392nd Bomb Group

The 586th Army Postal Unit

Wendling Post Office
V-Mail was used between 15 Jun 1942 and 1 Apr 1945.

During WWII, millions of letters were written to, from and between military personnel serving around the world. Limited cargo space on ships and planes was needed to transport war supplies, but letters were vital to morale. "Victory Mail" (commonly called "V-Mail") was the innovative solution.

According to the National Postal Museum, "A person who wanted to send a letter by ... V-Mail would obtain the standard, pre-printed form from the local post office.... The form contained space for a letter of about 100 to 300 words, the address of the [recipient], the address of the sender, and a circular area for the censor's stamp of approval.

[Editor's note: All correspondence by military men and women had to be censored to ensure no classified or sensitive information was revealed. Officers could censor their own mail but letters written by enlisted personnel had to be read by an officer. His signature in the censor's block showed the letter was approved for transmittal.]

"Once the message was written, the form was to be folded and sealed. It then made its way to a processing center where the form was re-opened and fed through a machine that photographed the letters on 16mm film.... When the V-Mail reached the destination, it was sent to a local processing facility that reversed the process, printing photographs of the letters [that were] sent to the intended recipient in a three inch by four-inch envelope." The original V-Mail form was about 7 x 9 inches; what the recipient got was about 4 x 5 inches.

"V-mail ensured that thousands of tons of shipping space could be reserved for war materials. The 37 mail bags required to carry 150,000 one-page letters could be replaced by a single mail sack. The weight of that same amount of mail was reduced dramatically from 2,575 pounds to a mere 45."

Letter-writers could still mail real letters. In 1944, regular mail took a three-cent stamp. Air mail stamps started at six cents. Military personnel serving in a combat zone paid no postage to send their letters home.

Letters between 579th Intelligence Officer Capt. Laurence Gram and his wife Isabel often debated the arrival speed of air mail versus V-Mail. After analyzing their correspondence, son-in-law Howard Thompson concluded that air mail tended to be faster if there was space on a plane going from England to the US. But if there was not enough room to carry mail pouches, such a letter would be delayed. V-Mail would beat an air mail letter in those times since rolls of microfilm could always be fitted in. Air mail delays in departure and delays in filming and printing V-Mails were trade-offs that periodically changed over the course of the war.

The 586th Army Postal Unit was the lifeline that kept Crusaders connected to family and friends back home and serving throughout the world. This was especially true at holidays.

586th postmen were swamped with mail. In December 1944, they received 4,030 sacks and pouches of mail, almost 1,700 more than the monthly average for 1944. They sent out 1,837 sacks and pouches, 754 more than the monthly average. The 578th Sqdn history said mail clerk Cpl Johnny Taub "estimated he handled 28,000 pieces of mail during the month-about 7,000 packages, 3,000 newspapers, and 18,000 letters."

576th Sqdn navigator 1/Lt Everett "Ike" Isakson recalls that "Packages from Stateside arrived well in advance of the 1944 Christmas holiday. My family enclosed a Paisley scarf. (Now where could I wear that?) The wonderful cookies that my Aunt Millie sent, though well-packed, arrived in crumbles. The family of our bombardier, 1/Lt William C. Sexton, owned a large restaurant supply house in Chicago, so his Christmas package contained a full range of snack delicacies. Being as most of our crew finished the required 35 missions on 5 Jan 1945, there were still treats for a fi nal gorging before we vacated our wartime home."

The Daily Bulletin warned station personnel to mail greeting cards to US recipients by 15 Nov to insure delivery by Christmas. Censorship, AAF Style Letters written by enlisted men had to be read and censored by an officer before they could be mailed. Officers were permitted to censor their letters.

Charles Dye, Station Ammunition Officer, was one of four officers in the 1825th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Co. He said each officer had "censor duty" one week a month. When it was his turn, the mail to be reviewed would be on his bunk when he returned to quarters in the evening.

"At first," he says, "I read each letter and used a sharp razor blade to cut out the parts that had to be censored. However, I soon learned that some men wanted their letters to be cut out, giving their parents, girlfriends, and other recipients an indication that they had a lot of 'military secrets.' Therefore, I started returning the letters to be rewritten. Soon they ceased to contain any prohibited information."

A memo from Gp HQ dated 1 Dec 1944 reminded censors not to "insert additions to nor make excerpts from communications which they censor, except as required for official purposes." They were also cautioned not to "repeat or discuss information contained in communications they censor except as required in the line of duty.

Wendling Post Office
Unloading Mail November 1944
Wendling Post Office
Sorting Christmas Mail November 1944
Wendling Post Office
Christams December 1944

586th Army Postal Unit and the
2974th Financial Detachment Party June 1944.

From the 392nd history collection from microfilm

[Note: Just like a successful reunion, a Company party took careful planning, attention to detail, and sometimes intense negotiations. The fun and fellowship that we experienced at the reunion was reminiscent of the parties planned at Station 118. As this excerpt from the history of the 2974th Finance Detachment shows, party planners approached these events with the same energy and focus as a combat mission.]

During the month of July 1944 the social life of the 2974th Finance Detachment improved immeasurably. As a result of long drawn-out negotiations between this Detachment and the 586th Army Postal unit, located at AAF Station 118, it was decided that certain vital social needs of the two units (Total combined personnel: 23 good men and stalwart…albeit slightly aged around the edges!) had, in the past, been ignored. It was suggested that this distressing lack could be remedied by a party. A meeting of all personnel of both units was called in the Finance office, and details were arranged as to the nature, scope, emphasis, and expenses of such an ambitious affair. The necessary committees were appointed and the date set.

The dance was held on a Friday evening, the 14th of July. Women were obtained from the government Post office in Dereham (through the professional activities of the army Postal Unit) and additional females were borrowed from Barclay's bank (contact having been made through the financial activities of the 2974th Finance Detachment.) In addition to the personnel of the Postal Unit and the Finance detachment, there were a few members of other squadrons and female staff of the Red Cross club to provide a broad representation, and the two Base chaplains to provide (but not necessarily promote) dignity. Total women present: 21; total men: 26.

Knowing that man does not live by dancing alone, arrangements were made to feed the "inner man". 27 gallons of ale in kegs, bolstered by sandwiches and cake provided by the mess hall, grapefruit juice for the tee-totalers, and miscellaneous other refreshments calculated to put all the company in merry mod, were obtained. Cpl Morris D. Glickfeld of the Finance Detachment did the honors as bartender, and all later admitted that he acquitted himself with discretion, efficiency and great dignity in the tradition of that ancient profession.

Music was provided by a radio-phonograph combination furnished, complete with records ranging from sweet to hot, by Chaplain Clark. The dance itself was held in the Finance Detachment barracks which, for the occasion, had been stripped of clothes and equipment and was suitably decorated.

Without question, the party was a great social success. The achievement was hailed as such by authorities as widely separated as (1) the men who attended, (2) the women who attended, and (3) the Chaplains who attended.

Plans are already under way for a repetition of this magnificent success. One thing must be pointed out: that the success of this affair has a deeper significance than merely that of social success itself. To the dance came young women of a class rarely seen or met by the American soldiery in the course of their normal operations in the neighborhood. As a result of this party it can confidently be said that Anglo-American relations have been established satisfactorily on a new level and with a new group, and the implications for the future are no less than profound.

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