A pioneering collective of resilient Black women who broke racial and gender barriers within the United States military are finally receiving their flowers. According to CNN, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion—the U.S. Army’s only all-Black women unit to serve during WWII—will be bestowed with a Congressional Gold Medal.
The long-overdue honor comes nearly 77 years after their service. Cultivated in 1945—following a push by activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to allow Black women to serve in the Women’s Army Corps—the unit was comprised of 855 African American women who were tasked with organizing mail sent to over seven million soldiers.
The battalion—dubbed the “Six Triple Eight”—was led by Major Charity Edna Adams Early who was the highest-ranking Black servicewoman during that era. After training in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, the unit embarked on a journey to Europe aboard the IIe de France on February 3, 1945. They later arrived in Birmingham, England where they seamlessly sorted through approximately 65,000 pieces of mail during each shift in racially segregated, inhumane working conditions. That same year, they traveled to France to tackle another backlog of undelivered mail.
Collectively the women sorted through 17 million pieces of mail; rising above the overt discrimination and treacherous work environments to keep soldiers connected with their loved ones. They often used the slogan “No mail, low morale” to keep them motivated. In 1946, the distinguished women came back to the U.S. and disbanded in New Jersey. Upon their return to a deeply-seeded racist social climate, despite their bravery and service, they didn’t come home to any celebratory ceremonies and their contributions were left in obscurity.
On March 14, President Joe Biden inked a bill into law—proposed by U.S. senators Jacky Rosen and Jerry Moran—to honor the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion with a Congressional Gold Medal. “The heroic, barrier-breaking members of the Six Triple Eight Battalion, which included brave Nevada women, played a crucial role in the operations of our armed forces during World War II,” Senator Rosen shared in a statement, according to the news outlet. “They deserve our nation’s highest honors for their service. There is no better time to give them this long-overdue recognition than during Women’s History Month, and I’m proud to see President Biden sign our bipartisan legislation into law.”
The honor comes three years after a monument memorializing the Six Triple Eight troop was unveiled in Kansas. In 2009, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama honored 6888th battalion members Alyce Dixon and Mary Ragland.