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Delivering More 1941-1970s

Military mail offloaded from merchant ship in Korea, 1951.
Military mail offloaded from merchant ship in Korea, 1951.
Courtesy National Archives
Military mail offloaded from merchant ship in Korea, 1951.
Uniformed women pick up a parcel at a PO.
Nurses in Vietnam receive mail from home, 1970.
Courtesy National Archives
Nurses in Vietnam receive mail from home, 1970.
Three men work in a makeshift post office.
The 4th Marine Division post office on Iwo Jima, 1945.
Courtesy United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command
The 4th Marine Division post office on Iwo Jima, 1945.
A soldier displays V-Mail film reel and its corresponding number of letters.
A soldier displays V-Mail film reel and its corresponding number of letters.
Courtesy National Archives.
A soldier displays V-Mail film reel and its corresponding number of letters.
V-Mail photographic-printed letter
V-Mail photographic-printed letter
V-Mail photographic-printed letter.
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Open reel audio tape
Open reel audio tape sent home by Private First Class Frank Kowalczyk in 1969.
Courtesy of Frank A. Kowalczyk
Open reel audio tape sent home by Private First Class Frank Kowalczyk in 1969.
Five navy officers examine mail
U.S. officers examine mail on the USS Halford, 1944.
Courtesy National Archives
U.S. officers examine mail on the USS Halford, 1944.

An unprecedented amount of mail was transported during World War II. To bring mail to service personnel stationed worldwide, the military postal system required a global network. The Navy alone increased the number of post offices from 891 in 1941 to 4,632 in 1945.

By 1951, over 11 tons of mail a day poured into the Korean Theater for the multinational forces. This volume exceeded available aircraft space and led to restrictions on size and weight of airmail parcels sent overseas.

During the Vietnam War, available space on commercial airlines, military airlift, and chartered aircraft and ships meant postal cargo didn’t compete for space with people or supplies. Most mail reached Vietnam in as little as three days, thanks to innovations in cargo containers, automated location tracking, and prioritization of deliveries.

V For Victory

V-Mail allowed people to send letters without competing for the space needed to ship military supplies during World War II. Technicians copied images of letters onto 16 mm microfilm reels that were transported by air. About 1,500 letters could be reproduced on a single reel weighing only five ounces, saving about 98% of cargo space compared to traditional mail.

The recipient received a photographic print of the letter about one-quarter of its original size. This global V-Mail network required intensive labor and equipment commitment to operate, but it gave people a quick and dependable way to communicate with those overseas.

Click here to learn more about V-Mail.

“I hope you can read this, after microfilming—I am writing by a candle, and my pen doesn’t feed very well. A box came for me on Mar. 27th, from Stamford, which was mailed Oct. 10th to the same address your cake was—so let’s not despair! Fruit cake lasts well—(and makes a big hit with my buddies!)”
—Private E.C. Franklin to Reverend F.S. Leach, April 3, 1945

Just to Hear Your Voice

By the Vietnam War the availability of affordable recording equipment made it possible for deployed personnel and their families to send voice messages regularly. Hearing the voice of a family member or friend on the other side of the world was the next best thing to having them at home.


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