Monday Jun 5, 2023
Monday Jun 5, 2023

102-year-old WWII veteran from segregated mail unit honored

2022 Jul 26, 19:15,
Romay Davis, 102, poses with a photo showing her during World War II, at her home in Montgomery, Ala., Monday, July 25, 2022. Davis is being honored for her service with the all-female, all-Black 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, which got mail to U.S. troops in Europe during the war. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

Millions of letters and packages sent to U.S. 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 is being honored.

Romay Davis, 102, will be recognized for her service at an event at Montgomery City Hall. It follows President Joe Biden’s decision in March to sign a bill authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal for the unit, nicknamed the “Six Triple Eight.”

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.

Davis’ unit was part of the Women’s Army Corps created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943. With racial separation the practice of the time, the corps added African American units the following year at the urging of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune, according to the unit history.

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, and a senior officer was threatened with being being replaced by a white first lieutenant when some unit members missed an inspection.

“Over my dead body, Sir,” replied the unit commander, Maj. Charity Adams. She wasn’t replaced.

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.


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