Breaking News
More () »

Honoring WWII's first all Black female battalion

A local non-profit is screening a documentary about the 6888th Battalion who served during WWII as part of Black History Month.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — On Wednesday, Congress reported they gained more support for the required supermajority numbers to award the 6888th Central Post Directory Battalion the Congressional Gold Medal. 

This was the first all Black female unit that was deployed during WWII. They faced discrimination, sexism, and horrendous working conditions.

In February of 1945, 77-years-ago, the ship set sail for Birmingham, England, carrying 855 Black women to sort the mail for the seven million Americans fighting in the war.

“There was two, maybe three years backlog of mail,” said Lena King, 6888 Battalion veteran.

She spoke to CBS News’ Jim Axelrod in 2019. King turns 99-years-old this week and is the only one of the six who are known to still be alive.

There were 855 women who were sent to Europe to sort the mail that was stacked to the top of the barracks.

While bombs dropped around them, they worked three shifts a day, 7 days a week.

“They thought we could get it done in about six months," said King. "We were able at our pace to get it done in three months,” 

Alva Stevenson's mother, Lydia Thornton Moore served in the 6888th.

“With all due respect, the military did not figure out how to clear that backlog and get the mail to the soldiers in the European theater,” said Stevenson.

She spoke to CBS 8 from her home in Inglewood about her late mother, and how Black troops were treated overseas and there was no parade when they returned.

“They were invited into the homes for dinners, they were able to shop without restriction, certainly that was not the case here, particularly in the South,” said Stevenson.

Alva says her mother was proud of her heritage.

“My mom's family was Afro-Mexican,” said Stevenson. “They [U.S. military] asked her whether she wanted to join the Black battalion or the White one. And she wanted to join the Black one,” said Stevenson.

On Wednesday, the Vista based non-profit Foundation for Women Warriors, streamed the 2019 SixTriple8 2019 documentary for free to honor the hundreds of Black women pioneers in the military during Black History Month.

“The more that we are showing these women a great honor and doing our part to thank them for what they did for our country and really the world,” said Jodie Grenier, Foundation for Women Warriors, CEO.

Alva says her mother was a humble and modest woman who never spoke of her service.

“She would probably say she doesn't know what all the fuss is about,” said Stevenson.

What Mrs. Moore and hundreds of her sisters did during their mail call duty was boost moral for the men and boost the pathway for so many women in the military.

Stevenson says Congresswoman Moore's (D-WI) who introduced the bill is working with the House Leadership to get the Congressional Gold Medal for the 6888th to floor for a vote as soon as possible. 

After passage, the bill goes to Biden for his signature.

RELATED: Documentary honors the 6888th, forgotten all-female Black WWII battalion

WATCH RELATED: Biden sending more troops to Europe amid Ukraine tension (February 2022) 

Before You Leave, Check This Out