MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Thousands and thousands of letters and packages despatched to U.S. troops had accrued in warehouses in Europe by the point Allied troops had been pushing towards the guts of Hitler’s Germany close to the top of World Struggle II. This wasn’t spam — it was the principle hyperlink between dwelling and the entrance in a time lengthy earlier than video chats, texting and even routine long-distance cellphone calls.
The job of clearing out the huge backlog in a navy that was nonetheless segregated by race fell upon the most important all-Black, all-female group to serve within the battle, the 6888th Central Postal Listing Battalion. On Tuesday, the oldest residing member of the unit was honored for her service practically eight a long time after the battle ended.
Romay Davis, 102, was acknowledged at an occasion at Montgomery Metropolis Corridor that adopted President Joe Biden’s resolution in March to signal a invoice authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal for the unit, nicknamed the “Six Triple Eight.”
Introduced with the medal quotation and a wartime uniform to switch hers, which was stolen out of a automobile quickly after she returned stateside, Davis acquired a standing ovation; some within the crowd applauded with tears of their eyes.
“I by no means thought something like this may occur to me,” she mentioned.
Davis, in an interview at her dwelling Monday, mentioned the unit was due the popularity, and she or he’s glad to take part on behalf of different members who’ve already handed away.
“I believe it’s an thrilling occasion, and it’s one thing for households to recollect,” Davis mentioned. “It isn’t mine, simply mine. No. It’s all people’s.”
The medals themselves received’t be prepared for months, however leaders determined to go forward with occasions for Davis and 5 different surviving members of the 6888th given their superior age.
Following her 5 brothers, Davis enlisted within the Military in 1943. After the battle the Virginia native married, had a 30-year profession within the vogue trade in New York and retired to Alabama. She earned a martial arts black belt whereas in her late 70s and rejoined the workforce to work at a grocery retailer in Montgomery for greater than 20 years till she was 101.
Whereas smaller teams of African American nurses served in Africa, Australia and England, none matched the scale or would possibly of the 6888th, based on a unit historical past compiled by the Pentagon.
Davis’ unit was a part of the Girls’s Military Corps created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943. With racial separation the apply of the time, the corps added African American models the next 12 months on the urging of First Girl Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights chief Mary McLeod Bethune, based on the unit historical past.
Greater than 800 Black girls fashioned the 6888th, which started crusing for England in February 1945. As soon as there, they had been confronted not solely by mountains of undelivered mail however by racism and sexism. They had been denied entry into an American Crimson Cross membership and lodges, based on the historical past, and a senior officer was threatened with being being changed by a white first lieutenant when some unit members missed an inspection.
“Over my lifeless physique, Sir,” replied the unit commander, Maj. Charity Adams. She wasn’t changed.
Working beneath the motto of “No Mail, Low Morale,” the ladies served 24/7 in shifts and developed a brand new monitoring system that processed about 65,000 objects every shift, permitting them to clear a six-month backlog of mail in simply three months.
“All of us needed to be damaged in, so to talk, to do what needed to be finished,” mentioned Davis, who primarily labored as a motor pool driver. “The mail state of affairs was in such horrid form they didn’t assume the ladies may do it. However they proved some extent.”
A month after the top of the battle in Europe, in June 1945, the group sailed to France to start engaged on further piles of mail there. Receiving higher therapy from the liberated French than they’d have beneath racist Jim Crow regimes at dwelling, members had been feted throughout a victory parade in Rouen and invited into non-public houses for dinner, mentioned Davis.
“I didn’t discover any Europeans in opposition to us. They had been glad to have us,” she mentioned.
The 6888th beforehand was honored with a monument that was devoted in 2018 at Buffalo Soldier Army Park at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. However instantly after the battle, members returned dwelling to a U.S. society that was nonetheless years away from the beginning of the trendy civil rights motion with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas helped shepherd the invoice to current the Congressional Gold Medal to the members of the unit.
“Although the percentages had been set in opposition to them, the ladies of the Six Triple Eight processed tens of millions of letters and packages throughout their deployment in Europe, serving to join WWII troopers with their family members again dwelling, like my father and mom,” Moran mentioned in a press release earlier this 12 months.
Story by Jay Reeves