Boston (AP) – The House of Representatives voted Monday to award the only female black unit that served in Europe during World War II with a congressional gold medal.
The 422-0 vote stems from a long campaign to recognize the 6888th Battalion Central Postal Directory. Last year the Senate passed a law. The unit, known in short as Six Triple Eight, was tasked with sorting and routing mail for millions of U.S. military and civilians. Only half a dozen of the more than 850 members are still alive.
“It’s extraordinary,” said Major Fanny Griffin McClendon, 101, of Arizona, when she was told the vote. “This is something I didn’t even think about. I don’t know if I can handle it. ”
The 6888th Battalion of the Central Postal Directory is credited with resolving the growing postal crisis during its stay in England, and upon its return it served as a model for generations of black women who had joined the army.
But over the decades, the exploits of 855 members have not been widely recognized. But that changed a few years ago.
In their honor in 2018 in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a monument was erected, and in 2019 the 6888th received an award for the merits of the units. A documentary about them was made “Six Triple Eights”. It’s about the movie. Retired Army Colonel Edna Cummings was among those who advocated for the 6888th.
“The Six Triple Eight was the original group of heroes who were the only battalion of the Women’s Army Corps, all black, who served abroad during World War II,” said Wisconsin State Secretary Gwen Moore, who sponsored the bill after being contacted by her 6888th daughter. members Anna May Robertson.
“Faced with both racism and sexism in the war zone, these women sorted millions of letters, closing huge mail resignations and ensuring that servicemen receive letters from their loved ones,” she continued. “The congressional gold medal is only suitable for those veterans who, after returning home, received little recognition for their service.”
The House of Representatives also voted Monday night to rename the Central Park Post Office in Buffalo to the “Indiana Post Office Building Hunt Martin” in honor of Indiana veteran Hunt Martin, Member 6888. Hunt Martin died in 2020 at the age of 98.
“Throughout her life and military service, Indiana Hunt Martin has experienced racism and sexism firsthand, but no discrimination has prevented her from serving her country,” said Brian Higgins, a Democratic MP in New York who sponsored the postal bill. branch, and was an employee. -sponsor of the congressional gold medal bill, the statement said. “Her courage and bravery paved the way for future generations of African-American women serving in the military.”
The 6888th was sent abroad in 1945, at a time when African-American organizations were stepping up pressure to include black women in what was called the Women’s Army Corps and allow them to join their white counterparts abroad.
The unit dodged German submarines en route to England and escaped to avoid a German missile as soon as they reached the port of Glasgow.
They were housed in unheated, rat-infested aircraft hangars in Birmingham, England, and given a difficult mission: to handle millions of undelivered mail for military, government and Red Cross workers. Mountains of mail piled up, and troops grumbled about lost letters and delayed aid packages. Thus, their motto is: “No mail, low morale.”
In three months, they have closed the gap of about 17 million shipments – twice less than expected. Before returning home, the battalion continued its service in France. And, like many black units during World War II, their exploits never caught the attention of their white counterparts.
Despite the achievements, the unit withstood questions and criticism from those who did not support black women in the military.
Housing, canteens, and recreation areas were divided by race and gender, forcing them to create all their own operations. The unit’s commander, Major Charita Adams, was also criticized by the general, who threatened to hand over her command to a white officer. She reportedly replied, “Over my dead body, sir.”
Many of the women had great success after leaving the army.
Elizabeth Barker Johnson was the first woman to attend Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina under the GI bill. At the age of 99, 70 years after graduation, she took part in the graduation ceremony. Hunt Martin worked in the New York State Department of Labor for 41 years.
McClendon joined the Air Force after the military was integrated and retired in 1971. She was the first woman to command the exclusively male squadron of the Strategic Aviation Command. Another member of the unit, the late Doris Moore, became the first black social worker in New Hampshire, her family said.
“It’s a long-standing honor and recognition for women from the Six Triple Eight, including Doris Moore of New Hampshire,” New Hampshire Democratic MP Chris Papas said in a statement. “Doris and her sisters-in-arms were pioneers and patriots who responded to the call-up. It is even more remarkable that their sacrifice and service in defense of freedom took place at a time when many of the freedoms for which they fought were not yet available to them. “