Aside from “Do you just love your job?” (Yes!), one of the questions I hear most often is “What is your favorite thing in the 10th Mountain Division Resource Center?” And no matter how often I get asked, I always have to stop and think; because there are so many fascinating items archived here, it is impossible for me to pick just one as my all-time favorite. Today though, my choice is Victory Mail, or V-Mail, and June 15 will mark the 76th anniversary of its introduction to the American public.
During World War II, the U.S. Postal Service needed a way for bulky loads of mail to be delivered overseas quickly without sacrificing the shipment of supplies. The U.S. Government recognized the role letters from home played in boosting the morale of soldiers, so stopping the delivery of mail in favor of critical supplies was not an option. Thus, based on the British Airgraph Service, Victory Mail was born.
Special stationery was printed – typically 8.5”x11” – that could be folded into a self-contained envelope. Soldiers, friends, and family would fill out the front and back of the sheet, which was then photographed onto microfilm and sent abroad. Once the film made it overseas to a receiving station, letters were printed on 3”x5” sheets and delivered in custom envelopes with windows that allowed the printed address to show through.
Saving both space and weight, 1,600 letters could be contained on just one roll of film the size of a deck of cards. Two thousand pounds of letters in 37 mail bags could be reduced to just 20 pounds in one mail bag. Letters could be handwritten or typed, or stationery with pre-printed cartoons and holiday greetings could be purchased. Some stationery companies even produced special ink for writing legible V-Mail. Faint or small handwriting was not advised.
Towards the end of World War II, use of V-Mail began to decline and microfilming ceased November 1, 1945.
Visit the 10th Mountain Division Resource Center at Denver Public Library to view more examples of V-Mail from 1945, when the 10th Mountain Division was in Italy.