MARCH 1, 2022 –The 6888th Central Postal Battalion is finally set to receive the recognition they deserve. Never heard of this female battalion? WW2 was where they went to action and made a difference, but they were never properly honored for their contributions to the war effort.
Now, right on the border of Black History Month 2022 and Women’s History Month 2022, they are at long last being officially acknowledged for their work in the war.
Who Was the 6888th Central Postal Battalion?
Black Army units in WW2 were more popular than you might think. Many Black men and Black women in World War II served on the home front and abroad, including the 6888th Central Postal Battalion, also known simply as “six triple eight” or “the six triple eight battalion.” In fact, 6.2% of all soldiers serving overseas were Black Americans – and that’s not even counting those not stationed overseas.
After the Women’s Army Corps was signed into law by FDR in 1943, civil rights advocate Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune successfully lobbied for African-American women to serve as part of the corps, though they would still be segregated.
In 1944, 824 Black women in the military were joined together to serve as the 6888th Central Postal Battalion. They trained rigorously for their missions, crawling under logs, jumping over trenches, and learning to utilize military gear like gas masks. They also became experts in identifying enemy ships, weapons, and aircraft.
Though they wouldn’t be doing their work on the battlefield, this kind of military training could save their lives during the intense struggles in Europe.
After their training, this bad*ss all-Black female battalion in WW2 left for the war in Britain in 1945. Their training immediately came in handy, as their ship was nearly bombed by Nazi U-boats. They ran for cover and successfully escaped, heading onward toward their unique and important task.
What Did the 6888th Central Postal Battalion Do?
The official name of the six triple eight battalion gives away part of their duty. These Black women in World War II were charged with sorting through millions of parcels and pieces of mail in dangerous conditions.
Not only did they have to struggle against both sexism and racism in the military, but they were also up against risky and sometimes hazardous environments – even apart from the war raging all around them.
Racism and discrimination are still pervasive within the military. Learn more about their modern impact here: New Study Surfaces Detailing Racial Discrimination in the Military
The 6888th Central Postal Battalion came face-to-face with postal warehouses literally stacked to the ceiling with lost and forgotten mail – letters to loved ones, goodbyes, and more. To make things more difficult, the six triple eight often couldn’t work with the lights on, lest they alert opposing forces in the area during raids.
They were also fighting against rodents, spoiled and moldy food in packages throughout the warehouses, and freezing conditions. Each woman had to work an eight-hour shift seven days a week.
Finally, they had to play detective in many instances – sorting mail for people with the same name (7,500 pieces alone for “Robert Smith”), determining why certain mail was undeliverable, rerouting mail to the correct addresses, and tracking approximately SEVEN MILLION information cards that could reveal important information about each service member and where their mail should be sent.
Many people in Britain were curious about the battalion’s work and even came to watch the women sort through mail when it was safe to do so. They became welcome in all public spaces within Britain and made friends with many in the local population.
Honoring the 6888th Central Postal Battalion
Though they were held in high esteem in Britain, their work in cutting through a six-month postal delay in less than three months did not receive official recognition – until now.
On February 28, 2022, smack dab between Black History Month and Women’s History Month, the House of Representatives finally passed legislation to give them an incredibly high honor.
Their work directly led to more aid being sent to the front lines, marriages being saved, spouses being comforted, and family members being informed of the passing of their loved ones instead of being left in the dark. And now, the 6888th Central Postal Battalion will be receiving the Congressional Gold Medal for their postal efforts.
The last step in this process is presidential approval. The bill, having already been passed by the Senate in 2021, will now make its way to President Joe Biden to officially be signed into law.
These hard-working women are long overdue for recognition for their efforts in the war. The timing of this legislation, falling between Women’s History Month and Black History Month 2022, makes a lot of sense, as both months can help put focus on Black women who deserve more public acknowledgment.
You may have asked yourself before, “Why do we have Black History Month? Or Women’s History Month?” Instances like these, where Black women did not receive proper acknowledgment and respect for their contributions, perfectly exemplify the need to highlight Black achievement and female achievement – both historically and in modern times.
Want to celebrate the accomplishments of the 6888th Central Postal Battalion during these months? There are plenty of movies for Women’s History Month and many a Black History Month documentary you can watch, but the best place to start is by honoring these largely unsung women from the all-Black female 6888th Central Postal Battalion and continually learning more about Black history and women’s history.
If you’re just itching for a movie, you can find more info on the six triple eight documentary here.
To the women of the 6888th Central Postal Battalion, we salute you!
Suggested read: 11 of the Best Military Movies in 2022 to Binge-Watch Now