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The only all-Black, all-female battalion to serve in World War II in the U.S. and Europe will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal after President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill on Monday. Considering only six members of the esteemed battalion are believed to be alive today, it’s about time somebody gave them their flowers.
The bill, which was co-sponsored by the entire New Hampshire delegation, will honor the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, a.k.a. the “Six Triple Eight” — a group of Black women who raised the morale of millions by sorting and routing mail for American service members and civilians in Europe and the United States. Warehouses in Birmingham, England were reportedly filled with millions of pieces of undelivered mail until the 6888th showed up.
“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 Pres. Biden.
Much like the RedTails, Da Five Bloods, Hidden Figures, and other films which showcase our talents well after the fact, this real-life battalion returned home from the war with no fanfare, even though some have been advocating for the women of “Six Triple Eight” to be honored for years.
These women have long deserved their day.
“They never got a parade, they never got a salute,” said Brenda Partridge-Brown, the daughter of Willie Bell Irvin, who served in the battalion. Partridge-Brown said that she only became aware that her mother was a part of the battalion after a Google search 20 years after her mother’s death.
Created at a time when there was a shortage of qualified postal officers with mail beginning to pile up, the all-Black 1944 battalion would include 824 enlisted Black women and 31 officers from the Women’s Army Corps, the Army Service Forces, and the Army Air Forces.
When given a chance, Black Excellence thrives.
Only White women were initially admitted, but following a push from first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights leader Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Black women were eventually admitted, although segregation continued, according to the ACMH.
For Partridge-Brown, honoring the women and their contributions to their country is long overdue. “It just means the world to me to know that my mother’s service was not in vain,” she said.
The White House has yet to confirm the ceremony date.