6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion (Women's Army Corps)
The U.S. Army’s 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was the only all-Black, all-female Women’s Army Corps (WAC) unit to serve overseas during World War II. The primary mission of the “Six Triple Eight,” as the unit was popularly known, was to sort the two- to three-year backlog of undelivered mail for U.S. service members in England and France. The unit, organized on March 4, 1945 in Birmingham, England, contained about 850 officers and enlisted personnel who formed four companies. Whereas most Black units in the military contained white officers, every position in the 6888th was staffed by Black women.
The WAC was created on July 1, 1944, from the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), which did not have official military status. Black women were allowed into the segregated WAAC, but after its conversion into the WAC, only white units served overseas until African American organizations pressured the War Department to allow for the deployment of a Black WAC unit. The War Department approved the 6888th’s deployment in November 1944.
The Army initially gave the 6888th six months to clear several warehouses filled with returned mail and packages. By working around the clock in three eight-hour shifts, including on weekends, the women accomplished their mission in only three months. When the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, members of the 6888th shipped to Rouen, France, where they were again given six months to clear another mail backlog. Again, they did it in three. When they completed their mission, the women of the 6888th had broken all records for redirecting mail, sorting an average of 5.85 million parcels per month.
Through their dedicated service in the face of discrimination, members of the Six Triple Eight challenged barriers of both race and gender. This unit forever changed the U.S. military, helping it to better reflect the country’s diverse population. They proved, like others had before them, that African American women wanted to serve their country nobly in a time of crisis, and they provided an enduring legacy for future generations of military women.
On February 28, 2022, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Six Triple Eight; the Senate had approved the award in 2021. Other commemorations and honors include a 2009 Army commendation ceremony at the Military Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
As of March 2022, fourteen known members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Their names and gravesites are:
• Gatha Louise Amos — Section 67, Grave 1603
• Catherine Louise Bowie — Section 54, Grave 1432
• Hortense Pollard Cole — Columbarium Court 7, Section NN, Column 19, Niche 1
• Lila Virginia Burt Dale — Section 68, Grave 1308
• Allie Harshaw — Section 64, Grave 5494
• Margaret Y. Jackson — Columbarium Court 8, Section PP, Column 23, Niche 1
• Margaret Ellen Barnes Jones — Columbarium Court 6, Section N1, Column 14, Niche 3
• Annie B. Jordan — Section 3, Grave 4353-B
• Willia G. Knighton — Section 64, Grave 6306
• Mary Louise Peterson — Section 66, Grave 1657
• Ardella C. Pitts — Section 59, Grave 1762
• Mary Crawford Ragland — Columbarium Court 7, Section PP, Column 2, Niche 5
• Bessie Lee Robinson — Section 43, Grave 887
• Blanche L. Scott — Section 64, Grave 2962