According to Thomas Childers, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, the B-24 Liberator's "pugnacious look" earned the plane the nickname "pregnant cow" by World War II soldiers. In spite of its appearance, he said, the Liberator was one of the "most developed planes of its time."
One Liberator in particular, The Black Cat, holds a "tragic distinction" for Childers. On April 21, 1945, that plane was the "last B-24 Liberator to be shot down over Germany in World War II." He added that "the plane carried a crew of 12, and 10 out of the 12 died in the crash." One of those 10 dead was Childers' uncle.
Childers told the story of The Black Cat to an audience of about 120 people who gathered on Friday, July 29 at the Sheraton Premiere in Tysons Corner for the First Day of Issue ceremony for the U.S. Postal Services' American Advances in Aviation commemorative stamps. The 10 planes commemorated in the set are the 35 Bonanza, F6F Hellcat, B-29 Superfortress, B-24 Liberator, YB-49 Flying Wing, PBY Catalina, Ercoupe 415, P-47 Thunderbolt, P-80 Shooting Star, and 247.
The excitement of first day ceremonies was nothing new to Vienna Mayor M. Jane Seeman, who was a guest speaker at the ceremony. Both of Seeman's grandfather and father were postmasters in Hays, Kans.
Tom Foust, president of American First Day Cover Society and also a guest speaker at the ceremony, remembered building a toy model of every airplane in the American Advances in Aviation stamp collection as a child. For Foust, the stamps "highlight the history and beauty of the planes depicted."
The ceremony began with a presentation of colors by the Washington Division of Postal Police Honor Guard and a performance of the National Anthem by Michael Massey, a local postal employee.
"I'm honored," said Lynn Malcolm, vice president, controller at USPS about being chosen among 39 to deliver the official dedication of the stamps. In Malcolm's dedication, she hailed the "technological contributions" and the "engineers' accomplishments" in designing these planes, referring to them as "aviation pioneers." Malcolm was one of several local postal employees present to support the First Day of Issue festivities.
THE AMERICAN First Cover Society celebrated its 50th anniversary last weekend at the Americover 2005 stamp show, at the Sheraton Premiere. Cynthia Scott, chairman of the society, said that "the First Day ceremony was the highlight event" at the convention.
"An envelope is known as a cover," Scott said. After the aviation stamps are purchased, the stamp is attached to a cover and then canceled or postmarked by USPS representatives. "This gives the city and date of purchase as well as the title of the stamp collection and the words 'first day of issue,'" she said. "This is a first day cover."
Malcolm said that the American Advances in Aviation stamps are significant because they "continue American heritage." The stamps not only celebrate the technological breakthroughs made in aviation during the 1930s-50s, but they serve to remind Americans of the powerful history behind this country. Malcolm related to the audience that “these planes didn’t just fly, they flew into history.”
As stamp enthusiasts crowded around the USPS booth to buy the aviation stamps a day before the public release date on July 30, local postal employees Norman Scarbrough and Mahin “Nasi” Rahai retained their animated spirit and celebratory mood.
"I've been here 18 years and it's my first," said Rahai.
"It's my first, First Day and I've worked here for 23 years," Scarbrough said. "I'm excited to be part of the commemorative series."
According to Scarbrough, "this is the first Vienna First Day" and it "corresponds with an air show in Oshkosk, Wisc," the other official release city. He added that it's a "rare occasion" to have two cities host concurrent first-day ceremonies and that "Vienna got lucky."
David Wallman, a member of the American First Cover Society, traveled from Lincoln, Neb. to attend the convention and First Day ceremony. “I’ve been collecting stamps since grade school,” said Wallman, as he waited in a long line to have his ceremony program signed. This is another coveted item among certain stamp collectors. Wallman said that the "guest speakers sign the program for my collection of First Day programs and it proves that I was here."