Bills Honoring 1st All-Black, All-Female Unit Gain Support

Bills Honoring 1st All-Black, All-Female Unit Gain Support

Women soldiers in lineup
Photo by: U.S. Army

Support is growing to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first and only all-female, all-Black American battalion to deploy overseas during World War II.

Bills pending in the Senate and House call for honoring the women of the battalion, commonly known as the Six Triple Eight, for their pioneering service, devotion to duty and contributions to increase the morale of service members serving in the European theater during World War II.

The Association of the U.S. Army supports this and previous versions of the legislation. In 2019, AUSA and The ROCKS, Inc., partnered to send a letter to Congress supporting the award. 

“These courageous women faced racism, sexism, and worked in austere conditions,” the letter states. “Additionally, the Six Triple Eight operated under the challenges of ‘dual segregation’ by race and gender. Through conducting 24/7 operations in England, they cleared more than 17 million pieces of mail and package backlog in three months; well under the Army’s six-month time estimate.”

During World War II, as millions of undelivered mail and packages began to pile up in aircraft hangars in Birmingham, England, more than 850 women were recruited from the Women’s Army Corps, the Army Service Forces and the Army Air Forces to form the Six Triple Eight, according to information from the Army.

Commanded by Maj. Charity Adams Earley, the battalion was tasked with clearing the floor to ceiling mail backlog. They were given six months to do the job but finished in three by working in eight-hour shifts seven days a week and sorting 65,000 pieces of mail each day, according to the Army.

After completing their mission in Birmingham, the soldiers were sent to Rouen, France, to clear two to three years of backlogged mail. They again completed their mission in three months, according to the Army.

In 1946, less than two years after it was formed, the battalion was sent home and disbanded at Fort Dix, New Jersey, with little to no fanfare.

In recent years, efforts have been made to properly recognize the women who served in the Six Triple Eight, including the dedication of a monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Five surviving members of the battalion attended the November 2018 event.

The monument, which sits alongside monuments dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers, the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion and other pioneering Black soldiers and units, includes a 25-inch bronze bust of Earley.

“My mother was always enormously proud of the Six Triple Eight,” Earley’s son, Stanley, said during the dedication, according to the Army. “This monument is a statement of the responsibility, determination and honor, and it is a gift from the recent past addressed to the future.”