Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

V-Mail: You Write, He’ll Fight

January 9th, 2018

Victory Mail, commonly called V-Mail, was a process developed in 1942 to more efficiently transport the immense amount of correspondence being generated between military personnel and their families during World War II. The system was a cooperated effort between the U.S. Postal Service and the military, intended to preserve precious cargo space for essential military personnel, equipment, and supplies by reducing the volume and weight of the mail.

Image of a blank v-mail sheet, undated

Image of a blank v-mail sheet, undated

Image of a Blank v-mail envelope, undated.

Blank v-mail sheets and envelope.
Personal collection of Kathy Lafferty. Click images to enlarge.

A V-Mail letter started out as a single sheet of pre-printed stationery that served as both letter and envelope. The use of V-Mail was voluntary for both military personnel and those on the home front, but its use was encouraged by all branches of the U.S. military as a way to support the war effort. Correspondents were instructed to write only within the space provided, using dark ink or a heavy pencil, then to fold and seal the paper along the lines indicated, forming an envelope. V-Mail was mailed along with normal U.S. mail. Post office staff separated out the V-Mail and sent it to V-Mail stations for filming, using equipment provided by Eastman Kodak. In the U.S., these stations were located in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, while a network of V-Mail stations throughout Europe and the Pacific handled V-Mail written by those serving overseas. Letters written by military personnel were censored for classified intelligence before filming. Once filmed, reels of microfilm were created, each capable of holding approximately 1,700 letters. The reels of microfilm were then mailed. Once the microfilm reached a V-Mail station, it was developed, and each four-by-five inch printed letter was folded and placed into a window envelope for mailing to the recipient. Members of the military who were serving overseas could mail V-Mail, as well as all other mail, for free under an Act of Congress in March 1942.

Shown here are examples of V-Mail from a few of the manuscript collections housed in Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Orin Roland Bales, June 26, 1945

V-Mail letter from Orin Roland Bales to his mother,
June 26, 1945. Bales Family Papers.
Call Number: RH MS 952. Click image to enlarge.

Orin Roland Bales (1919-2010) was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia (1940) and a master’s degree from the University of Kansas (1942). From 1942 to 1945 he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces‘ 63rd Air Service Group, stationed primarily in the Philippines, where Luzon is the largest island. After the war he owned businesses in Emporia, Kansas, and Fairfield Bay, Arkansas.

Image of a V-Mail letter from John Avery Bond, December 31, 1943

V-Mail letter from John Avery Bond to his parents,
December 31, 1943. Papers of John A. Bond.
Call Number: RH MS 1272. Click image to enlarge.

John Avery Bond (1919-2016) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1942 to 1946, serving in the Pacific, French New Caledonia, New Zealand, Guadalcanal, and Bougainville. At Bougainville, Bond monitored radar for information about Japanese position changes and potential attacks. Back in the United States, he taught electronics to Navy sailors and worked at the U.S. Marine Corps Rehabilitation Office, advising discharged Marines of their rights and opportunities as veterans. After the war he graduated from the University of Chicago with a masters degree in social science, and then earned his Ph.D. in political science. Dr. Bond taught at Hillsdale College, the University of Minnesota, the University of Southern Illinois, North Dakota State University, and the University of Southern Colorado.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Bill F. Mayer, April 11, 1945

V-Mail letter from Bill F. Mayer to his parents,
April 11, 1945. Bill Mayer Correspondence.
Call Number: RH MS 1386. Click image to enlarge.

Bill F. Mayer (1925-2014) was born in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1925. After graduating from Wyandotte High School in 1943, he served in the Army Air Forces as a navigator on B-24 bombers during World War II, flying missions over the European Theater of Operations. After his Army service, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. He worked at the Lawrence Journal World newspaper for sixty years.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Charles S. Scott, March 16, 1944

V-Mail letter from Charles S. Scott to his father, March 16, 1944.
Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145. Click image to enlarge.

Charles S. Scott, Sr. (1921-1989) was born in Topeka, Kansas. During World War II, he served with the United States Army’s 2nd Calvary Division and the Red Ball Express Transportation Unit. Following the war, he earned a law degree from Washburn University in 1948 and his Juris Doctorate in 1970. In 1954, Scott was one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which ended legal segregation in public schools.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Robert Ernest Willman, October 4, 1944

V-Mail letter from Robert Ernest Willman to his parents,
October 4, 1944. Robert Ernest Willman World War II Letters.
Call Number: RH MS 946. Click image to enlarge.

Robert Ernest Willman (1923-1978) was born in Lawrence, Kansas. He was inducted into the Army in 1943 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with the rank of Private. He was sent overseas in August 1944, serving in France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Germany with Company C of the First Division’s First Battalion, 26th Infantry. Willman was wounded in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest near Aachen, Germany, and was awarded the Purple Heart. He returned to active duty in May 1945 and served with American occupation forces at Fürth, Germany, guarding prisoners of war who had served in Hitler’s SS forces. In February 1946 Willman suffered injuries in a jeep accident and was hospitalized at Nürnberg, Germany, returning to the U.S. in May 1946 for hospitalization and recuperation.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Leo William Zahner, Jr., June 25, 1944

V-Mail letter from Leo William Zahner, Jr. to his parents,
June 25, 1944. Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters.
Call Number: RH MS 1079. Click image to enlarge.

