V-mail stands for Victory Mail. It was based on the British "Airgraph", and was a system for delivering mail from
United Statestroops to home addresses during World War II. V-mail correspondence worked by photographing large amounts of censored mail reduced to thumb-nail size onto reels of microfilm, which weighed much less than the original would have. The film reels were shipped to the US, sent to prescribed destinations for developing at a receiving station near the recipient, and printed out on lightweight photo paper. These facsimiles of the letter-sheets were reproduced about one-quarter the original size and the miniature mail was delivered to the addressee.
V-mail was composed of a letter that folded into its own envelope. The user would write the message in the prescribed space, fold the letter/envelope form, address it, affix postage and then the mail was on its way.
According to the National Postal Museum, "V-mail ensured that thousands of tons of shipping space could be reserved for war materials. The 37 mail bags required to carry 150,000 one-page letters could be replaced by a single mail sack. The weight of that same amount of mail was reduced dramatically from 2,575 pounds to a mere 45." This saved considerable weight and bulk in a time in which both were hard to manage in a theatre of the war. It also eliminated the threat of spies using
microdots or invisible ink to send reports. Any microdot would not be photographed with enough resolution to be read.
Although the system of V-mail ensured that more pieces of mail were able to be shipped and delivered than a larger, bulkier mailing would have accomplished, many soldiers found that they did not have enough room in the limited available space in order to write all that they had to say.
* "Smithsonian Magazine", March, 1994, Around the Mall, vol 24:12 pg 16
* "Smithsonian Magazine", May, 2004, "V - as in Victory Mail", pg 38
* [http://www.war-letters.com/0014/ V-Mail Collection] Examples of Letters to a U.S. soldier stationed in London during 1944 and 1945
* [http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/museum/1d_V-Mail.html V-Mail Object of the Month] Postal Museum Smithsonian Institute
* [http://www.remuseum.org.uk/specialism/rem_spec_pcsww2.htm#airgraph Royal Engineers Museum] Army Postal Services (1939-45) - origins of British Airgraph
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