The only all-female, Black unit to serve in Europe during World War II was on Monday awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the House following a campaign that started long ago to recognize it.
In 1945, history was made when the first all-Black female battalion in the world was sent from the U.S. to serve in parts of Europe during the Second World War. Known as the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the all-black female battalion of the Women’s Army Corps was sent to parts of France and England to contribute to solving problems that the Second World War brought.
With the main task of clearing several years of abandoned and backlogged mail in Europe, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was trained and sent off to help with managing the postal service in Europe. The battalion sent to Europe was made up of 855 women who served under the command of Major Charity Williams. Their motto was “No Mail, Low Morale” and they were popularly known as the six triple eight.
The women never got the needed recognition until recently. In 2018, a monument was erected at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to honor them. The battalion was also given the Meritorious Unit Commendation in 2019. A documentary was made about them.
“The Six Triple Eight was a trailblazing group of heroes who were the only all-Black, Women Army Corps Battalion to serve overseas during World War II,” Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore, who sponsored the bill, said, according to the Associated Press.
“Facing both racism and sexism in a warzone, these women sorted millions of pieces of mail, closing massive mail backlogs, and ensuring service members received letters from their loved ones.
“A Congressional Gold Medal is only fitting for these veterans who received little recognition for their service after returning home,” Moore added.
Between 1945 to 1946, the majority of the 6888th worked under the mail service while others served as cooks, mechanics, nurse assistants and other roles as and when necessary. They worked under dangerous and risky conditions in abandoned and infested aircraft and offices throughout the war. For their hard work, they were honored with the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal whiles they were still offering service.
Today, there are only about seven of the 6888th surviving. “It’s overwhelming,” Maj. Fannie Griffin McClendon, who lives in Arizona and is 101 years old, said when told of Monday’s vote. “It’s something I never even thought about it. I don’t know if I can stand this.”