Letter Writing in WWII

For members of the armed forces the importance of mail during World War II was second only to food. The emotional power of letters was heightened by the fear of loss and the need for communication during times of separation. Messages from a husband, father, or brother, killed in battle might provide the only surviving connection between him and his family. The imminence of danger and the uncertainty of war placed an added emphasis on letter writing. Emotions and feelings that were normally only expressed on special occasions were written regularly to ensure devotion and support.

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View a two-minute newsreel describing V-Mail: "New Service Speeds Mail to U.S. Troops, 1944," produced by the Office of War Information.
National Archives (208-UN-113).

[Music]

Letters from home; each day millions of them are sent to American servicemen

fighting on distant battle fronts.

Because a war postal system called V--mail,

they can be flown throughout the world reaching distant points safely and with amazing speed.

This plane is landing in Italy.

Each bag of mail it carries contains 136 thousand letters.

Back in America, each letter was reduced to a tiny strip of film.

Now near the front, automatic machines and enlarge each overseas letter from

sixteen millimeter motion picture negative to a four by five inch print.

These strips are dried,

carefully inspected and cut into individual letters.

Machines fold them and put them into envelopes.

In this one laboratory over three hundred thousand letters a day are handled.

A complete locator card system takes care of mail incorrectly addressed.

In the censorship section, anything that might reveal vital military information is cut out.

[Music]

At mail call, Americans overseas receive their letters.

Nearly every transport plane that spans the ocean brings its quota of mail.

In just a few days, V-mail letters from home reach serviceman in every theater of war.

Military personnel felt the most connected to home through reading about it in letters. Civilians were encouraged to write their service men and women about even the most basic activities. Daily routines, family news, and local gossip kept the armed forces linked to their communities.

V-mail leeter in which the writer stresses the need for frequent correspondence

The writer stresses the need for frequent correspondence and mentions, “I hear from home quite often which is most important to me.”

V-mail letter showing that pen pal relationships helped many people connect.

Pen pal relationships helped many people connect.

Wartime romances adjusted to long distances and sweethearts and spouses separated by oceans used mail to stay in touch. Couples were married on furlough and babies were born while their fathers were away at the battlefront. Letters kept America’s troops informed about home life and detailed accounts allowed them to be in the war and have that critical link back to their families. Others wrote to kindle new relationships and fight off the loneliness and boredom of wartime separation.

V-mail advertisement: Keep Him Posted. Make it short. Make it cheerful.

National Archives (44-PA-1191).

V-mail advertisement: V-Mail is Speed Mail. You wright, he'll fight!

National Archives (44-PA-2251B).

Mail played a significant role in maintaining morale on the battlefront and at home, and officials supported that role by working to ensure mail communications during wartime. V-Mail service could ensure this communication with added security and speed. The Office of War Information and the Advertising Council worked with commercial businesses and the community to spread the word about this new service and its benefits.

V-Mail was promoted as patriotic with advertisements emphasizing contributions to the war effort, such as saving cargo space and providing messages to lift spirits. To allay the fears and misconceptions of would-be V-Mail writers, news reports explained how the letters were processed and sped to military personnel.

V-mail advertisement: A war message. Use V-mail today.

National Archives (44-PA-2249).

V-mail advertisement: V-Mail is Speed Mail.

National Archives (44-PA-2251A).