Black Female WWII Unit ‘Six Triple Eight’ Looking To Receive Congressional Honor
A Black female World War II Army unit known as the “Six Triple Eight” have hopes of receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.
The Senate passed legislation and the bill is awaiting action in the House. The bill does come too late for most of the 6888 members; only seven are still alive.
The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was the only Black battalion of women serving in Europe during World War II. The battalion was made up of 855 Black women, both enlisted and officers and were responsible for solving a growing mail crisis in Europe.
They were sent overseas in 1945, a time when there was growing pressure from African-American organizations to include Black women in what was called the Women’s Army Corps.
The 6888th were deployed to unheated, rat-infested airplane hangars in Birmingham, England and were given a mission to process millions of undelivered mail parcels to troops, government workers and Red Cross workers.
The 6888th processed roughly 65,000 pieces of mail in each of three shifts. They created a system using locator cards with a service member’s name and unit number to ensure mail was delivered. They would have to resort to detective work when a parcel only had a common name or a service member’s nickname.
They cleared out a backlog of about 17 million pieces of mail in three months, then went to France before returning home.
“It is sad to say. They came back to Jim Crow America,” said Retired Army Col. Edna Cummings, who was not a member of the 6888th but has been advocating to get them greater recognition. “Not only the 6888th but a lot of our minority soldiers who returned from the war were not recognized or appreciated until years later. The Tuskegee Airmen, Montford Point Marines. There are so many stories of units of color who were not recognized until decades after the war.”
One of the remaining Six Triple Eight members is Maj. Fannie Griffin McClendon. McClendon joined the Air Force after the military was integrated and retired in 1971. She was the first female to command an all-male squadron with the Strategic Air Command.
Among the push for a congressional honor, a monument honoring the women was placed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 2018, and the 6888th was given the Meritorious Unit Commendation medal in 2019. There is also a documentary called “The Six Triple Eight” that
“These women were trailblazers, and it is past time that we officially recognize them for their incredible contribution to our troops during World War II,” said U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire Democrat who co-sponsored the Senate bill.