Army Signal Corps World War II V-Mail Service

WWII V-Mail AdvertisementDifferent from the VMail we know of today, the V-Mail of World War II was a curious thing. Copied from the British Airgraph Service of the time, but renamed as "victory mail" or "V-Mail" for American use, on June 15, 1942, this form of communication between family members back in America and their sons on the front-line throughout the world, began to take place. Working in both directions, from America to the front lines, and from the front lines back to America, It continued to be used until April 1, 1945. The reason it was created was three fold: i) to reduce the size and cost of mail that was being shipped from America to G.I.'s around the world, ii) to get the mail through faster, and iii) to make it easier for censors to review the tons of mail that was being sent. Uniquely, it was the Signal Corps' responsibility to run this service.

Once V-Mail was implemented, it quickly became obvious that where it had taken up to a month for standard mail delivery by be shipped and arrive, V-Mail delivery could be accomplished in as little as twelve days or less, using aircraft. Air transport also had the added benefit of minimizing the likelihood of enmy interception, although censors still insured that any potentially useful or damaging information was deleted from all messages. One final benefit was that letters could never be "lost in the mail." This became so, because serial numbers were added to V-Mail forms, while the original was held on file. In this way, any message that was lost in transit could be reproduced and sent to the addressee at a later date.

The way it worked was simple: a person who wanted to send a letter by airgraph or V-Mail would obtain a standard, pre-printed form from their local post office or five and dime store. The cost of the form was usually a dollar, and included all shipping/mailing costs. Front line soldiers usually got their forms from Supply. In both cases, the form contained space for a letter of about 100 to 300 words. In both cases a space was reserved for the address of the serviceman or servicewoman to whom the letter was to be delivered (or the person back home receiving it), the address of the sender, and a circular area for the censor's stamp of approval. Once the message was written, the form was folded and sealed. It then made its way to a processing center where the form was re-opened and fed through a machine that photographed the letters on 16mm film. A continuous roll of this film (100 feet long by 16mm wide) could hold up to 1,700 messages and, with the metal container it was housed in, weighed 5.5 oz. A sack of mail holding the same number of regular letters would have weighed 50 lbs.

When the V-Mail reached the destination, it was sent to a local processing facility that reversed the process, printing photographs of the letters to be sent to the intended recipient in a three inch by four inch envelope.


V-Mail OriginalV-Mail Photo