“If the Black woman wasn’t born, she’d have to be invented.” -Nikki Giovanni
This is the glorious thing about Black History Month. You find these gems, hidden and fabulous within it. I did not know the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion existed, let alone that it was manned by Black women!
What you need to know is this:
The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) of the U.S. Army was created by a law signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 1 July 1943. The WAC was converted from the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps which had been created in 1942 but did not have official military status. New WAC recruits underwent four to six weeks of basic training, which included a physical training program, often followed by four to twelve weeks of specialist training. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights leader Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune successfully advocated for the admittance of African-American women as enlisted personnel and officers in the WAC, although as in the rest of the Army, segregation prevailed. After several units of white women were sent to serve in the European theater, African-American organizations pressed the War Department to extend the opportunity to serve overseas to African-American WACs.
The cooler thing still, is this “The women learned to identify enemy aircraft, ships, and weapons; to climb ropes; to board and evacuate ships; and to do long marches with rucksacks. In January 1945, the women traveled by train to Camp Shanks, New York, their embarkation point.” You all know this is superhero type stuff, right? SUPERHERO STUFF!
The creation of this unit was in response to increasing the morale of the soldiers fighting and serving in the European theater. Think of it! All this mail, with no way to organize it, everybody got the same damn name, and troops wanting to know if their cakes made it overseas, or their sweethearts said ‘yes’ to whatever urgent romantic question was left before they deployed. And with the innovation of Black women, with the leadership of Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Charity Edna Adams (later Earley when she married in 1949, the battalion got the job done!
Send in Black women, and the job gets done!
When I discovered this treasure trove of history, I was in awe! In awe! I am aware that history is told with a slant: by the winners, the soldiers and the bitter. I get that. But when looking at something as essential, something we think is as trivial as mail, was a gauge to morale– took Black women to fix! Thrown into craziness, abject craziness, this group of Black women of the 6888th in companies A, B, C, D–had to fight to be remembered!
That is heartbreaking, and maddening and sad.
But they deserve to be remembered. There work was no less dangerous. Their work was no less needed. Their contribution no less worthy. Black military veterans matter–even moreso, Black female military veterans matter.
[images from Pinterest and (2) YouTube]