WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

V

Poster from World War II promoting the use of V-mail

Poster from World War II promoting the use of V-mail

This subject was one that I really looked forward to writing during the A to Z Challenge.  When I first heard about V-Mail I was amazed at the logistics of the mail operation during the war.  For a great website dedicated to preserving the history of V-Mail, click HERE for the 

U.S. Troops Surrounded by Holiday Mail During WWII by Smithsonian Institution, via Flickr

U.S. Troops Surrounded by Holiday Mail During WWII by Smithsonian Institution, via Flickr

V-mail, short for Victory Mail, was a hybrid mail process used during the Second World War in America as the primary and secure method to correspond with soldiers stationed abroad. To reduce the cost of transferring an original letter through the military postal system, a V-mail letter would be censored, copied to film, and printed back to paper upon arrival at its destination. The V-mail process is based on the earlier British Airgraph process.

V-mail correspondence was on small letter sheets, 17.8 cm by 23.2 cm (7 by 9 1/8 in.), that would go through mail censors before being photographed and transported as thumbnail-sized image in negative microfilm. Upon arrival to their destination, the negatives would be blown up to 60% of their original size 10.7 cm by 13.2 cm (4 ¼ in. by 5 3/16 in.) and printed.  Want your own copy of a v-mail form, click HERE.

Relative sizes of each step in the V-Mail process. Left to right: pre-printed letter sheet, 16 mm microfilm, photographic reprint of original letter.

Relative sizes of each step in the V-Mail process. Left to right: pre-printed letter sheet, 16 mm microfilm, photographic reprint of original letter.

According to the National Postal Museum, “V-mail ensured that thousands of tons of shipping space could be reserved for war materials. The 37 mail bags required to carry 150,000 one-page letters could be replaced by a single mail sack. The weight of that same amount of mail was reduced dramatically from 2,575 pounds to a mere 45.” This saved considerable weight and bulk in a time in which both were hard to manage in a combat zone.

Credit: National Archives One sack of V-Mail film equaled 37 bags of ordinary letters.

Credit: National Archives
One sack of V-Mail film equaled 37 bags of ordinary letters.

In addition to postal censorship, V-mail also deterred espionage communications by foiling the use of invisible ink, microdots, and microprinting, none of which would be reproduced in a photocopy.

Vmail1

 

Vmail2

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23 responses

  1. There are never enough superlatives when it comes to your blog, these fabulous posts, the work it takes. You set the highest bar for bloggers.

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  2. Arlee Bird says:

    Somehow the concept of v-mail seems more exciting, romantic, and interesting than the e-mail we have today.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Wrote By Rote

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  3. Now, that is cool! Suppose I never realized microfilm would be used in the 1940’s in such a manner.
    Visit me at: Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I am Ensign B of Tremps’ Troops
    with the A to Z Challenge

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  4. kristin says:

    I have two v-mails that my grandparents nephew sent to them during WW2. I wondered what those little letters were or a long time until I finally took the time to find out. I had to enlarge them to read them and they really provided a look into the life of the soldier during the war.

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  5. Birgit says:

    I had no idea about this and it makes sense considering all the mail, the espionage etc… that could go down. This was the e-mail of it’s day. What is nice is that there is history of these letters which, now, with e-mail, we lose

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  6. jazzfeathers says:

    I’ve never heard of V-mail before. It was gust incredible 🙂

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  7. Diana says:

    This is fascinating—thanks for sharing it on Sabina’s thread! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. K. Renae P. says:

    I didn’t know about V-mail. Pretty cool part of history. Thanks for sharing all the old photos and documents. Very interesting!

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  9. Sabina says:

    Wow, I had no idea this existed! Very interesting. I work at a library and I often have to access documents via microfilm–I didn’t know they used it for soldier correspondence. Great post & thanks for joining in the A-Z after party!

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  10. How cool is that! i learn something new every day 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a great post! I didn’t know about V-mail, until now. Looking forward to seeing more of your work, now following. – Jeri

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  12. Solveig says:

    I had no idea something like this existed, thanks for letting me learn something new 🙂

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