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James Sanders-Vmail (Part 2)

Updated: May 1, 2022

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In Steven Spielberg's WWII movie, "Saving Private Ryan," one of the more poignant images is that of a GI laying in the middle of a street. He is alone, dying in the rain, holding out a letter to his dad and calling out to his buddies who are still under sniper fire. Later that night, the medic transcribes the letter onto a clean, unbloodied V-Mail form so it can be delivered.

V-Mail (Victory Mail) was a system designed to allow civilians and members of the American military to write to their friends and family without creating large amounts of bulky mail. It carried the thoughts and dreams of privates and generals to those back home and brought comfort to those at the front. Space aboard planes and transport ships was at a premium, and shipments of traditional letters took up valuable space. On the other hand, the contents of the V-Mail envelope would be photographed and saved in 16mm microfilm format which took up considerably less space. The microfilm was routed to a station near the recipient where it was reproduced at a reduced size and mailed to its final destination. It might be a stretch to call V-Mail the first e-mail, but consider these numbers: there was a lot of it - over 510 million pieces of V-Mail were received from military personnel abroad during WW2; it saved time, money, and valuable resources; it arrived faster; and it used microfilm, a relatively new technology.

Below is a V-Mail from Captain James Sanders, written after the raid to Emden. During that mission, the bombers were attacked by 75 to 100 German interceptors, and the B17 flying in the second slot in the lead squadron was shot down and all aboard were killed. After witnessing all of that, I admire Captain Sanders' calm and brave message to his parents, including "your prayers and good wishes have made it possible for me to come back safe;" and even though some of the crew were injured by flak, "we all have hard jobs to do so we just keep going back for more." If I were flying on any airplane going anywhere, he would be the guy I would want in the cockpit. I believe his strong leadership, excellent flying skills, and faith in God had a lot to do with the Rumboogiecrew completing their 25 missions.

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