House advances legislation to award historic WWII all-Black, female battalion the Congressional Gold Medal

The House of Representatives Monday night passed legislation to award the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest civilian honors. 

The women of the 6888th or "Six Triple Eight" deployed to Europe in 1945 to sort through the backlog of mail whose delayed delivery was hurting morale on the frontlines. Working through horrid conditions, the 855 women cut down the six-month backlog in just three months. 

Their work is credited with ensuring aid got to the frontlines, comforting mothers and saving marriages, and yet, they did not receive much recognition upon their return following the war. 

The legislation to award the group the Congressional Gold Medal is an effort to rectify that. 

  Black Women's Army Corps Unit handling the mail National Archives

The House bill, introduced by Representative Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and supported by 295 co-sponsors, passed the House Monday night. Moore introduced the legislation after the daughter of 6888 member Anna Mae Robertson, a constituent, inspired her to get involved. 

"Facing both racism and sexism in a warzone, these women sorted millions of pieces of mail, closing massive mail backlogs, and ensuring service members received letters from their loved ones," Moore said in a statement. "A Congressional Gold Medal is only fitting for these veterans who received little recognition for their service after returning home." 

The bill passed the Senate last year and will now go to President Joe Biden to sign into law. 

The effort to recognize the women has been pushed in large part by retired Colonel Edna Cummings, who co-produced the documentary, "The Six Triple Eight," highlighting the unit's achievements, and helped erect a monument at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas for the 6888.  

"I'm grateful to the 6888 veterans, families, and thousands of supporters who worked to make this Congressional Gold Medal vision a reality," Cummings said in a statement.

There are less than ten known living members of the unit to receive the medal, but the honor will guarantee the story of their contributions to the World War II effort has a place in history. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated because an earlier version of this article misstated retired Colonel Edna Cummings' rank as Lieutenant-Colonel. 

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