Souvenir of the 6688th Central Post Directory Battalion
The 6888th Central Post Directory Battalion was made up of 855 black women during World War II. It took decades for these women to receive great recognition.
PORTSMOUTH, Virginia – Anita Fletcher says she always felt close to her mother, Audrey Whitney, growing up. Being an only child, Fletcher said that forming a special bond was inevitable.
“She was definitely my mom… but she was my best friend,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher can remember so much about her mother, calling her a stern but loyal woman. Growing up during the Great Depression, Fletcher said Whitney would pick up furniture that people would try to throw away and give it to people in her neighborhood.
“She would give you the shirt off her back,” Fletcher said as she sat on a bench in her Portsmouth neighborhood. “That’s the kind of person she was.”
Fletcher believed she knew all about the woman who raised her … until shortly before Whitney passed away after her battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
“She was starting to talk about her days with women during the war,” Fletcher said. “We always knew she was in the military because we had her picture on the wall in our kitchen.”
Fletcher began to hear about a group of women recognized for their vital role in World War II. She said once she started digging she asked her mother if she recognized any of the women in the photos she shared. When Whitney saw the photos, she couldn’t help but tell stories about her time in the military.
It was around this time that Fletcher discovered that her mother was serving in a unit of the All-Black Women’s Army, a team in which members would ultimately be recognized as heroes in wartime.
The unit was called the 6888th Central Post Directory Battalion, more commonly known as the “Six-Triple-Eight”.
Only seven of the women are still alive today.
The unit took its slogan “no mail, low morale” to a new level when it took responsibility for single-handedly eliminating years of backlog in Europe between commanders, soldiers and their families. .
“You could tell they had a strong will … and that they were there on business,” Fletcher said, looking at the photos. “The officers knew what to do and it was done beautifully. When you see them in formation, they are more beautiful than the men.
However, by the end of the war there was no confetti, no welcome surprise at home for these women. Their major effort, slipped through the cracks of historic moments, eclipsed by the victory of WWII.
“At that time, it was not historic. It only came years later. for her [Whitney]it was just being in the military, ”Fletcher said.
Today, decades later, a victory for the activists who fought for years for the recognition of this group of women. Many women were given ribbons and a statue made in their honor, but the unity was not recognized as a whole until 2019 by the US Senate when it passed a bill to honor every woman. with the Congressional Gold Medal.
It’s an honor, Anita Fletcher said she will make sure her family will always remember him.
She currently keeps old photos of Whitney and her aunts. The photos have inscriptions on the back of his time in the war, some saying “What a pity, but it was worth it” dating from 1945.
Fletcher said she wished she could go back in time and ask her more questions about those photos and what she wrote, but is happy to have known her as a strong woman.
“I feel so grateful that she even did it, because even though she’s not here to receive her medal anymore, it’s going to stay in my family for ages and generations, because it means so much… it really is, “Fletcher said, nodding his head.
Alzheimer’s disease separated Fletcher and Whitney, just before Whitney’s 95th birthday. However, Fletcher said the gold medal made her feel even closer to her mother after her passing.
“I would say to my mom, ‘I didn’t know all these things about you, but it’s beautiful.'”
Now it’s a race against time. The House of Representatives is still working to earn all 855 members, or their families, the US Congressional Gold Medal. The government also needs more co-sponsors from other states, but a few heads of state have yet to respond for every woman to receive the medal.