President Franklin D. Roosevelt drew a pencil sketch for the 2-cent National Defense commemorative stamp, which features an image of the 90-millimeter anti-aircraft gun recently introduced by the War Department. The stamp honors both the navy and army. FDR also sketched images for the 1- and 3-cent issues. The approved models of all three stamps bear the notation, "OK, F.D.R," the initials of a president who recognized the value of these tiny gummed pieces of paper as effective promoters.
The Post Office Department informed postmasters that these 1-, 2-, and 3-cent stamps would fill all future requisitions and they were to be "offered for sale to the public in lieu of ordinary postage stamps in these denominations so far as post office stocks permit."
United States postage stamps are catalogued and classified into several categories, the two basic categories being commemoratives and definitives. These three National Defense stamps, which were pressed into service to be sold in place of the regular definitives stamps (those of the 1938 Presidential Series), have caused many collectors to question their being listed in the "commemorative" section of US postage stamp catalogues.
Postmaster General Frank C. Walker took office on September 11, 1940. Wanting to speed production, Mr. Walker approved the design of the three National Defense issues the very next day. On that same day, he announced, "The Post Office Department [will] issue three new postage stamps in connection with the National Defense program." The first day of sale was originally announced as October 12, Columbus Day, and then changed to October 16, which coincided with National Registration Day, the day of the nation's first peacetime draft registration.
Harry Rollins engraved the picture on the master die, and William B. Wells engraved the frame and lettering.
Linn's Weekly Stamp News, Sidney, Ohio: Amos Press. (September 21, 1940), 741; (October 5, 1940), 773.
Johl, Max G. The United States Commemorative Stamps of the Twentieth Century. New York: H.L. Lindquist, 1947.