A "V-Mail" was comprised of a single sheet of paper measuring 4-1/4 by 5 inches. During World War II cargo space and weight on ships was at a premium and the hundreds of sacks of mail weighing tons took up too much valuable space. Mail was often held up in favor of supplies. To overcome the demoralizing effect of not getting the mail delivered,the post office came up with a standardized size paper and envelope. Letters were written and then microfilmed. The microfilm was then sent in place of the letter, saving valuable space and still getting letters to our troops and home to soldiers families. The letters were printed on the receiving end and then delivered. V-Mail was sent and received from June 1942 through November 1945.
|From the Webmaster's collection.|
During World War Two, mail and morale were one and the same, and early in 1942 the military devised a simple method to deliver millions of pieces of very important news from home to the servicemen serving in the ETO. It was called V-Mail, and, of course, the V meant Victory (The hyphen in the phrase "V-Mail" was printed as three dots
and a dash as at right Morse code for the letter "V"; see the graphic at the bottom of the Skylighters feedback form
for a clear example.)
It was a simple photographic system. The letter writer wrote the letter on a V-Mail form, a one-sided, regular-sized piece of paper with a box on the top for the receiver's address. The letter was sent in, and after it was cleared by the censor, the mailroom photographed the page onto 16-mm black and white camera film.
The reel of V-Mail film was then flown or shipped to a processing center in the addressee's general location where a copy of the letter was printed onto a piece of 5" x 4" black and white photographic paper. This then was folded, slipped into an envelope and dropped into a mailbag for delivery.
The V-Mail system was necessary because mail had to vie with food, fuel, ammunition and supplies for precious overseas cargo space, and V-Mail allowed thousands of letters to fly from America to France in the place of only a few hundred bits of regular mail. During the war over 1.5 billion (yes, b as in baker) V-Mail letters were processed.
In Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, one of the more poignant images of World War II is that of a GI laying in the middle of a street.
He is alone, dying in the rain, holding out a letter to his dad and calling out to his buddies who are still under sniper fire. Later that night, the medic transcribes the GI's letter onto a clean, unbloodied V-Mail form with detached, quiet emotion.
V-Mail is an important part of postal history, and a remembrance of the 20th Century's pivotal years. V-Mail carried the thoughts and dreams of privates and generals to those back home, and brought comfort to those at the front.
Books and movies can help bring the past to life, and mementos of that past help revive the memories of our history. This is especially true in the case of V-Mail. Today it helps us to preserve their memory. (The vintage advertisement below depicts a V-Mail writing kit.)