HistoryBuff.com March 2011 Newsletter
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V-Mail (V for Victory)

Today, family members and loved ones overseas can communicate with each other by email and video conferencing. During WWII, the only method to communicate between soldiers, family members, and other loved ones, was to send letters.

By 1942 there was so much mail going back and forth to soldiers overseas that it could take months for mail to be received. The quantity of mailbags was just too overwhelming. Airplanes could only hold so much. Remaining bags would be kept in storage for the next available flight. The main problem was that more and more mail kept coming in faster than it could be sent. The military finally came up with a solution to the problem. It was V-Mail.

V-Mail worked as follows:

1) First soldiers, family members and loved ones would purchase packages of special stationary that contained 50 sheets.

2) Then, the letter was written on the backside only of the sheet. If the letter was more than one-page, additional sheets of V-Mail stationary would have to be sent separately. The address of whom the letter was from was also put on the same side as the letter.

3) The front side also had the "to" and "from" addresses on it. Also, the stamp was affixed on this same side.

4) All V-Mail - despite who it was going to - was then sent by the post office to the Pentagon for processing. There, the letters were opened and the backside photographed at close range. Each letter was photographed on reels of film much like movies were. One reel could hold thousands of letters and weighed less than two pounds. Letters were grouped together on a reel determined by where they were being sent to - France, Germany, etc.

5) Once the reels arrived at their destination, military personnel made enlarged prints of each frame and the letters were delivered to the servicemen addressed to.

V-Mail did much to boost the morale of servicemen and helped to win the war. V-Mail didn't die with the end of the war however. Since after WWII, the technology, originally developed to solve a problem in war, has been used to produce microfilm reels of newspapers, magazines and so forth so common in libraries today.


My Personal Experience With Native Americans

I grew up in a small town in Northeast Utah, Logan, that was only about 25 miles from the Idaho and the Wyoming state borders. Each summer, in the 1950s, our family drove to Northern Idaho, Salmon, to spend a week with my grandparents. About halfway there was the town of Blackfoot, Idaho. We would always stop there at the soft ice cream store. Each of us four kids would be given ten cents to buy an ice cream cone. A large was only five cents. Sitting on curbs surrounding the ice cream store would be dozens of Blackfoot Indian mothers with their children. Each were dressed in Native American buckskin coats , skirts, and pants with lots of blue beads on them. Each of us would use the other five cents to purchase another ice cream cone to give to the Native American of our choice. As I look back, if a mother had more than one child, and we gave the ice cream cone to one of them, the other siblings did not show jealousy.

Even though our family was on welfare at the time, mom instilled in us that there were always others less fortunate than us. We all liked giving Native American kids an ice cream cone. It made them so happy. Just think, an act so small could made someone else - and us - so happy. Unfortunately, non-Native American teenage boys hanging around the ice cream store would harass us for giving a Blackfoot child an ice cream cone and call us “Indian-lovers.” This confused me greatly. While I didn’t “love” them, I didn’t hate them either. This was my first exposure to bigotry.

Later, when in ninth-grade, we had an assembly where Native Americans sang songs and did some Native American dances for us. They all wore their Native American attire. They came from the Indian school in Brigham, Utah. I enjoyed it very much.

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t ask my mother to tell me more stories of her childhood and the Blackfoot Indians that had an encampment just outside of Salmon, Idaho. This was the 1920s. She became a close friend to one of the boys there whose American name was Raymond. His mother’s American name was Cora. Mom and Raymond always use to play tricks on his mother.

Web Sites of Interest

Subcriber Richard Lim has put together a Web site devoted to George Washington. It is a comprehensive site with drop-down menus on different aspects of Washington's life. Also, a blog on the front page as well as a message board that will hopefully foster a community of founding father enthusiasts. It is my hope that eventually the site will promote the story of American's founding to a whole new generation. The URL is http://www.firstinpeace.com/. Check it out.

Subscriber Don Canaan, advised that there is a Web site that contains all weekly issues of the Cincinnati-based Israelite newspaper (July 1859-July 1867). Visitors will be able to experience the war from the viewpoint of American Jewry. The URL is http://www.israeliteonline.com .

The Israelite, which has been published continuously since 1854 (now The American Israelite), was created by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of Reform Judaism in America. Some historians have reported that Wise's personal feelings leaned toward the Confederacy.

Whatever his politics were, contemporary readers can now experience the wins and defeats of the Union and Confederate armies, the inauguration and assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and the early days of Reconstruction.

Subscriber Bill Peak sent me this URL http://yeli.us/Flash/Fire.html for a special rendition of the Billy Joel song We Didn't Start The Fire. Check it out.


As a result of my appeal for donations in the previous issue, Lanny Silks, Linda Bryant, Charles Gage and Rand Smith made one-time donations. Thank you.

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February Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: There is one current United States currency note that has the names of several states engraved on it. Which one is it?

ANSWER: The $5 bill.

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: The Transcontinental Railroad was built to connect both coasts of the United States. One railroad worked from west to east while other workers labored from east to west. In what state did the tracks join to form the Transcontinental Railroad?


Sixty-five people entered the contests. Most had the correct answers. Thirteen people had an incorrect subject heading. Nine entrants failed to select a prize if they won. One prize was not claimed.

The February Contest Winners Were:
  • Tony Skinner - Oklahoma
  • Ethel L. Miranda - California
  • William Moses - New Hampshire
  • Carla Stevenson - Nevada
  • Kathy Swartz - Arkansas

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: Who was the first United States President elected on the Republican Party ticket?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: Who was the only United States President to be given the oath of office on an airplane?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Thursday, March 17, 2011. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 72 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historybuff.com

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

  • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, SEVEN will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
March Contest One Prize List
(Select ONE of the two prizes below if enterering Contest One)

Over 10 hours of documentaries
Fact or fiction

Victory at Sea
26 episodes of this documentary series
March Contest Two Prize List

(Select ONE of the prizes below if enterering Contest Two)

The Daily Chronicle (1833) historic newspaper from 1833

Boston Morning Post historic newspaper from 1840

Manchester American & Messanger (New Hampshire) historic newspaper from 1853

Original The Commerical Bulletin (Boston) historic newspaper from 1867
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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