Las Vegas — Nearly 900 members strong, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was the first and only all-black Women’s Army Corps unit deployed to Europe during WWII. Lena King, now 96, was a part of the unit.
“I wanted to do something,” she said.
Many of the seven million Americans in Europe during the war were on the move. Tracking them down for mail call was overwhelming. So in February of 1945, King and the other 854 members of the unit shipped out to Birmingham, England, where the mail had piled up.
“The mail was stacked almost to the top of the hangar. Two, maybe three years backlog of mail,” King said.
The only all-black Women’s Army Corps battalion sent overseas worked three shifts a day, seven days a week, while bombs dropped all around them.
“They had asked if we could get it done in about six months. We were able to get it done in three months,” King said.
They processed 65,000 pieces of mail per shift, totaling 17 million by the time they were done in Birmingham. Then it was off to France, unclogging another mess. But rather than gratitude, the women confronted something else.
“I met one white American soldier. The first thing that came out of his mouth, he said, ‘What are you doing here, n—-r?’ All we were doing… we’re trying to get letters to people like him,” King said.
Because they didn’t get any parades when they got home, retired Army Colonel Edna Cummings would like to see them recognized with a Congressional Gold Medal.
“During a time where they were denied basic liberties as Americans, they still wanted to serve the United States,” Cummings said.
Today, King recalls her service with pride. “That made me feel good, that I had done my part,” she said.
She’s a proud veteran, who endured hatred and racism to keep morale blooming, at a time when we needed it most.
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