21 February 2008

PhotoMail! Otherwise known as V-Mail

(Source: National Archives)

Next to chow, a letter from home is one of the best things a soldier can get. However, getting mail to the soldier is not easy, particularly in times of war. The question becomes, what gets to the soldier? Is it bullets, beans, or mail? During World War II, this question was of the utmost importance, especially considering the amount of manpower deployed by the United States overseas and remote corners of the world.

The solution was V-Mail (Victory Mail) or as the Army called it, "Photomail."

(Source: US Army FM 11-150, Photomail Operation)
(Online Source of Manual: Army Heritage Collection Online)

Technically speaking the process was fairly simple. Using required forms, the letter would be photographed, placed on a roll of microfilm and then shipped overseas. Once arrived, the microfilm would then be printed out on special paper and shipped to the soldier. This also worked in reverse, that is the soldier's letters to home would be converted to V-Mail and then shipped back to the States for processing back into printed mail.

Some interesting statistics can be gathered:

  • Mail weight was reduced by up to 98%.
  • The printed out letters were approximately 1/4 the size of regular letters.
  • During the war over 500 million V-Mail letters were shipped overseas!

I've found some good links below that will give you background as well as the actual field manual describing the daily operations of photomail. Have a great day!

See you tomorrow!


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