History of America's Military Mail

Modern Mail

1980s-2010

Despite the availability of electronic communication, mail remains relevant to service men and women. Packages can be sent simply with domestic U.S. postage rates, and mail reaches military personnel serving in places where phone and internet communication is unavailable.

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A sailor prepares a package aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt to send to the U.S., 2002.
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Sabrina Day

Modern mail transportation has been made efficient through computer tracking and containerized mail shipping. The postal system remains a global operation, bringing mail to service personnel in bases and outposts around the world.

“Few things impact a unit's morale more than mail. . . . Letters are not left behind on a nightstand or on a cot when Soldiers go into battle. They are taken along and read over and over. A small piece of correspondence from home means the world to these brave young men and women who fight for freedom.”
—Brigadier General Sean J. Byrne, 2003
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An airman prepares a mail container for U.S. Antarctic Program staff in 2007. The Department of Defense is uniquely able to provide transport and logistical support, called Operation Deep Freeze, for the research program. This includes shipments and operational support of mail service for McMurdo Station and the South Pole managed by the National Science Foundation.
U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Shane A. Cuomo

Desert Storm

Captain Ann H. Patrie wrote letters to her husband Chris while serving as a medical evacuation pilot during the Persian Gulf War.

In Patrie’s letter of January 20-21, 1991, she described some her work and the dangers she faced: “I am much, much closer to the Iraq border. Just to give you an idea – I flew there at 50’ to 100’ feet at 102 [knots] (117.5 MPH). The radar altimeter – had to be turned off because the Iraqis could acquire its signal and lock on.” (Letter courtesy of National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

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Captain Patrie stands next to her helicopter.
Courtesy International Women's Air & Space Museum, Cleveland, Ohio

Care Package

For military personnel, the ability to send parcels to family and friends can be just as important as receiving care packages from home. While serving in Iraq, Chief Warrant Officer Peter Paone used this Priority Mail box to send souvenirs to his son Tom.

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Used Priority Mail cardboard box

Hybrid Mail

Tested by the Marine Corps in 2003, MotoMail represents a new way to send mail. With MotoMail, people can e-mail a message to a service man or woman at a Marine camp overseas. The message is then printed and delivered to the recipient through postal delivery like a normal letter. MotoMail is free to use, fast, and private. The Army experimented briefly with a similar system in 2009, called Hooahmail.

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A Marine reads a MotoMail letter.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Richard D. Stephens

What Do I Need to Know About Sending Military Mail?

Mail addressed to military personnel must have the recipient’s name, unit, and APO or FPO number. For tips on military addressing, go here.

Mail to certain locations might have prohibitions on certain materials and content. For the most current list of restrictions by APO/FPO address, check the latest Postal Bulletin. Look for the section titled “Overseas Mail.”

Parcels shipped overseas must be accompanied by a customs form, which can be found here. Mail sent to APO/FPO addresses overseas are considered international mail, even though military post offices are U.S. addresses.

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Military postal worker handles flats.
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Val Gempis