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V Mail “Victory Mail”

431218 V-Mail Packaging

Introducing V-Mail

Following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan and entered the largest full-scale war in history. As war raged around the world, countries divided into Axis and Allied powers and battlefields spanned across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Members of the armed forces were deployed to the far reaches of the globe and were separated from their families.

In a days before email, cell phones, and text messaging, letters served as a vital link between loved ones and friends. Army Post Offices (APOs), Fleet Post Offices (FPOs), and U.S. post offices alike were flooded with mail sent by service members and sweethearts. According to the 1945 Annual Report to the Postmaster General, mail dispatched to the Army in that fiscal year reached 2,533,938,330 pieces compared to the prior year total of 1,482,000,000 and fiscal 1943 sum of only 570,633,000 items. The Navy received 838,644,537 in fiscal year 1945 whereas the prior period saw 463,266,667 mail items sent. The bulk and weight of parcels and letters was competing with military supplies in transport vehicles. Officials from the Post Office, War, and Navy Departments faced a large problem: Was there a way to save room for equipment and still deliver the mail?

Mailing to the frontlines: American soldier finds lost letters near Auw, Germany; February 1945. National Archives (111-SC-200677).
Mailing to the frontlines: American soldier finds lost letters near Auw, Germany; February 1945. National Archives (111-SC-200677).

Operating V-Mail

The Post Office, War, and Navy Departments worked together to ensure V-Mail for civilians and service members around the world. Numerous personnel, expensive pieces of equipment, photographic supplies, ships, and planes were needed to process and deliver V-Mail. The volume of mail and supplies was such that all three departments were needed to keep the network operational and keep the mail moving.

The Post Office Department was responsible for domestic dispatch and handling of mail. The Post Office sorted V-Mail by respective Army and Navy post offices and delivered it to the V-Mail stations in the United States. Postal authorities divided the continental U.S. into three regions and funneled the incoming and outgoing V-Mail to three facilities: New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. At the ports of embarkation the War and Navy Departments took over postal duties and Kodak ran the V-Mail photography operations. The military was responsible for the transportation of mail destined for overseas personnel. Getting V-Mail to and from the field depended upon a network of V-Mail plants at key locations in the European and Pacific theaters.

Technology was the linchpin in this inter-agency, international network. At the center was the Recordak machine that was initially developed by the Eastman Kodak Company for bank records. The microphotography equipment was designed for ease of use and mass production of recorded materials. Great Britain’s Airgraph Service relied on Kodak for shrinking letters onto microfilm for shipment. Following that lead, the U.S. War Department entered into a contract with the Eastman Kodak Company on May 8, 1942 to use Recordak machines to process V-Mail.

Kodak coordinated the photographic operations in the continental U.S. When it came to the far-flung overseas V-Mail stations, the processing was in the hands of the U.S. military. There, staff relied on the Recordak’s straight-forward design and function to process mail quickly. Captain James Hudson, trained by Eastman Kodak Company, operated V-Mail in Cairo, Egypt, described the machine’s actions:

“It accepted a stack of regular size sheets of paper, about 8 x 11, and fed them one at a time through this machine that was about the size of a small chest of drawers, or today’s paper copier. Cleverly, a light scanned the sheet through a narrow, transverse slot and exposed one frame of a 16 mm motion picture film that was synchronized with it, so that one tiny frame had the image of the full sheet of paper. For those days, that was a lot of compression and tremendous synchronization to make it happen. Kodak gets all the credit for that innovation” http://postalmuseum.si.edu/VictoryMail/operating/flipbook_flash.html

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Using V-Mail

V-Mail letter sheets were designed to make the microfilming process easy. The distinguishing marks and uniform size of V-Mail stationery helped workers gather the folded letter sheets for their special processing. All sheets were set to standard dimensions, weight, grain, and layout.

The materials were produced by the Government Printing Office as well as printing and stationery firms that had been issued permits by the Post Office Department. Multiple suppliers were used to get the V-Mail forms to the people quickly.

