Wartime Postmaster Details the Work of Mail Delivery in WWII

Frank C. Walker, postmaster general of the United States during World War II.

If you have any doubts about how important mail delivery was during World War II, read the words of the then-postmaster general of the United States, Frank C. Walker: “It is almost impossible to over-stress the importance of this mail. It is so essential to morale that army and navy officers of the highest rank list mail almost on a level with munitions and food.”

He wrote those words in an article in the Army and Navy Journal, an edition of the publication called “United States at War, December 7, 1942 | December 7, 1943” (I haven’t been able to figure out when that edition was published). Lynn Heidelbaugh, a curator for the National Postal Museum, sent me the article, along with a few other items during our correspondence recently.

In the article, Walker details the efforts the government took in marrying the expertise of the Post Office Department and the U.S. Army and Navy. At the time he wrote this article, Walker said the department had 1,300 U.S. post offices serving army posts and camps in the United States, and 400 Army Post Offices functioning in more than 50 foreign countries. Additionally, the U.S. Navy had postal facilities on ships and at shore stations in 2,000 locations.

Here is more from the article, headlined “The Postal Service at War,” quoted directly:

An example may make clear just where it is that the Post Office Department withdraws from the picture and the military authorities assume control. Mrs. Richard Roe, in Chicago, knows that her son is overseas, but is not sure just where he is stationed.

She addresses her letter as follows: “Private William D. Roe, 32,000,000; Company F, 167th Infantry, APO 810, c/o Postmaster, New York, N.Y.,” and drops it in a mail box. At the Chicago post office, it is canceled, sorted, and tied in a package of letters labeled “New York, N.Y.–Military Mail.”

Still under the Post Office Department’s immediate control, it arrives at the New York Post Office’s Postal Concentration center, a great building whose entire facilities and hundreds of workers are engaged exclusively in the final processing of the mall before it is handed over to the military authorities.

The package goes through sorting processes for separations according to the branch of the service, such as Infantry or Field Artillery, and secondly according to the Company or similar designation. Finally, Mrs. Roe’s letter is placed in a package of mail for members of Company F, 167th Infantry. The package then goes in a mail bag to the New York Port of Embarkation Army Post Office. It is here that the Army assumes control.

The Army knows where Company F is located; we do not. Private Roe’s letter goes by ship or plane to the overseas A.P.O. through which Company F gets its mail. The package is handed to the mail orderly of Company F and he delivers the letter to Bill Roe. If Bill has been transferred, or if he is in a hospital, the Army Directory Service furnishes the new address and the letter is re-dispatched or re-sorted for delivery at the new location. When letters are misdirected, long delays occur. Ship sinkings have meant the loss of many thousands of letters.

Mrs. Roe’s letter to Bill is one of approximately five billion which go to and from the armed forces in a year. For the happiness of Mrs. Roe and the millions like her and for the fighting efficiency of Bill Roe and the millions like him, that mail must be handled with speed and efficiency.

14 thoughts on “Wartime Postmaster Details the Work of Mail Delivery in WWII

  1. Pingback: Surfing the Web..
  2. My Dad served in the China Burma India Theater during WWII, he was part of the War Time mail delivery system, before he passed away he told me that he was, at times, part of a crew that flew in a C47 and that when they could not land to dellver the mail they would push it out of the plane on a skid with a parachute attached. I would love to learn more about what these WWII mailmen di during the war. – Thank you


    1. Mr. Phillpott, thank you for taking the time to wander by my blog and make a comment. That’s really interesting new information for me about how the military handles mail. Much appreciated.


    1. Hi, Charlotte. Great question, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be the best source for an answer. I suggest inquiring directly from the National Postal Museum, referenced (and linked to) in the blog post above. I apologize. My suspicion is that it would be difficult to put a definitive range of time on that inquiry.




    1. Hi, Harrison. Thank you for your comment on blog. Unfortunately, I’m not a good source of information about the value of your postcards. As far as I know, they may only have sentimental value for you and your family, but if you’re asking about financial value, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I apologize. Good luck with the search and congratulations on having such an interesting cache of memories.


  4. I am trying to find information that the Postal Service was contracted to deliver quinine pills to every household in the event of atomic fallout during WW II. Will the PO be called upon again to deliver tests/meds etc. in light of the current Pandemic. Thank you. I am a former letter carrier and clerk with 33 years service. I have worked through pipe bombs (in my area) and Anthrax . Thank you


  5. I would like to learn about my uncle Paul Dunham. I believe he served as a US postmaster inspector in Japan during World War II. There is no longer any family alive, and he had no children. His wife’s name was Alma Johns, likely from Minnesota.
    Thank you for any information you may find.


  6. Is there more to the article than you reprinted here? I have vmail from my grandparents to my father alluding to a requirement that they had to show the Post Office letters from my father showing he had requested items that they were including in food parcels, but I have found nothing out about t


    1. Ralph, my apologies. I’ve looked around and I cannot find where I might have saved the whole article. I’m surprised because that doesn’t seem like me. But I haven’t been able to find it. I’m sorry. Good luck with your research.


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