WWII Vet, 102, Honored for Service in All-Black Mail Unit

Segregated all-female unit cleared massive backlog of letters sent to US troops in Europe
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 26, 2022 8:51 PM CDT
Vet From All-Black, All-Female WWII Mail Unit Honored at 102
In this image provided courtesy of the National Archives, members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-female, all-Black unit formed during World War II, are shown in an undated Department of Defense photo.   (Courtesy of National Archives via AP, File)

Millions of letters and packages sent to US troops had accumulated in warehouses in Europe by the time Allied troops were pushing toward the heart of Hitler’s Germany near the end of World War II. This wasn’t junk mail—it was the main link between home and the front in a time long before video chats, texting, or even routine long-distance phone calls. The job of clearing out the massive backlog in a military that was still segregated by race fell upon the largest all-Black, all-female group to serve in the war, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. On Tuesday, the oldest living member of the unit was honored for her service nearly eight decades after the war ended, the AP reports.

Romay Davis, 102, was recognized at an event at Montgomery City Hall that followed President Biden's decision in March to sign a bill authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal for the unit, nicknamed the "Six Triple Eight." Presented with the medal citation and a wartime uniform to replace hers, which was stolen out of a car soon after she returned stateside, Davis received a standing ovation; some in the crowd applauded with tears in their eyes. "I never thought anything like this would happen to me," she said. Davis, in an interview at her home Monday, said the unit was due the recognition, and she's glad to participate on behalf of other members who've already passed away.

"I think it's an exciting event, and it's something for families to remember," Davis said. "It isn't mine, just mine. No. It's everybody's." The medals themselves won't be ready for months, but leaders decided to go ahead with events for Davis and five other surviving members of the 6888th given their advanced age. Following her five brothers, Davis enlisted in the Army in 1943. After the war the Virginia native married, had a 30-year career in the fashion industry in New York and retired to Alabama. She earned a martial arts black belt while in her late 70s and rejoined the workforce to work at a grocery store in Montgomery for more than two decades until she was 101.

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More than 800 Black women formed the 6888th, which began sailing for England in February 1945. Once there, they were confronted not only by mountains of undelivered mail but by racism and sexism. They were denied entry into an American Red Cross club and hotels, according to the history. Working under the motto of "No Mail, Low Morale," the women served 24/7 in shifts and developed a new tracking system that processed about 65,000 items each shift, allowing them to clear a six-month backlog of mail in just three months. "The mail situation was in such horrid shape they didn’t think the girls could do it," said Davis, who worked mainly as a motor pool driver. "But they proved a point.” (Read more World War II stories.)

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