5¢ Flag of Czechoslovakia
Overrun Countries Series
Issue Date: July 12, 1943
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: Flat-Plate
Color: Blue violet, blue, bright red, and black
U.S. #910 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 Czechoslovakia, which features red and white bars from the ancient coat of arms of Bohemia. The blue triangle was added in 1920 to differentiate it from the flag of Poland.
Czechoslovakia and World War II
In the time between World War I and World War II, Czechoslovakia’s democracy bloomed. It was the only one of the new states established in Central Europe after 1918 to maintain its democratic government until World War II began.
In 1918, the nation took over the fringe region of Sudetenland, home to three million Germans who opposed the move. The initial belief was that the hilly area would be perfect for military defense. However, by 1933, the Germans, who had been treated as second-class citizens, joined Hitler’s Nazi army. Five years later, Hitler took control of Sudetenland and the following year invaded Czechoslovakia, dividing it into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the Slovak State. When the war was over, Czechoslovakia returned to its prewar state.
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. #910. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother introduced the future President to stamp collecting at a young age. Throughout his life, he turned to his collection to relax and unwind.
Roosevelt was elected President four times, serving in the nation’s highest office longer than any other chief executive – 12 years. During those 12 years, Roosevelt promoted the importance of stamps by personally approving each of more than 200 stamp designs. This included suggesting topics, rejecting others, and even designing some of the stamps himself. He used U.S. postage stamps to educate Americans about their heritage, to buoy war-weary spirits during World War II, and to send a message of peace and hope as Europe faced the overwhelming task of rebuilding.