V-Mail is so fascinating. It was a solution to a major problem - the weight and volume of thousands upon thousands of letters crisscrossing the ocean from soldiers and their families during the war. The British had come up with a solution: a method of photographing letters onto microfilm reels and shipping those instead of the actual letters. The result was drastically reduced weight and volume that the letters usually took up in cargo planes and ships. The United States adopted this same method in June 1942. In some instances, the V-Mail letters traveled faster than usual as is advertised in some poster ads.
I found some V-Mail for sale on ebay and wasn't sure what to get, but I came across several lots of letters from the same woman from Lima, OH, who was a prolific writer. I think she may have written her husband every day he was gone, and sometimes twice in one day. I obtained quite a few of them - V-Mail microfilm prints, and some originals. I'm sad I didn't get them all, but there were a lot! It's amazing these letters were all saved, and even more amazing her family let them go. I did a little research and she only died about 10 years ago.
Her letters are sweet, chatty, full of the mundane, but so full of wonderful wartime details. They are such a treasure, and I feel so blessed to have them to study and preserve!
Below are three examples of V-Mail that I got. Two are the prints made from the microfilm negative. The red one is the original V-Mail form onto which the sender wrote or typed their letter.
Here are some close-ups of the microfilm negative prints: The print is pretty tiny and you could get a special magnifier with which to read your letters. Click on the images to see them in a larger size.
|Typed V-Mail Print|
|Handwritten V-Mail Print|
Here is a close-up of the original form with letter inside:
|The front. The envelope and letter are in one.|
|The back of the V-Mail form with instructions|
|V-Mail from Mrs. Verne Silbaugh|
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has a fabulous website with information about V-Mail. You can check out the link here to learn more.