Issue: May 29, 1995
First Day City: Washington, DC
Quantity Issued: 125,000,000
Printed by: Ashton-Potter
Printing Method: Lithographed
Format: Panes of 20 in sheets of 160
Microprinting: “POW & MIA” is microprinted just above the red stripe under the identification tags near the center of the stamp.
Why the stamp was issued: In tribute to America’s past and present prisoners of war and missing in action.
About the stamp design: This stamp came about as the result of several years of lobbying. Previously, a 1970 stamp issued for the 50th anniversary of the Disabled American Veterans (US #1422) had honored Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA). Over the years, various groups called for another stamp. One person even staged a contest requesting stamp designs. Among those calling for a new stamp was New Hampshire senator and Vietnam veteran Robert C. Smith. In 1992, Smith spearheaded an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill that required the creation of a new POW and MIA stamp. While the amendment was initially unanimously accepted, it was eventually removed from the final bill.
In 1994, Smith wrote a letter to the postmaster general calling for a POW-MIA stamp. He noted that that year marked the 30th anniversary of the capture of the first and longest-held US POW in Vietnam. And also, that 1994 was the 50th anniversary of the landing at Normandy, which ultimately led to the release of hundreds of POWs. The USPS initially declined to issue such a stamp, but ultimately changed their position and agreed to produce it.
The USPS had actually been working on potential POW-MIA stamp designs for several years. Some of the rejected designs pictured three soldiers from the statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Uncle Sam saluting, and a question mark which stood for the uncertainty of POW-MIAs.
The design that was selected for the stamp was created by editorial artist Gary Viskupic. Viskupic contacted Perry Gould who produced custom-made dog tags and asked him to make one with the text the USPS had asked for. The artist then made a sketch of the tags, though a photograph was ultimately used for the stamp art. Ivy Bigbee, whose husband had died in Vietnam, photographed the dog tags for the stamp, saying “You feel like you’d like to take one meaningful picture in your life. This was it.” After considering several background possibilities, the USPS selected a photo of the US flag taken by Robert Llewellyn. The USPS was also undecided about the specific wording for the dog tags. Every time they had a new suggestion, a new dog tag was made, photographed, and superimposed into the stamp format.
Special design details: The dog tags pictured on this stamp differ from the standard military dog tags in two ways. The lettering is raised on the stamp, while its normally indented on regular dog tags. This was because the indented lettering didn’t reproduce well. Also, the raised edge is visible on the front side, when its normally only on the back.
About the printing process: The identification tags and chain were printed in silver ink and covered with what the USPS termed “clear spot varnish” to help make the tags stand out.
First Day City: This stamp was officially unveiled during a special ceremony at the White House on Memorial Day. Speaking before a group of veteran prisoners from conflicts dating back to World War II, President Bill Clinton announced “I am pleased now that millions of Americans will be reminded every day of the extraordinary service they rendered all others like them rendered, by this new stamp.” The stamp was then officially dedicated that afternoon at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
History the stamp represents:
On April 9, 1942, the largest number of US forces was captured at the end of the Battle of Bataan, leading to the Bataan Death March. Today, this date is commemorated as National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was the start of a plan to remove the US and its allies from the South Pacific. A few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese began bombing air bases in the Philippines.
The destruction of planes and buildings, combined with the devastation of America’s fleet harbored in Hawaii, left the troops without the supplies and firepower necessary to combat the experienced Japanese forces. The US Asiatic Fleet was quickly withdrawn, as were the remaining aircraft. Without landing a single soldier, the Japanese had destroyed General Douglas MacArthur’s ability to defend the Philippines. But approximately 31,000 American sailors, soldiers, and airmen stationed on the US base there were left behind.
As thousands of Japanese troops began pouring onto the islands, MacArthur decided only the Bataan peninsula and the island fortress of Corregidor should be defended. The servicemen hoped to hold out until relief could arrive. In the weeks that followed, the refugees were forced to eat lizards and drink filthy water to survive.
On January 9, 1942, the Japanese began assaulting the US defensive lines. Outnumbered and critically short on supplies, the US and Philippines troops held their position until an additional 25,000 Japanese troops arrived. After months of bravely defending the region without aid from naval or air forces, US and Philippine forces ran low on food, medicine, and ammunition. More than 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American troops surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. This was the largest force in American history to succumb to an enemy. Though the Allies were defeated at Bataan, the battle slowed the Japanese advance of the South Pacific.
The Japanese split the prisoners into groups of about 100 and marched them 65 miles from Mariveles to San Fernando. From there they boarded trains to camps for prisoners-of-war. Though there are no exact figures, thousands of Filipino and American soldiers died during the march and in the camps from starvation and physical abuse.
The prisoners of war endured three hard years of imprisonment and torture until General Douglas MacArthur invaded the Philippines and liberated Manila in March 1945. After the war, the Japanese commander of the Philippines, General Masaharu Homma, was found guilty of war crimes for the cruel treatment of Allied troops during the death march.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan established National Prisoner of War Recognition Day, calling for it to be held on April 9 in honor of the thousands of Americans taken prisoner at Bataan.