Traveling Exhibit Features Military Mail Call History
The Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition “Mail Call” will debut on Saturday, Aug. 4 at the USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum in Alameda, California, and will remain on view through Oct. 14, before continuing on its 14-city national tour.
The Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is also hosting a grand opening ceremony of the exhibition on Sunday, Aug. 26, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Air Force Band and an array of food trucks will join the Museum to celebrate the event. The Museum will offer free admission to the public on this day until noon.
A name is shouted out, and a parcel is handed through the crowd to its eager recipient – mail call is a moment when the front line and home front connect. Letters, news and packages from home unite families, boost morale and in wartime, elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.
The traveling version of the National Postal Museum’s permanent exhibition, “Mail Call” explores the history of America’s military postal system, and examines how even in today’s era of instant communication, troops overseas continue to treasure mail delivered from home. Organized and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the exhibition tells the fascinating story of military mail and communication – from the American Revolution to current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Throughout American history, the military and postal service have combined forces to deliver mail under challenging – often extreme – circumstances. But whether it takes place at headquarters or in hostile territory, on a submarine or in the desert, mail call forges a vital link with home.
On the battlefront and at home, mail has long sustained the vital connections between military service members and their family and friends. With compelling documents, photographs, illustrations and audio stations, “Mail Call” celebrates the importance of this correspondence. Visitors can discover how military mail communication has changed throughout history, learn about the armed forces postal system and experience military mail through in- teresting objects and correspondence both written and recorded on audiotape. The exhibit offers an appreciation of the importance of military mail and the hard work that has gone into connecting service men and women to their government, community and loved ones at home.
“Mail Call” features a number of items that bring to life the story of military mail. One such highlight is a kit with supplies for “Victory Mail,” a microfilm process developed in World War II to dramatically shrink the volume and weight of personal letters. Beginning in 1942, V-Mail used standardized statio- nery and microfilm processing to produce lighter, smaller cargo – 150,000 microfilmed letters could fit in one mailbag. Visitors will also gain access to dramatic firsthand records and heartfelt sentiments through excerpts from letters exchanged between writers on the front line and the home front. The exhibit also explores how the military postal system works today and describes the new ways the men and women of the armed forces are communicating with home.
“Mail has always played a very important role in the lives of the men and women of our armed forces and their families at home,” said exhibit curator Lynn Heidelbaugh of the National Postal Museum. “Writing and receiving correspondence has a significant power to shape morale. The relationship between mail and morale is expressed time and again in messages from deployed military personnel, and it is a compelling reason behind the extraordinary efforts to maintain timely mail service.”
Aircraft Carrier Hornet Foundation preserves and honors the legacy of the USS Hornet and its role in naval aviation, the defense of our country, the Apollo Program and the exploration of space. Through field trips and live-aboard experiences, the USS Hornet offers educational programs focusing on naval history, science and space technology. A registered state and national historic landmark, the ship is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is permanently berthed at 707 W. Hornet Ave., Pier 3 in Alameda.