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.”
“We all had to be broken in, so to speak, to do what had to be done,” said Davis, who mainly worked as a motor pool driver. “The mail situation was in such horrid shape they didn’t think the girls could do it. But they proved a point.”
A month after the end of the war in Europe, in June 1945, the group sailed to France to begin working on additional piles of mail there. Receiving better treatment from the liberated French than they would have under racist Jim Crow regimes at home, members were feted during a victory parade in Rouen and invited into private homes for dinner, said Davis.
“I didn’t find any Europeans against us. They were glad to have us,” she said.
The 6888th previously was honored with a monument that was dedicated in 2018 at Buffalo Soldier Military Park at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. But immediately after the war, members returned home to a U.S. society that was still years away from the start of the modern civil rights movement with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas helped shepherd the bill to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the members of the unit.
“Though the odds were set against them, the women of the Six Triple Eight processed millions of letters and packages during their deployment in Europe, helping connect WWII soldiers with their loved ones back home, like my father and mother,” Moran said in a statement earlier this year.