March 03, 2014
How do you find room for 150,000 one page letters in one canvas mail bag?
You microfilm it! This is what the U.S. Post Office Department did during World War II. It was a space saver to the tune of 36 mail bags or 2,530 pounds. From June 15, 1942 to April 1, 1945, this space was used for essential cargo needed for the troops overseas. There were a total of 556.5 million letters going to service persons and 510 million sent home from the front.
The concept of V-Mail (or Victory Mail) was developed by the British after the Suez Canal was closed and ships had to go around the continent of Africa to reach the Middle East and India. Victory Mail had a special one page sheet that could be folded into its own envelope. They were then microfilmed and sent overseas. You could also purchase ink for V-Mail, which made for a better copy to film. The color was in “Microfilm Black.” At one of the overseas postal centers, the mail was printed at approximately 25% of the original (but still readable) and sent to the unit where the soldier or sailor was stationed. Soldier’s mail was addressed to APO (Army Post Office) and sailor’s mail to FPO (Fleet Post Office).
I inherited some of these letters. One was written by my dad’s cousin; he eloped on a weekend pass from a Wisconsin army camp. None of his family remembered this tidbit.
Midwest Genealogy Center