“No mail, low morale”: the importance of the 6888th Central Postal Directory
The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, also called the Six Triple Eight, was the only all-Black Women's Army Corps unit to serve in Europe during World War II (WWII). This battalion, composed of approximately 850 women, arrived in Europe in early 1945 to face the herculean task of sorting and delivering letters and packages that had been piling up in warehouses since D-Day, June 6, 1944.
While more than 6,500 African American women served the U.S., the women in the 6888th recognized that their role as the only black battalion serving overseas was unique and they were committed to succeeding and defeating the barrage of mail in the warehouses of Birmingham, England.
Between the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Red Cross and uniformed civilian specialists, about seven million people involved in the war effort in the European theater were waiting for mail when the battalion was assigned the task of coordinating and ensuring delivery of thousands of letters, parcels, and packages.
The battalion’s mission to clear this mail backlog was essential. Mail was a vital tool and resource in boosting the morale of American troops serving far from home. The U.S. Army set ambitious goals for the women of the 6888th to clear the existing backlog and to ensure that newly arriving mail was quickly delivered. In order to succeed, officers implemented round the clock shifts to maximize efficiency. They adopted the motto: “No mail, low morale”.
The women in the battalion worked in extreme conditions for months – through long, cold, and dark shifts - managing to complete their mission ahead of schedule, despite the challenges of delivering poorly addressed mail to the correct recipients and ensuring that mail made it to service members who were often on the move as the U.S. and its allies continued their final push against Nazi Germany.
Following Germany’s surrender in May 1945, the expertise and efficiency of the 6888th was called upon again. The battalion was sent to Rouen, France to clear another postal logjam as part of ongoing support efforts for noncombat military operations in the aftermath of Germany's surrender.
While working in Rouen, Pfc. Mary J. Barlow, Pfc. Mary H. Bankston and Sgt. Dolores M. Browne, a trio whose nickname in their company was the “three B’s,” were involved in a fatal jeep accident on July 8, 1945. All three would perish from the accident and were buried with dignity and honor by their comrades in arms. In fact, a few members of the battalion who had worked in mortuaries before joining the military, helped to prepare the bodies of their friends and fellow soldiers. The unit also raised money for services which they held in a hospital chapel.
The ABMC continues to honor the service and sacrifice of the three "B's" and all the 6888th at our Normandy American Cemetery. While these women faced segregation during their military service, they are honored by ABMC in the same manner as all other service members regardless of rank, gender, race, religion or country of origin. Bankston, Barlow and Browne are among the nearly 11,000 individuals buried or honored at this cemetery.