U.S. Army’s only all-female, African American WWII unit honored with monument

Kaylah Jackson
November 29, 2018 - 12:28 pm

(Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration)

The contributions of over 800 African American women who sorted mail in a segregated unit during WWII were recognized Friday 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 up of enlisted and officer women, who were originally from the Women’s Army Corps, Army Service Forces and Army Air Forces.

(Photo courtesy of Women of 6888th)

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.

(Photo courtesy of George Marcec)

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 every day, all day, 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.

(Photo courtesy of George Marcec)

Designed by sculptor Eddie Dixon, the monument features 841 of the 855 women of the Six-Triple-Eight, a bust of Lt. Col Adams and iconic photos highlighting the unit’s mission.

Dominc Johnson, a researcher who helped identify the names for the monument told Connecting Vets, "Obtaining the 6888 names for the both of us was an obsession. It still is a sticking point not to have all 855. What we did accomplish was we identified all 31 officers and 810 NCOs and enlisted members of the battalion ... But, to find the rest has to come from family members.We need help from their families if they are still living and their mothers even spoke about their military careers."

Johnson recently recovered two more names of women who served with the unit and while they're names cannot be added to the granite monument, his intent is to place the remaining 14 names on a plaque.

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.

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