Frank Charney

Frank Charney's Sunday Postcard

An uncle's V-Mail during World War II

In conjunction with the PBS showing of Ken Burns' documentary "The War," a seven-part series about World War II, I decided to display a copy of an old V-Mail, or WW II letter, dated July 26, 1944, that my uncle Alex Charney mailed to his brother Mike, my father. It gives me a greater appreciation of how my uncle, along with other veterans, fought the Nazis in Europe and managed to survive.

What is V-Mail, especially to the younger generation? During World War II in 1942, the military devised a method for servicemen stationed overseas to send mail to the United States. It was called V-Mail, the V for Victory. The serviceman wrote the letter on a V-Mail form, a one-sided, regular-sized piece of paper with a block on the top for the receiver's address. The letter was sent to a mailroom just behind the combat zone, cleared by the censor, and a photographer shot the page onto 16-mm black and white camera film. The reel of V-Mail film was then flown or shipped to a safe processing center where a copy of the letter was printed onto a piece of 5" x 4" black and white photographic paper. This then was folded, slipped into an envelope and dropped into a mailbag for delivery. The V-Mail system was adopted because mail had to compete with overseas cargo space for valuable war-time supplies, with V-Mail occupying a lot less space than regular mail.

In a previous Sunday Post, I described my uncle's unbelievable preoccupation with obtaining tins of snuff while he was in the midst of wartime chaos. What would our cravings be, if placed in such a situation? See

I translated his V-Mail for more legible reading.

After viewing Burns' documentary and hearing about my uncle's wartime experiences, I'll never again complain about having to pull midnight guard duty on a New Year's Eve when I was stationed stateside in the Army

— Frank Charney

This Day in History

1930: The first glider license was awarded to L.A. Wiggins of Akron, Ohio.

1988: A morning low of 28 degrees in Rockford, Illinois, set a record there, and fog in other locations reduced visibility to near zero.

What's new in Nanty Glo?
Report on latest NTAMHS Meeting

Complete index of Jon Kennedy's Jonal articles

Today's chuckle

Senior moments: Your mantra is, "fast, temporary relief."

Thought for today

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

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