Skip to Main Content
Print this page Print this page
Using Victory Mail image banner
V-Mail facsimile letter with blacked-out portion.
V-Mail facsimile with cartoon of a soldier with censored letter.
Unsent V-Mail letter sheet with newsletter.
Unsent V-Mail letter sheet with war bond graphic.
V-Mail facsimile with photograph of a soldier.

V-Mail's Limitations

Each V-Mail letter sheet contained printed instructions to help writers avoid illegible messages or misaddressed mail. Because V-Mail did not require an envelope, the instructions stressed that each letter show complete sender and receiver addresses. The instructions reminded writers that V-Mail’s microfilm processing was unable to print faint or blurry writing. Small penmanship was also discouraged and all letters needed to be printed clearly by pencil, pen, or typewriter. After all, the V-Mail facsimiles (photographic print letters) were smaller than the real thing; anything challenging to read at 100 percent size could be rendered illegible at one-quarter size.

As part of a national security measure, each outgoing letter, whether regular mail or V-Mail, which passed through military post offices was carefully censored for confidential material. Locations of companies or units, descriptions of military operations, and other sensitive information, were blacked out or removed, and sometimes the letters were confiscated. Letter writers were aware of these procedures but often expressed their concerns or frequently joked about their letters being read by a third party. See the 1st and 2nd images about censorship.

Because V-Mail stationery served as a letter and envelope in one, enclosed objects and photographs were prohibited. Loose items were discouraged due to V-Mail’s handling. V-Mail letter sheets were sent through a series of machines that flattened the paper and prepared it to be shrunk onto microfilm. Newspaper clippings, advertisements, keepsakes, and other inserts slowed down processing, littered the plant floor, and jammed machinery.

One particular jam came from lipstick! Sweethearts puckering up to send kisses from home left colorful lipstick residue that gummed up the microfilm machinery and was dubbed the "Scarlet Scourage." The pleas to the public to leave off signs of love and affection reminded many letter writers of V-Mail’s impersonal elements. Not only did the V-Mail process not allow kisses, but the facsimiles couldn’t carry the scent of a familiar perfume either.

The public created a few adaptations in answer to the problem of enclosures for V-Mail. News organizations prepared newsletters for distribution. Such circulars and V-Mail advertisements were strongly discouraged by officials because V-Mail was designed for personal use and sending news items in multiples would have strained the system.

In 1943, the War Department amended the restriction on sending photographs via V-Mail. The photographs were to be transposed onto the regulation forms “without altering, treating, or sensitizing the form in any manner.” The use of photos was to be limited to “infants born after a soldier departed for overseas or those under 1 year of age” and could include the mother. The images were limited to the upper left third of the form so that they would not be creased. The Chicago Daily Tribune offered photographic services to wives living with a 40-mile range of the Windy City who wished to send pictures of their newborns. The Tribune stated it was willing to take on the difficult steps for transferring the photos to V-Mail forms because,

“[It] is considered well worth while. Service men have emphasized their hunger for letters from home, and family snapshots have added greatly to the pleasure brought by the mail. Imagine the unexpected thrill of a father in receiving a picture that, of all the pictures in the world, means to him the most!” (Apr 11, 1943, W1).