Beginning in 1942, the U.S. Post Office adopted a British plan for servicemen to correspond with their loved ones at home. The system was named V-mail, with the “V” representing Victory.
Early in the war, mail was often slow in arriving because of the space it took up on already overloaded cargo ships and planes. Under the new system, servicemen would fill out standard V-mail forms, which were a combination of a letter and envelope. Since the forms were limited in size, the messages had to be fairly brief. The completed forms were then photographed onto 16-mm camera film to produce a thumbnail-sized image.
More than 1500 V-mails could fit on a single roll of film, which was approximately the size of a cigarette pack. The small size enabled the military to fly the letters on military cargo planes, which greatly reduced delays. When the microfilm reached its destination, it was developed, producing a photographic image approximately ¼ the size of the original letter. These small images were then delivered to the recipients.
The V-mail images on this site have been enlarged for legibility. To see a blank V-mail form, and an image of a developed V-mail, please click on the links below.
> View a PDF of a blank V-mail form
> View a PDF of V-mail instructions and folded form
> View a PDF of a developed V-mail