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Airmen commemorate 60th anniversary through the mail

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Debbie Thompson, Whiteman Air Force Base Post Office, hands Airman 1st Class Cory Todd, 509th Communications Squadron, a letter with a commemorative postmark and Jimmy Stewart stamp to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Air Force Sept. 18 at the post office. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Stephen Linch)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Debbie Thompson, Whiteman Air Force Base Post Office, hands Airman 1st Class Cory Todd, 509th Communications Squadron, a letter with a commemorative postmark and Jimmy Stewart stamp to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Air Force Sept. 18 at the post office. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Stephen Linch)

The U.S. Postal Service will commemorate the Air Force's 60th Anniversary with a special postmark Sept. 18 to Oct. 18. The post office also offers a special edition postage stamp honoring Brig. Gen. James "Jimmy" Stewart, a World War II pilot and Hollywood actor. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Master Sgt. Franz Ramsey)

The U.S. Postal Service will commemorate the Air Force's 60th Anniversary with a special postmark Sept. 18 to Oct. 18. The post office also offers a special edition postage stamp honoring Brig. Gen. James "Jimmy" Stewart, a World War II pilot and Hollywood actor. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Master Sgt. Franz Ramsey)

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Airmen will have a unique opportunity to commemorate the Air Force's 60th anniversary Sept. 18 through Oct. 18.

The Air Force and U.S. Postal Service have joined forces to offer a commemorative postmark that will be available for cancellation from Sept. 18 to Oct. 18 at 40 base post offices worldwide.

The pictorial cancellation features the B-24 Liberator bomber, which was flown in every combat theater during World War II.

"This postmark has special meaning because bombers were the swords of Air Force history," said Andrew Stephens, a historian for the 11th Wing at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. "The B-24 brought the fight to the enemy during World War II, and it's because of the accomplishments of those Airmen that we even have an Air Force anniversary. This postmark really commemorates the heritage of all those Airmen who came before us."

The postmark was originally the brainchild of Maj. Todd Copley, a C-130 Hercules navigator with the 700th Airlift Squadron at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., and a topical stamp collector. The B-24 holds special meaning for Major Copley because of its historical connection to his unit and to a famous Air Force brigadier general.

"During World War II, General James "Jimmy" Stewart was the commander of the 703rd Bomb Squadron, a B-24 squadron that was a sister squadron to my unit at Dobbins," Major Copley said.

The Whiteman Air Force Base post office is among those that will be offering the commemorative stamps, however,  Debbie Thompson, Whiteman post office branch manager said the post office has the special cancellation stamp featuring the B-24 aircraft.

"We do have the Jimmy Stewart stamp, but if our customers want that, they would have to purchase a  41 cents stamp and place it on an envelope," she added. "For one dollar, customers can also buy a cancelled stamp and envelope." 

The Whiteman Post Office's hours of operation are from 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday - Friday, and is closed daily for lunch 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. It is also open from 9 - 11 a.m. Saturday.

While well known as a famous Hollywood actor, Jimmy Stewart was also a decorated World War II bomber pilot. He served 27 years in the Army Air Corps and Air Force Reserve, achieving the rank of brigadier general before retiring in 1968.

During World War II, Major Copley's squadron was the 700th Bomb Squadron and part of the 445th Bombardment Group. At the time, then-Captain Stewart was the commander of the 703rd Bomb Squadron, also part of the 445th BG.

Major Copley said he wanted to time the release of the postmark with the Air Force's 60th anniversary and the Jimmy Stewart commemorative stamp that was recently released by the USPS. He said he never thought the postmark would catch on Air Force wide.

"It was just my small contribution to anniversary events taking place at Dobbins, but I'm really happy with the way things have turned out," he said.

Once word of the Dobbins ARB postmark got out, other bases were interested in offering it as well. Mr. Stephens, also a public affairs specialist in the Air Force Reserve, was then called upon to make it happen. With help from base public affairs offices and others, he was able to do just that.

"The postmark gives bases, especially those in remote locations, an opportunity to do something special and different in honor of our anniversary," Mr. Stephens said. "Any chance I have to draw attention to Air Force heritage as a means of inspiring our Airmen, I will thankfully do."

(Staff Sgt. Rob Hazelett contributed to this article)