During World War II, there was no internet or cell phones and being on board a battleship meant you had no access to telephones either. The best way to communicate with your family and friends was through V-Mail, or Victory Mail. These small letters folded into postcard size and only cost 3 cents to mail.
- Imagine it is December 1941, and you have been training on board the USS Oklahoma. The attack on Pearl Harbor has not occurred and, while you are preparing for war, you think you are safe in Hawaii. Using the blank V-Mail envelope and information about sailors’ lives and daily activities on this web page, write a letter home to your family telling them about your experiences in Hawaii and on board the USS Oklahoma.
- When you are done, exchange your letter with a partner.
- You are now a censorship officer in the US Navy. While the country is preparing for war, you are concerned about information from sailor’s letters being intercepted by enemy spies. Your job is to now censor your partner’s letter by blacking out any information related to their:
- Military maneuvers or training operations
- State of the sailor’s ship
- Number of crewmembers or ships at the naval base.
- Think about and answer these questions when you are done:
- Do you think this censorship was fair? Why, or why not?
- Do you think this was done without the sailors’ knowledge, or do you think the sailors on the USS Oklahoma knew what they could and could not talk about in letters?
- What does this activity make you think about these posters?
- Below is a copy of a V-mail letter sent home by a Private in the Army. Are there any censorship marks on his letter? Do you think he knew the rules about what he could and could not talk about in a letter?