Black feminine WWII unit acknowledged with congressional honor

BOSTON (AP) — The Home voted Monday to award the one all-female, Black unit to serve in Europe throughout World Conflict II with the Congressional Gold Medal.

The 422-0 vote follows a long-running marketing campaign to acknowledge the 6888th Central Postal Listing Battalion. The Senate handed the laws final yr. The unit, recognized briefly because the Six Triple Eight, was tasked with sorting and routing mail for thousands and thousands of American service members and civilians. Solely a half-dozen of the greater than 850 members are nonetheless alive.

“It’s overwhelming,” Maj. Fannie Griffin McClendon, who’s 101 and lives in Arizona, stated when instructed of the vote. “It’s one thing I by no means even considered it. I don’t know if I can stand this.”

The 6888th Central Postal Listing Battalion was credited with fixing a rising mail disaster throughout its stint in England and, upon their return, serving as a job mannequin to generations of Black girls who joined the army.

However for many years, the exploits of the 855 members by no means obtained wider recognition. However that has modified, beginning a number of years in the past.

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 them. There may be discuss of a film. Retired Army Col. Edna Cummings was amongst these advocating for the 6888th.

“The Six Triple Eight was a trailblazing group of heroes who had been the one all-Black, Girls Army Corps Battalion to serve abroad throughout World Conflict II,” stated Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore, who sponsored the invoice after being contacted by the daughter of 6888th members Anna Mae Robertson.

“Going through each racism and sexism in a warzone, these girls sorted thousands and thousands of items of mail, closing large mail backlogs, and making certain service members obtained letters from their family members,” she continued. “A Congressional Gold Medal is simply becoming for these veterans who obtained little recognition for his or her service after returning dwelling.”

The Home additionally voted Monday night time to the rename the Central Park Publish Workplace in Buffalo because the “Indiana Hunt-Martin Publish Workplace Constructing” after veteran Indiana Hunt-Martin, a member of the 6888th. Hunt-Martin died in 2020 on the age of 98.

“All through her life and army service, Indiana Hunt-Martin skilled racism and sexism firsthand, however no quantity of discrimination prevented her from serving her nation,” New York Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins, who sponsored the put up workplace invoice and in addition was a co-sponsor of the Congressional Gold Medal invoice, stated in a press release. “Her braveness and bravado paved the best way for future generations of African American girls serving within the army.”

The 6888th was despatched abroad in 1945, a time when there was rising stress from African-American organizations to incorporate Black girls in what was referred to as the Girls’s Army Corps and permit them to affix their white counterparts abroad.

The unit dodged German U-boats on their strategy to England and scrambled to flee a German rocket as soon as they reached a Glasgow port.

They had been deployed to unheated, rat-infested airplane hangars in Birmingham, England, and given a frightening mission: Course of the thousands and thousands of items of undelivered mail for troops, authorities staff and Crimson Cross staff. The mountains of mail had piled up and troops had been grumbling about misplaced letters and delayed care packages. Thus their motto, “No Mail, Low Morale.”

They cleared out a backlog of about 17 million items of mail in three months — half the time projected. The battalion would go on to serve in France earlier than returning dwelling. And like so many Black models throughout World Conflict II, their exploits by no means obtained the eye afforded their white counterparts.

Regardless of their achievements, the unit endured questions and criticism from those that didn’t assist Black girls within the army.

Housing, mess halls and recreation amenities had been segregated by race and intercourse, forcing them to arrange all their very own operations. The unit commander, Maj. Charity Adams, was additionally criticized by a common who threatened to offer her command to a white officer. She reportedly responded, “Over my lifeless physique, sir.”

Lots of the girls had loads of success after getting out of the army.

Elizabeth Barker Johnson was the primary feminine to attend Winston-Salem State College in North Carolina on the GI Invoice. She took half within the faculty’s commencement ceremony on the age of 99 — 70 years after getting her diploma. Hunt-Martin labored for the New York State Division of Labor for 41 years.

McClendon joined the Air Pressure after the army was built-in and retired in 1971. She was the primary feminine to command an all-male squadron with the Strategic Air Command. One other unit member, the late Doris Moore, grew to become the primary Black social employee in New Hampshire, her household stated.

“It is a long-overdue honor and recognition for the ladies of the Six Triple Eight, together with New Hampshire’s personal Doris Moore,” New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas stated in a press release. “Doris and her sisters in arms had been trailblazers and patriots who answered the decision to service. It’s much more outstanding that their sacrifice and repair in protection of freedom got here at a time when most of the very freedoms they fought for weren’t but obtainable to them.”

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