Pioneering WWII Battalion to Receive Gold Medal

Pioneering WWII Battalion to Receive Gold Medal

6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion
Photo by: U.S. Army

Decades after their trailblazing service, members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first and only all-female, all-Black American battalion to deploy overseas during World War II, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

The “Six Triple Eight” Congressional Gold Medal Act was signed into law March 14 by President Joe Biden after the legislation was passed by the Senate and House of Representatives. A date has not been announced for presentation of the award, which must be designed and struck by the U.S. Mint.

The award honors 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.

“It’s overwhelming,” Maj. Fannie Griffin McClendon, who is 101 and lives in Arizona, said when told of the award, the Associated Press reported. “It’s something I never even thought about. I don’t know if I can stand this.”

The Association of the U.S. Army supported 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.