It was Christmas in 1944 when the Women’s Central Postal Directory Battalion was given a special mission by the U.S. Army. They would travel to England and Europe to sort 17 million letters and packages that had piled up in warehouses and get them to the troops.
The 6888th was the Army’s first battalion of African-American women to serve overseas in WWII. It’s leader, Major Charity Adams Earley, was the first African-American woman to be commissioned an officer in what would later be known as the Women’s Army Corps.
They worked ‘round the clock in unheated warehouses, sorting the mail while tracking the locations of troops, ensuring delivery of mail from loved ones back home to soldiers weary of battle. Sometimes, mail had to be returned to the U.S. unopened because intended recipients had died.
The battalion’s motto: no mail, low morale.
They cleared a six-month backlog of mail in half the time expected; not once but twice, in England and in France.
Adams was promoted to Lt. Colonel, the highest Army ranking for an African-American woman at that time. Having completed their mission, the battalion returned home in 1946 to a still segregated country, with little fanfare to greet their return and acknowledge their service.
African-American women had to overcome racism and sexism during those years, both at home and abroad. Many were promised training and assignments as nurses and med techs, only to be relegated to orderly and kitchen duties. It was only after their protests, at great risk to their military posts and their personal safety, that conditions began to change.
The 6888th was disbanded soon after the women returned home, but their accomplishments had an influence on future military recruitment and their service created a legacy for generations that followed.
In 2018, a monument was dedicated in honor of the 6888th with a ceremony at the Buffalo Soldier Monument Park at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Finally, in 2021, the U.S. Senate passed legislation awarding the Congressional Medal to members of the 6888th battalion.
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