Posted on July 14, 2021

Black Female WWII Unit Hoping to Get Congressional Honor

Michael Casey, Associated Press, July 13, 2021

Maj. Fannie Griffin McClendon and her Army colleagues never dwelled on being the only Black battalion of women to serve in Europe during World War II. They had a job to do.

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was credited with solving a growing mail crisis during its stint in England and, upon their return, serving as a role model to generations of Black women who joined the military.

But for decades, the exploits of the 855 members never got wider recognition — until now.

The Senate passed legislation that would award members of the battalion, affectionately known as the Six Triple Eight, with the Congressional Gold Medal.

The bill is awaiting action in the House, but is already too late for most 6888 members. There are believed to be only seven surviving, including McClendon.


The 6888th was 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 and allow them to join their white counterparts overseas.

“I think that the 6888th, the command inherently knew that their presence overseas meant more than clearing that mail backlog,” said Retired Army Col. Edna Cummings, who was not a member of the 6888th but has been advocating to get them greater recognition. “They were representing opportunity for their sisters at arms back in the United States who were having a hard time dealing with the racism and sexism within the ranks.”

The unit dodged German U-boats on their way to England and scrambled to escape a German rocket once they reached a Glasgow port.

They were deployed to unheated, rat-infested airplane hangars in Birmingham, England, and given a daunting mission: Process the millions of pieces of undelivered mail for troops, government workers and Red Cross workers. The mountains of mail had piled up and troops were grumbling about lost letters and delayed care packages. Thus their motto, “No Mail, Low Morale.”


The 6888th toiled around the clock, processing about 65,000 pieces of mail in each of the three shifts. {snip}

Despite their achievements, the unit endured questions and criticism from those who didn’t support Black women in the military.


The unit’s story has also started gaining wider recognition. A monument was erected in 2018 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to honor them, and the 6888th was given the Meritorious Unit Commendation in 2019. A documentary “The Six Triple Eight” was made about their exploits. There is talk of a movie.

A bill would rename a Buffalo, New York, post office after the battalion’s Indiana Hunt-Martin, who died last year.

And there is the push for the Congressional Gold Medal.

“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.