As the nation heaved a sigh of relief and put the pain of the 1940s behind it, politics shifted to the right. Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had been the supreme commander of the Allies in Europe during World War II, won the presidency, and Joe McCarthy's communist "witch hunts" raged on. In the medical field, Dr. Jonas Salk developed his polio vaccine, considered one of the twentieth century's greatest scientific achievements.
During 1952 the Post Office Department honored two military leaders with commemorative stamps—Gen. George S. Patton and the Marquis de Lafayette. Each had liberated another man’s country.
Patton, who had served under Eisenhower and specialized in tank warfare, commanded U.S. forces in North Africa and Sicily before leading the Third Army across France and Germany in a push to conclude World War II in Europe. Almost two centuries earlier, Lafayette was the French military liaison who helped the fledgling Continental Army secure the support of the French government in America's fight against the British.
In the period 1952-1953, the United States issued twenty-five commemoratives with total printings of almost 5.1 billion stamps, averaging over 203 million stamps per issue. The 1952 NATO Issue, with 2.9 billion issued for that single issue alone, accounted for the high number and average. Its primary use was to pay the three-cent first-class rate.