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The UK’s Royal Mail royally messed up its stamp for the 75th anniversary of D-Day

Reuters / Phil Noble
The devil is in the details.
  • Annabelle Timsit
By Annabelle Timsit

Geopolitics reporter

On June 6, 2019, and for much of the rest of the summer, people across Europe will celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. On that date in 1944, tens of thousands of soldiers, many from the US, UK, and Canada, landed on beaches in Normandy to battle Nazi troops in France.

To commemorate this anniversary, Britain’s Royal Mail decided to issue a series of stamps featuring photos from the actual landing. But things didn’t exactly go as planned. On Dec. 27, Royal Mail posted a preview of one of the 11 stamps on Twitter. Eagle-eyed observers pointed out that the photo was not from D-Day, or of British soldiers, but rather represented US soldiers on a beach in Dutch New Guinea (now part of Indonesia.) The photo was from May 1944, one month before D-Day—and many miles away from France.

As the BBC pointed out, the photo appears in the digital archives of the American National World War II Museum. It is a US Coast Guard photo featured in a July 1944 issue of the US Navy’s “All hands” magazine, and labeled as “USS LCI(L)-30 landing troops carrying stretchers onto a beach during a second assault wave.” After the BBC reported on the mistake, Royal Mail announced they would cancel that particular stamp design. A spokesperson for Royal Mail told Quartz there were no plans to pull any of the other designs in that series.

The Royal Mail’s flub is the latest in a series of controversial and costly stamp mistakes around the world this year. In June, a judge ruled that the US Postal Service had to pay Robert Davidson, a sculptor who built a Statue of Liberty replica at a Las Vegas casino, $3.5 million for using his statue on a stamp design in 2010 instead of a photo of the original statue in New York Harbor. According to the New York Times, “The post office had originally picked the photo by searching Getty Images, the stock-photo agency, and believed it showed the real statue.”

In September, New Zealand Post released a stamp meant to celebrate the “Predator Free 2050” initiative, which aims by 2050 to eradicate damaging predator species like rats, possums, or stoats. The stamp was supposed to feature the New Zealand red admiral butterfly—but instead, it portrayed the V. Atalanta butterfly, which is not native to New Zealand. The Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust were reportedly upset.

Also this year, Spain’s postal service Correos made a mistake in its “12 Months, 12 Stamps” series, created to honor a different area in Spain each month. In its stamp of the town of León, in northwest Spain, Correos used a cathedral from Burgos, another town, which Spanish magazine Sur claims has a rivalry with León.

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