PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, one of the nation's top military commanders of World War II, was honored today when the U.S. Postal Service issued a new U.S. postage stamp at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
The 10-cent General Joseph W. Stilwell stamp is available starting today at Providence post offices and will be available starting tomorrow at post offices across the country. The stamp was dedicated at a first day of issue ceremony to help kick off StampSHOW 2000. The show runs through Aug. 27 and is free and open to the public.
"The General Joseph W. Stilwell stamp will serve as a lasting reminder of one of the most dedicated and determined military commanders in U.S. history," said John F. Walsh, member of the Postal Service Board of Governors, who dedicated the stamp.
"With this stamp we also begin a new chapter in the history of stamp collecting by launching the Distinguished Americans series," he said.
Joining Walsh at the ceremony were John Easterbrook, Stilwell's grandson; Sen. Jack Reed (RI-D); Col. Michael Haith, Center for Professional and Military Ethic, U.S. Military Academy; Brig. Gen. James R. Helmly, U.S. Army; Thomas G. Day, Postal Service District Manager, Southeast New England District; and Dr. Peter P. McCann, President, American Philatelic Society.
Honored guests at the event included Nancy Sherburne, Stilwell's granddaughter; Mark Summers, illustrator of the stamp; John Hotchner, Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee; Leonard O'Leary, Postmaster, Providence, R.I.; David Quaide, Historian Emeritus, Merrill's Marauders Association; and Harold Wolf, China-Burma-India War Veterans Association.
With the issuance of the Stilwell stamp and the beginning of the new Distinguished Americans series, the long-running Great Americans series comes to an end. The new series is printed using a bicolor, offset, intaglio print combination.
Born in 1883, Stilwell served with distinction in the U.S. Army for 42 years. Nicknamed "Vinegar Joe," in part for his blunt candor, he was known for his willingness to share the hardships of the common soldier.
A 1904 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Stilwell served in World War I as an intelligence officer for the Fourth Army Corps and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his outstanding achievements. He served three tours of duty in China between the two World Wars and became fluent in the Chinese language. Stilwell was the military attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Peking from 1935 to 1939.
Named chief of staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in 1942, Stilwell was the senior American military commander in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II. After arriving in China in March 1942, he left immediately for the Burma front to lead the Chinese forces there. When Japan forced the Allied withdrawal from Burma in May 1942, Stilwell led a group of some 100 soldiers and civilians on a daring 140-mile march through the Burmese jungle and safely into India.
In late 1943, Stilwell led two divisions of Chinese troops he had trained in India, and a U.S. long-range penetration group known as "Merrill's Marauders," back into northern Burma to retake it from Japan and to reopen the Burma Road.
Stilwell received his fourth star on Aug. 1, 1944, the same month Allied troops reclaimed northern Burma. The Burma Road was officially reopened in January 1945.
Political considerations led to his recall from command in the China-Burma-India theater in October 1944. After a brief stint as commander of the Tenth Army in Okinawa, he returned to the United States. In 1945 Stilwell was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Oak Leaf cluster of the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1946 he was appointed commander of the Sixth Army in charge of Western Defense Command. He died later that year in San Francisco, Calif.
Artist Mark Summers - known for his pen-and-ink "scratchboard" technique - based his portrait of Stilwell on a black-and-white photograph taken in the mid-1940s. The photographer is unknown. Summers also illustrated the Claude Pepper stamp, which will be the second stamp in the Distinguished Americans series and is scheduled to be issued Sept. 7 in Washington, D.C.