World War II V-Mail
| Victory Mail, more commonly known as V-Mail, was developed by Eastman Kodak
operated during World War II to expedite mail service for American armed forces overseas.
V-Mail was the main way soldiers stationed abroad were able to communicate with friends and family
back home. Prior, one of the only ways to reach loved ones was through Air Mail, which was sent by
airplane and was often more expensive than regular mail and took too long to be used for any urgent
messages. V-mail allowed for faster, less expensive correspondence. Because the letters were censored
before being transferred to microfilm, V-mail was one of the most secure methods of communication.
Moving the rapidly expanding volume of wartime mail posed hefty problems for the Post Office, War, a
nd Navy Departments. Officials sought to reduce the bulk and weight of letters, and found a model
in the British Airgraph Service started in 1941 that microfilmed messages for dispatch.
V-Mail used standardized stationery and microfilm processing to produce lighter, smaller cargo. After
letters arrived at their destination, the negatives would be blown up to full size and printed.
This method meant saving shipping space that could otherwise be used for for other war supplies
and more letters could reach military personnel faster around the globe. Using this small microfilm
saved the postal system thousands of tons of shipping space, fitting the equivalent of 37 mail bags
worth of letters into just one.
This new mode of messaging launched on June 15, 1942. V-Mail assisted with logistical issues while
acknowledging the value of communication. In 41 months of operation, letter writers using the
system helped provide a significant lifeline between the frontlines and home.
Annual Report to the Postmaster General, 1942
“The Post Office, War, and Navy Departments realize fully that frequent and rapid communication
with parents, associates, and other loved ones strengthens fortitude, enlivens patriotism makes
loneliness endurable, and inspires to even greater devotion the men and women who are carrying
on our fight far from home and friends. We know that the good effect of expeditious mail service
on those of us at home is immeasurable”
January 1, 1941: A precursor to V-Mail: The British Airgraph service is extended to His Majesty’s Forces,
in Aden, Iraq and ships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.
December 7, 1941: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, and the United States declares war the following day.
April 20, 1942: Post Office Department issues Order No. 17471 as a directive restricting size, weight,
frequency of (military and civilian) mail matter for delivery outside continental U.S.
March 27, 1942: Congress grants free mail privilege for military personnel on first-class material.
May 8, 1942: War Department enters into a contract with the Eastman Kodak Company for V-Mail
June 12, 1942: President Roosevelt receives the first two V-Mail letters from Ambassador Winant and
Major General Chaney.
June 15, 1942: V-Mail service officially begins.
May 15, 1944: Air Mail V-Mail service inaugurated.
May 8, 1945: VE Day (Victory Day in Europe).
August 14, 1945: VJ Day (Victory Day in Japan).
October 15, 1945: Last V-Mail from New York port of embarkation sent to General Eisenhower
from Major General Kells.
November 1, 1945: V-Mail service is discontinued.
WWII Index ~~