You’ve heard stories about the heroes from World War II. But you’ve likely never heard about a battalion that carried out a very important task.
The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion made history in its first mission supporting soldiers in England. Decades later, the members’ families are still fighting for their recognition.
Channel 2 anchor Jovita Moore spoke with one member’s daughter about their fight. Brenda Brown can’t hide her pride when it comes to talking about her mother Willie Belle Irvin.
“I was so blown away with emotions because I never knew I was raised by a history maker,” Brown said. “There was little money, very little money and there was not enough to send her to school. So she ended up with a plan B.”
Plan B got Irvin out of the southwest Georgia fields and placed her right in the middle of World War II. She was part of a new battalion.
The 6888th had 800 enlistees and 55 officers at the time with one more thing in common: they were all Black women.
On Feb. 3, 1945, they boarded a ship for their first mission, heading overseas for World War II.
“I still am so emotional about their story,” Brown said.
The battalion headed to Birmingham, England to process a backlog of mail.
“Years and year of back mail and the morale of the soldiers were so low,” Brown said. “Mail was packed to the ceiling. The conditions were bad, rat infested. You know just dirty.”
In 1945, sorting a warehouse filled with mail for thousands of soldiers was no easy task. The women worked three shifts to clear the backlog.
“Most of the people back in those days would write to their sons and they would just say ‘to junior.’ Can you imagine picking up papers saying ‘To Junior, United States Army?‘” Brown told Moore.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave six months to fix it. They did the job in three months and raised morale among the soldiers.
“They were able to put together a plan where they could separate all these juniors and get them to the right people,” Brown said.
Despite their success, they could not escape the problems their brothers and sisters encountered back home in America.
“They faced discrimination at home and abroad,” Brown said.
That’s why 75 years later, family members say the women of the 6888th haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve.
“Brave. I don’t think they knew they were making history. I know my mother didn’t,” Brown said. “I would love to see them in a history book.”
In 2018, living members of the battalion and their families gathered at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas to celebrate a monument built to honor the 855 women.
“These women demanded change. They weren’t pushovers. In their own way, they got what they wanted. They worked hard. They didn’t get recognized, but they weren’t pushovers.”
Willie Irvin died in 1990 and was honored during the 2018 ceremony in Kansas.
The Sixth Cavalry Museum in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia received a $28,000 grant to install a permanent exhibit to honor the 6888th. The battalion trained at the Third Army Women’s Army Corps Training Center at Fort Oglethorpe to complete their overseas training.
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