Veteran’s Day: V-Mail from Gerald Broida

Ray and Jerry (Gerald) Broida,probably mid-1940s. Family photo.
Ray (Rachelle Cordova) and Jerry (Gerald) Broida, probably mid-1940s. Family photo.

Broida Family (Click for Family Tree)

Today is Veteran’s Day, a day to honor and appreciate the sacrifice of our veterans (and their families). Those who put their life on the line in the military allow us to wake up every morning in a free country and with freedoms that much of the world can only dream about. We need to shake the hands of our service members and say “thank you” to them whenever we meet them, and our country needs to take care of them when they come back home. (Today would be a good day to write your representatives in Congress and tell them you want better health care, pay, and benefits like the GI Bill-an improved version- for our military.)

Gerald D. Broida, son of Theodore “Dave” Broida and Lucy M. Shatzke, enlisted 4 November 1941 in the Air Corps, Regular Army at Camp Roberts in California. Jerry Broida had worked at a Skelly gas station as a teen in Colorado, so he worked in a transportation group as a Lieutenant. Jerry was 23 years old when he enlisted, and he may not have been overseas before. World War II was a far-ranging war, and Gerald got to see quite a bit of the world during his tour of duty.

Jerry corresponded with his aunt and uncle, Bess Dorothy Green and Phillip Edwin Broida while he served in World War II.  He travelled to quite a few countries, and wrote about China and Italy in the two surviving V-Mails we are posting today in honor of Jerry’s service.

The notes are an interesting glimpse into life in the 1940s, and during war. Of course, they were censored, so he couldn’t say much about strategic events, but he did manage to tell a bit about his impressions of people and countries to his aunt and uncle who had not travelled out of the country (as far as we know).

A bit of background:

“V-mail” is short for “Victory Mail.” Traditionally, a soldier, sailor, or airman would write a letter, post it via air mail, and it would have to take up valuable military cargo space on an airplane to get back to the US. This process was expensive, ended up taking quite a bit of time, and was therefore not useful for urgent messages. There was also the security risk of a note containing sensitive military information that would put our troops in danger.

Eastman Kodak had developed the British “Airgraph” system in the 1930s to reduce weight and size for mail transported by air. It was realized that the Airgraph was a faster, better way for our military to send letters home. The thumb-nail sized images on light-weight film saved thousands of cubic feet of shipping space, and literally tons of weight. Just one mail bag of microfilm could hold the equivalent of 37 mail bags, or about 150,000 one-page regular letters! The weight went from over 2,500 lbs. down to just 45! That would save fuel as well.

Working with v-mail was one of the many ways that women at home provided support for our military during war.

V-mail stationery was available for the folks back home to use too. It was not used as much by civilians, because, as one writer said, “You can’t smell the perfume…”

Here are the two v-mails we have from Gerald Broida, and transcriptions:

V-mail from Lt. Gerald D. Broida, 15 April 1944, to Bess (Green) and Phillip Broida.
V-mail from Lt. Gerald D. Broida, 15 April 1944, to Phillip and Bess (Green) Broida of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.


G D Broida
[1st Lt?] A. C.

To Mr. & Mrs. Phil Broida
405 Morrowfield Apt. 3
Pittsburg -17

Lt. G. D. Broida
1641 Ord. S. & M. Co.
A.P.O. 210 c/o P.M.

April 15– ’44
Dear Aunt Bess & Uncle Phil,

I was very happy to receive your v-mail
of Feb. 1 a short time ago. -The main reason
for the delay is that I’ve been on the
move for quite a long time & now at last
I am in China. After a nice long & high
flying trip by air, railroad & ship I am
about to start to work again. This is really
quite the most unusual country I’ve been in
yet. There are millions of people & yet they
don’t seem to be dirty like the people of India
& Egypt. Neither do they seem to be beggars. They
are more like a large group of overgrown
kids, always ready to laugh at anything- be
it their own misfortunes or be it Americans & they
are very friendly & curious.–I’ll probably have more
to tell after I’ve been here awhile- So- until next
time- I’ll say good bye & Hope this finds you in
the best of health. [V-MAIL] Love, Gerald


The following letter does not include a year, but was sent on 4 December; it could have been 1942 or after, as that was when v-mail use began for our troops.

V-Mail from Gerald Broida.1 (Large)
V-mail from Lt. Gerald D. Broida, 4 December 194?, to Phillip and Bess (Green) Broida of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

G D Broida
[2nd Lt ?] A. C.

Mrs. Phil Broida
405 Morrowfield Apt. 3
Pittsburg -17

Lt. G. D. Broida
1641 Ord. S. & M. Co.
A.P.O. 528 c/o P.M. N.Y.C.

Dec 4

Dear Aunt Bess & Uncle Phil,
I received your letter about a week ago &
your package came just a few days ago. I want
you to know that I certainly appreciated them
both. – Both myself & the other 2 officers in
my company Thank you very much for the
candy- we are still nibbling on it. I would
have answered sooner but we have been
on the move again- & that always requires
lot of time & work. Then too when we
aren’t moving we always have lots of work
to do- especially in my line- whihc is keepong
the vehicles in running condition. And now I’m
looking forward to a lovely, muddy & cold Italian
winter- which will probably mean a lot more
trucks etc to fix.- oh well, such is life, I
guess. – at least I’m feeling fine & I hope
to hear the same from you. Good bye for now
Love Gerald


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. “How V-mail Changed War Communication” from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans-
  2. “Before Email, There Was V-mail” by Jesse Rhodes, 2008-
  3. “You’ll write, he’ll fight!” Victory mail online exhibit with some interesting sidenotes- (Check out “Operating v-mail.”)
  4. V-mail from Family Treasure Chest.


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