Leo William Zahner, Jr. (1925-2007) was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He joined the Navy in 1943, receiving training in the Navy’s metalsmith school. He shipped overseas in 1944, serving on a tank landing ship in combat zones in New Guinea and the Philippines. After the war, Leo joined his father in the family business, the Zahner Sheet Metal Company. Under Leo Jr.’s influence, the company applied its metal work to architecture, earning awards and a global reputation for innovative and visually striking building design. In 1989, Leo was awarded the National Sheet Metal Contractor of the Year. In 2000, he received the National AFL-CIO Labor – Management Award.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

“Hope to See You Before Father’s Day Again”

June 19th, 2015

Many archival collections at Spencer Research Library contain letters exchanged between fathers and their children. In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, we’re sharing several items from our collection of Leo W. Zahner, Jr.’s World War II letters, housed in the Kansas Collection.

Photograph of Leo W. Zahner, Jr. and other sailors, 1946

Leo W. Zahner, Jr. and other sailors at the College Inn, San Diego, California,
January 1946. Leo is the second from the right, seated in the front row.
Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters. Call Number: RH MS-P 1079.
Click image to enlarge.

Zahner (1925-2007) was a lifelong resident of Kansas City, Missouri. He joined the Navy during World War II, receiving training from August to November 1943 at the U.S. Naval Training Station at Farragut, Idaho. In late November, he was transferred to the Navy’s metalsmith school at Great Lakes, Illinois, where he was hospitalized with scarlet fever in December 1943. In the summer of 1944, he shipped overseas, where he served on a tank landing ship at U.S. combat zones in New Guinea and the Philippines. He returned to the U.S. mainland in December 1945 and was discharged from service in March 1946.

The Zahner collection contains three items specifically related to Father’s Day. One is a letter he wrote to his father to celebrate the holiday in 1945; the other two items (a card and a souvenir handkerchief) are undated, and a cursory examination of the collection didn’t reveal when Leo sent them to his father.

Image of a Father's Day card, circa 1940-1946

Image of a Father's Day card, circa 1940-1946

Father’s Day card, circa 1940-1946. Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters.
Call Number: RH MS 1079. Click images to enlarge.

Image of a painted souvenir handkerchief from the South Pacific, circa 1944-1945

Painted souvenir handkerchief from the South Pacific, circa 1944-1945.
Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters. Call Number: RH MS Q270. Click image to enlarge.

Image of a letter, Leo W. Zahner, Jr. to his father, June 17, 1945Image of a letter, Leo W. Zahner, Jr. to his father, June 17, 1945

Letter, Leo W. Zahner, Jr. to his father, June 17, 1945. Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters.
Call Number: RH MS 1079. Click images to enlarge. Transcription below.

June 17, 1945
Fathers Day.

Dear Dad;
Well its Fathers Day again and I’m still over here. Hope every thing is going fine with you.

The war looks like it’s going pretty good in general and looks better at [our?] end too.

I wish you could get a letter off to me. its been a long time and you ought [owe] me a couple.

Mother keeps me pretty well up on the shop [the family business in Kansas City, A. Zahner Sheet Metal Company] lately. I hear Russell White is working for you Hows his friend Billy. There ought to be a lot of the old men come back

The 1st Lieutenant just call me up I’ve got to [go?] he wants me to fill out requestion for our supplies here in the C & R. He’s our offer of Deck [officer on deck?]. were under [illegible]. I’ve got them all made out now so I can finish this letter to you. I take care of every thing we need down here. Its a pretty good job thank goodness it don’t happen very often. He try to get me [illegible] but [i]s having lots of trouble. If I get 3/r [3rd?] in at most couple of months I have a good chance of getting 2/nd, but I settle for third. ha. ha. before going home. It would make a lot of difference after I get off this tub.

I’ve got all the gear to gather for Mellott to run off a batch of icecream. We had a pretty good snack last night Red and Ed did a little [illegible] for batch. So I had [break and the fire?] pot. The hot plates busted. I do the biggest part of the cooking.

We got turkey for chow today it was pretty good except the hide was about 1/2 thick with pen [illegible] like welding rod.

This is the first holiday weve had in three weeks. I sleep till noon. There was no church. It was felt good to sleep that late.

I’ve got a pretty nice job tomorrow a making a couple of brass covers for front of some big lights. [diagram] I like that kind of work.

Well Dad hope you had a happy fathers Day. Well write me soon now so Ill have something write back about.

Hope to see you before fathers Day again. About the end of this year. I hope I’ve counted my chickens right before the hatch.

Your Son
Junior.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services