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Federal gold medal bill honors Black, all-female World War II battalion

By: - February 13, 2021 11:07 am
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, the Kansas Republican, introduced bipartisan legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the Women’s Army Corps assigned to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only Black, all-woman battalion to serve overseas during World War II. The battalion deployed to England and France in 1945. (Submitted/Kansas Reflector)

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, the Kansas Republican, introduced bipartisan legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the Women’s Army Corps assigned to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only Black, all-woman battalion to serve overseas during World War II. The battalion deployed to England and France in 1945. (Submitted/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran introduced federal legislation to award the only Black, all-female battalion of the Women’s Army Corps to serve overseas during World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal.

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion arrived in Europe in February 1945 to deal with a mail backlog so massive the Army was convinced the delivery problem was damaging troop morale. The 6888th was assigned to Birmingham, England, where letters were stacked to the ceiling in a temporary post office and some mail had lingered in makeshift offices for as long as two years. The battalion created an around-the-clock method of sorting mail that resolved the backlog in three months rather than the six months projected by the Army.

In May 1945, the battalion of about 850 women was transferred to Rouen, France, to confront a separate backlog of mail, including some letters delayed for as long as three years.

Five surviving members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion celebrate the 2018 dedication of a memorial at Fort Leavenworth for the only Black, all-woman battalion to serve overseas during World War II. (Submitted/Kansas Reflector)
Five surviving members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion celebrate the 2018 dedication of a memorial at Fort Leavenworth for the only Black, all-woman battalion to serve overseas during World War II. (Submitted/Kansas Reflector)

“As we celebrate Black History Month, I’m pleased to lead the effort to award the women of the ‘Six-Triple-Eight’ with the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Moran, a Kansas Republican. “Their unit arrived in the European Theater of Operations on February 12, 1945, so it is fitting that we recognize their important place in history this week with the reintroduction of this bill.”

Moran previously introduced this Congressional Gold Medal bill in Washington, D.C., where it was unanimously passed by the Senate in 2018. However, the U.S. House didn’t approve the measure.

“These brave women and their service to our country deserve a special spot in history and I will continue to work with my colleagues to make certain the Senate does its part in honoring their service and sacrifice,” Moran said.

In an effort to build support in the U.S. House, Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin introduced the Congressional Gold Medal legislation in that chamber. U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, a Republican who serves the 2nd District of Kansas, is a sponsor of the House measure.

“Let us not forget the incredible dedication of these women, like my constituent Anna Mae Robertson, who despite facing racism, sexism and working in austere conditions in a war zone, worked day and night to support our troops with the motto ‘No Mail, Low Morale,’” said Moore, a Wisconsin Democrat. “When they returned home, their hard work and selfless service was not recognized.

“As a country, we can correct this wrong, ensure their story of sacrifice is told, and give these women the honor they earned by awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to these heroes,” she said.

In November 2018, Fort Leavenworth in Kansas dedicated a monument to the women of the battalion at Buffalo Soldier Memorial Park. Five women from the battalion — Robertson, Maybeel Campbell, Elizabeth Johnson, Lena King and Deloris Ruddock — were present at the dedication.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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