There are sheroes of the Second World War you should know about. The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, nicknamed the “Six Triple Eight,” was an all-black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). The 6888th had 855 black women, both enlisted and officers, and was led by Major Charity Adams. It was the only all-black, all-female battalion sent overseas during World War II.
During World War II, there was a significant shortage of soldiers who were able to manage the postal service for the U.S. Army overseas. In 1944, Mary McLeod Bethune worked to get the support of the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, for “a role for black women in the war overseas.” Black newspapers, too, challenged the U.S. Army to “use black women in meaningful Army jobs.”
The group motto was “No mail, low morale.” Most of the 6888th worked as postal clerks, but others were cooks, and mechanics and held other support positions, so that the 6888th was a self-sufficient unit. The women who signed up went to basic training in Georgia. Women who were already in the WAC served at different locations, including the Pentagon, before they joined the 6888. In February 1946, the unit returned to the United States where it was disbanded at Fort Dix, New Jersey, with no public recognition.
Members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion were awarded the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal during their service. On February 25, 2009, the battalion was honored at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The event was attended by three former unit members of the 6888th including Alyce Dixon, Mary Ragland, and Gladys Shuster Carter. Dixon and Ragland were also honored by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in 2009.
On March 14, 2022, President Biden signed a bipartisan bill to award the battalion the Congressional Gold Medal. As of 2022, there are only six remaining members left: Romay Davis, Cresencia Garcia, Fannie McClendon, Gladys E. Blount, Lena King, and Anna Mae Robertson.
The battalion has been the subject of several film and theatre projects. In 2019, the documentary The SixTripleEight: No Mail, Low Morale directed by historian James Theres was released. The story inspired the development of a new Broadway musical, now in development, with the working title of “6888: The Musical,” with Blair Underwood as executive producer.
Tyler Perry wrote, directed, and produced an upcoming Netflix film, Six Triple Eight, based on the 6888 Postal Directory Battalion, starring Kerry Washington as Charity Adams. Joining the cast of Perry’s film is a star-studded ensemble worthy of the film’s real-life inspirations; the cast also includes Ebony Obsidian, Milauna Jackson, Pepi Sonuga, Sarah Jeffery, Shanice Shantay, Jay Reeves, Dean Norris, Sam Waterston, Kylie Jefferson, Jeanté Godlock, Moriah Brown, Oprah Winfrey, and Susan Sarandon.
Denise McBride, daughter of one of the 6888, will present their story at Howard Congregation Sunday, March 26 at 1:00 p.m., and at the Bordeaux Branch Nashville Public Library Saturday, April 1.