The Post Office Department provided customers with special stationery for free. Correspondents could obtain two sheets per day from their local post office. Others opted to purchase the materials that were readily available in neighborhood stores.

V-Mail stationery functioned as a letter and envelope in one. Once the sender had completed her message, she put the recipient’s and return addresses at the top and then folded the sheet into a self-mailing piece. This set of addresses was essential to the final stages for delivery because only this side was reproduced from microfilm to photographic print.

The sender repeated addresses a second time on the opposite side of the sheet. This set, on the “envelope” side of the form, was used to carry the mail along its first stage of the journey from a mailbox to a processing center.

You can print out a copy of a blank V-Mail form (http://postalmuseum.si.edu/VictoryMail/images/vmail.pdf) to use as stationery. If you want to mail it, be sure to use first-class postage.

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Letter Writing in World War II

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Spongebob MailPants

In early December 2013 Nickelodeon and the United States Postal Service launched “SpongeBob MailPants,” an educational letter-writing program that uses SpongeBob SquarePants to show kids the fun of writing, sending and receiving mail during the holiday season. Kids could have gotten a special postage-paid, customized SpongeBob postcards at more than 25,000 Post Office locations nationwide to connect with their loved ones using the U.S. Postal Service.

One of three Spongebob postcard designs from my collection.
One of three Spongebob postcard designs from my collection.
Two Spongebob postcard designs from my collection.
Two Spongebob postcard designs from my collection.

In addition to the postcards, 30 mailboxes are being wrapped in a custom SpongeBob design in cities, including Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Hollywood, FL; Kirkwood, MO; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; New York, N.Y.; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; and Washington, D.C., adding a blast of color and comedy to sidewalks this winter.

Images of USPS Spongebob mailbox.
Images of USPS Spongebob mailbox.

“This program is a great way to inspire kids to write and send cards and letters because it’s done with the fun, positivity and humor of the one and only SpongeBob SquarePants,” said Pam Kaufman, Chief Marketing Officer and President of Consumer Products for Nickelodeon. “SpongeBob MailPants is a terrific partnership between Nickelodeon and the Postal Service, and we’re thrilled that kids and families across the country can go to their local Post Office for some SpongeBob-inspired holiday cheer.”

“We’re excited to partner with Nickelodeon. This is a great, fun way to teach kids to write postcards. What better way to encourage kids to experience the excitement of sending personal correspondence than teaming up with SpongeBob, who is adored by children of all ages,” said Nagisa Manabe, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer at the United States Postal Service. “And the timing is perfect. A postcard is a terrific way to send a holiday thank you.”

Since its launch in July 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants has emerged as a pop culture phenomenon. The series has been the most-watched animated program with kids 2-11 for more than 12 consecutive years, and over the past several years, it has averaged more than 100 million total viewers every quarter across all Nickelodeon networks. As the most widely distributed property in Viacom history, SpongeBob is seen in more than 170 countries and translated into more than 35 languages. The character-driven cartoon chronicles the nautical and sometimes nonsensical adventures of SpongeBob, an incurable optimist and earnest sea sponge, and his undersea friends.

Read more about Nickelodeon Teams with USPS on ‘SpongeBob MailPants’ Letter Writing Program – BWWTVWorld by http://www.broadwayworld.com

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Bucket List Minus One!

Biltmore Estate Asheville, North Carolina. Image © Joe Geronimo 2013
Biltmore Estate Asheville, North Carolina.
Image © Joe Geronimo 2013

This Thanksgiving our family decided to unstuff the traditional family bird and venture south in order to visit our friends in North Carolina for the holiday weekend. Three years ago our friends Sharon and John had retired to North Carolina with visions of warmer weather. However cool Canadian air must have followed us down that never ending Interstate 81. Does the State of Virginia ever end?

