by Kaylah Jackson via radio.com
The contributions of over 800 African American women who sorted mail in a segregated unit during WWII were recognized last month in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with a monument erected in their honor.
“No mail, no morale,” was the motto of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the U.S. Army’s only all-African American and all-female unit during the Second World War.
Often referred to as the “Six-Triple-Eight,” the unit was made of up 824 enlisted and 31 officer women, who were originally from the Women’s Army Corps, Army Service Forces and Army Air Forces.
While many African American nurses served overseas in combat zones, WAC units remained separated and women of color were only allowed to serve overseas depending on the “needs of the Army.” The military faced pressure for African Americans WACs to serve in overseas components and eventually a request for 800 women to serve in the European Theatre was approved.
In 1945, warehouses and Red Cross workers in England became overwhelmed with a backlog of mail and packages addressed to U.S. service members. The hundreds of women who eventually made up the 6888th were selected to train for this exact mission.
Under the direction of Lt. Col Charity Edna Adams, the women traveled to Camp Shanks, New York after enduring boot camp, and eventually arriving in Birmingham, England, in 1945. Upon arrival to Europe, the women were welcome to a dimly lit and rat-infested warehouse with mail stacked to the ceilings.
Of the over 800 servicewomen, five were present at their monument dedication ceremony at Fort Leavenworth.
“Servicemen want their mail. That’s a morale booster,” Lena King told KCTV. Now 95-years-old, then Corporal King worked among other women in the warehouse identifying miswritten pieces of mail and ensuring the men fighting received letters from their loved ones.
By dividing their work in shifts that ran 365 days a week, the women processed an average of 65,000 pieces of mail per shift, clearing the previous six-month backlog of letters in just three months.
Designed by sculptor Eddie Dixon, the monument features all of the names of the women of the Six-Triple-Eight, a bust of Lt. Col Adams and iconic photos highlighting the unit’s mission.
The monument sits near a series of other historical tributes on Fort Leavenworth. From honoring the first African American West Point graduate to the first African American four-star general, this monument will be another addition highlighting the “firsts” of our nation’s history at war.