The last surviving members of the only all female African American Army unit to deploy in World War II were honored by the U.S. Army last week.
Alyce Dixon, Gladys Schuster Carter, and Mary Crawford Ragland, all members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, were honored by the U.S. Army's Freedom Team Salute program at a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Dixon is the oldest surviving member of the Battalion at 101 years old.
The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was the only all female African American Army unit to deploy to Europe during World War II. The unit was composed of approximately 850 members of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WACs). They were tasked with sorting and distributing letters and packages to over 7 million Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Red Cross and civilian personnel all over Europe.
"I felt like I was doing something worthwhile for my country when I was in the Army with the 6888th in Europe," said Dixon. "We had to find the soldiers, their units and route the mail to them. I enjoyed the Army and I met a lot of nice people when I served overseas. The Army taught me discipline and to stop and think before making a decision."
Dixon said the Battalion's trip from the United States to Europe was very stressful because the boat they were on was sometimes followed by German submarines. She said to avoid contact with the submarines, the boat had to make various diversionary turns which caused pots, pans and other objects to fall to the floor.
Major Charity Adams, who later was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and became the highest ranking African American female officer in the military, was the commander of the 6888th. She arrived with the unit in Birmingham, England in February, 1945. After completing their assignment in England, she and her unit were sent to Rouen, France and later to Paris. A few months after World War II ended, the unit was sent back to the United States.
"They sent us to Ft. Dix New Jersey, gave us our discharge papers, and sent us home," said Mary Crawford Ragland, the clerk of the 6888th, who joined the Army at the age of 17 after finishing high school. "There were no parades, no welcomes, no nothing."
"Honoring the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion with Commendations is long overdue," said the Army's Colonel David Griffith, Director of Freedom Team Salute. "These were strong women who faced prejudice in the United States but still managed to complete their mission, putting their Country ahead of their own trials. They did not have the luxury of working with automation equipment to help them organize, sort and distribute the millions of letters and packages that had accumulated in airplane hangars and other places in Europe. They are a true American story that needs to be told."
The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WACs) 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was a World War II unit. Composed of approximately 850 African American women, the unit was formed in the days when the U.S. Armed Services was segregated. They were the only black women to serve with the U.S. military overseas during World War II. The group was charged with handling military mail, and was based at a boarding school in Birmingham, England.
"For the morale of Soldiers in war time, only one thing counts more than somewhere to sleep or something to eat," said Freedom Team Salute's Colonel Griffith. "That one thing is mail from home – holiday greetings, photographs, regular letters, and packages filled with items from relatives and friends. The Battalion broke all records for redistribution of mail to front line troops in the European theatre."