Leaving New York Tuesday afternoon it had just begun to snow. Sixty miles to the south snow had changed to rain, a steady rain and that would be the recipe for the first 367 miles to Harrisonburg, VA. Our road weary heads rested and we’re once again on the road. Weather was still chilly but the rain had passed making the final 268 miles to Kannapolis, NC easy. We arrived under the warm rays of the sun to much fanfare. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and catching up.

Thanksgiving morning began early for me as I was to meet my friend Kaye-Lani at 0630 in Cornelius, NC for the Lake Norman 10K Turkey Trot. Our goal was to just have fun and not worry whatsoever about time, that is exactly what we did. Kaye-Lani’s husband Andrew was there to cheer us. After the race a cup of Joe was in order at Summit Coffee in the small college town of Davidson. . Parting ways, I returned to celebrate Thanksgiving with Julie, Michael, Max, Sharon and John. The food was delicious and this bird was completely stuffed. After dinner Julie and I ventured out to witness the crazies lined up at Walmart and then we did the unthinkable, we went in! I was totally ashamed as I swore to myself I would never shop on Thanksgiving. Hopefully I learn from my mistake.

Friday again began early as I went for a 7 1/2 mile run and after breakfast we did some black Friday shopping returning to Davidson to meet up with Kaye-Lani, have some coffee, shop and lunch. At this point Julie, myself and the boys ventured west to Asheville in order to check into our hotel. We were scheduled for an 8 O’clock candle light tour that evening of the Biltmore Estate decorated for Christmas. And this my friends is where we cross one item off our preverbal “Bucket List”. The Biltmore Estate of the late “George Washington Vanderbilt” is the largest private home ever built in America. The home opened to family and friends on Christmas Eve 1895. We have dreamt for years to visit Biltmore all decorated for Christmas. You see Julie and I love Christmas, not only for all the traditions, glitz and glamour but for what the spirit of Christmas represents.

Saturday we returned to our friends home in Kannapolis. That evening we were treated to a firework show, some dinner and one heck of a Christmas light display at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Yes we actually had the opportunity to drive on the track. A great way to end a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Sunday morning we were on the road back to New York. Making great time only to come to a screeching halt at the NY/PA border. It took us and hour and a half to go from the border to kamikaze curve with all the Thanksgiving traffic. Twelve hours later we had arrived home safe and sound and I am thankful for that!

Cheers!

Pissed at the Post Office

It was the weekend of August 11th & 12th and our family made the 194 mile trip from our home here in Endwell to Lake George, NY to kayak and visit Fort Ticonderoga. Lake George sits on the southern end of New York’s massive 6.3 million acre Adirondack Park.

On Monday morning before heading north to Fort Ticonderoga I stopped in the Lake George, NY Post Office to mail 10 postcards around 0930. At the counter now and the only one in there I waited 5-6 minutes to be waited on while a few clerks gabbed behind the scenes. Once being waited on I informed the clerk all postcards had proper postage and I was requesting to have them hand canceled. I promptly received the glare of death and was told in a stern manner that the United States Post Office does not hand cancel! Ok I’m mad! In response, I politely informed the clerk that this was odd as I have not been in a Post Office that does not hand cancel (except in Grand Central Station, which is a whole other story) and asked if the Postmaster was available in order to clarify.

As you can see by my image provided the clerk finally obliged and I received my hand cancels on all 10 postcards. Cannot wait to return next year and ask again.

Cheers, Joe

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Today is Memorial Day

Greetings My Fellow Americans,

Today is Memorial Day, a day where we as Americans reflect on those who have served and who are serving this great nation of ours. A day where we say thank you not only to our military but to their families who also bear the sacrifice of loved ones far from home and in harms way.

So as we plant our flowers, open our pools, light that charcoal lets take a moment to say thank you to all who have made this possible and continue to do so without reservation. Thank You!

Happy Memorial Day!

Joe

World War Two era postcard from my collection. This was mailed in 1943.
World War Two era postcard from my collection. This was mailed in 1943.