On Monday, President Biden signed a bipartisan bill to honor the only all-Black, all-female battalion to serve in World War II in the U.S. and Europe. The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, known as the “Six Triple Eight,” will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, ABC News reports.
The battalion consisted of 824 enlisted Black women and 31 officers from the Women’s Army Corps, the Army Service Forces, and the Army Air Forces. The unit was created in 1944 when there was a shortage of qualified postal officers— they assisted millions by sorting and routing mail for American service members and civilians in Europe and the United States.
When President Franklin D Roosevelt created the women’s army corps in 1943, only white women were admitted initially. A push from first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights leader Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune opened recruitment to Black women. The “Six Triple Eight” faced extremely harsh conditions during their service beginning in February 1945 – ranging from weather, racism, and sexism.
The women endured difficult working conditions, including intense cold, and even faced some instances of racial bias and sexist treatment, including “hostility and rumors impugning their character spread by both white and black male soldiers who resented the fact that black women were allowed in the Army,” according to the ACMH.
Of the original 855 members of the Six Triple Eight, only seven are still alive today. One of them is retired Maj. Fanny Griffin McClendon, who enlisted at 19 years old and served as a supervisor in the battalion.
“We helped each other. We worked with each other,” retired Maj. Fanny Griffin McClendon, who served as a supervisor in the battalion, told ABC News last month after the Senate passed the bill, which has now been signed into law by Biden.
In a press release, Col. Edna W. Cummings, 6888th Advocate, stated that “the Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s gratitude for the 6888th Battalion and the thousands of African American women who served in the Army during WWII. Their service will never be forgotten as soldiers and trailblazers for gender and racial equality.” There is no date set on when the ceremony will take place.