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Crush the 5th Column

Object | Accession Number: 2018.233.21

Anti-Fifth Column poster stamp featuring a boot, clad in red, white, and blue, stomping on a subversive snake, distributed in the United States between 1940 and 1945. Poster stamps were collectable stamps, slightly larger than postage stamps, with designs similar to posters. Although they were not valid for postage, poster stamps could be affixed to letters and envelopes as a means for fundraising, propaganda, and educational purposes. Snakes or serpents are often associated with negative aspects such as temptation, chaos, and lies, all of which would be tactics employed by a fifth column agent. Fifth column refers to a group of people residing in a country, who actively support a wartime enemy. These people engage in subversive activities to aid the enemy, hinder their country’s defensive capability, or sew discord among the population. Germany’s rapid conquest of Western Europe in 1940 led many Americans to believe that saboteurs had aided the German military. Many feared that German, Italian, and Japanese-Americans could be carrying out similar activities in the US to support the Axis powers. Fifth column fears were so prevalent that Congress passed the Alien Registration Act, which made it a crime to advocate for the overthrow of the government and required registration of unnaturalized citizens. German and Italian-Americans were initially viewed with suspicion. After America entered the war, both groups declared their loyalty by supporting the war effort and any remaining doubts faded. However, Japanese-Americans, who showed the same support and loyalty, did not receive the same absolution. Suspicions against Japanese-Americans were reinforced by long-standing racist stereotypes and restrictive laws that limited Asian pathways to citizenship. In 1942, under Executive Order 9066, approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and held in internment camps, where they were held until 1945.

publication/distribution:  1940-1945
publication: New York (N.Y.)
War Propaganda
Object Type
Poster stamps (lcsh)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Forrest James Robinson, Jr.
Record last modified: 2021-02-10 09:49:29
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