On the last day of Black History Month, The House of Representatives have unanimously voted to grant the only all-Black women unit deployed in World War II, the Congressional Gold Medal for their exceptional service under extremely stressful times.
The Six Triple Eight, or the the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, were a group of 855 Black women part of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). 824 enlisted women and 31 officers were challenged with the task of sorting and routing mail for millions of American service members and civilians. Most of the women had completed high school, others had some years of college and a few had completed college with a degree. The battalion were brought together for the last year of the war in February 1945. They were stationed in the unheated, rat-infested hangers of Birmingham, England and Rouen, France.
Until the end in March 1946, The Six Triple Eight processed 17 million pieces of mail to soldiers, Red Cross workers and government workers. The battalion’s motto was “No Mail, Low Moral”. It was a motto taken to its ultra heights. Their ranks completed the processing feat within three months, way earlier than their expected completion time. They accomplished that by dividing into three separate, 8-hour shifts, where the women worked seven days a week. This squad also battled racism and sexism along the way.
Even within the WAC there was still discrimination.
Black people were usually denied applications for work more often than not back then. For the 6,500 Black women that became WACs, their experiences were entirely segregated. Their platoons, living quarters, mess halls and recreational facilities were all apart from their white colleagues. There even was a quota system in place for Black women to never exceed 10 percent in employment. And yet their contributions helped dispel stereotypes that flooded society not just in Europe but in the United States.
They really gave Rosie The Riveter a run for her money.
At one point, unit commander Major Charity Adams Earley had to fight to keep control of her group. She was criticized by a general and threatened with the promise that her group would be given to a white officer. Major Charity Adams, promptly responded with, “Over my dead body, sir.”. There are only six members of the 855 women deployed still alive. To this day, The Six Triple Eight are STILL the largest group of Black women to ever serve overseas.
In recent years, The Six Triple Eight have been celebrated and honored in several ways. They have been honored in a documentary, TheSixTripleEight, and were given a monument in Buffalo Solider Memorial Park at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Retired Army Colonel Edna Cummings is among those advocating for a film adaptation of the 6888’s time overseas. Maybe we’ll get to see one in the future.