(Fort Leavenworth, KS) Seventy years after World War II, Fort Leavenworth is paying tribute to the women of the first and only all African American Women’s Army Corps (WAC) unit to serve in the war. Friday, the army base welcomed five living legends from the 6888th Central Directory Postal Battalion to the dedication of a monument in their honor.
The base welcomed Maybeel Campbell, Elizabeth Johnson, Lena King, Anna Robertson and Deloris Ruddock to the dedication of a monument honoring the women of the 6888th Battalion, to be placed in Buffalo Soldier Memorial Park.
Each honoree was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a copy of the Senate resolution commissioning the creation of the monument from Republican Senator Gerald Moran.
“Our Buffalo Soldier commemorative area is a constant reminder that due to the achievements and sacrifices of so many African American soldiers, we have evolved into a diverse and inclusive army that is the strongest in the world,” Colonel Marne Sutten said.
Carlton Philpot from the Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee said the women of the 6888 made a historic mark on the United States Army.
“The Buffalo Soldiers were the first all black unit to serve in peace time and they changed the face of the military forever,” Philpot said. “The 6888 were the first all black WAC unit to be brought overseas, changes the face of the Army forever.”
From 1945 to 1946 the battalion was stationed overseas, and were tasked with sorting, repackaging and delivering letters and parcels to soldiers during World War II.
Major General Douglas Crissman said the 6888 maintained over 7 million information cards for soldiers in the line of duty.
"No automated databases, no bar code scanning, no Googling to find the right zip code. There was only the hard work, ingenuity, grit and devotion of the 6888," Crissman said.
When the battalion arrived in England they were faced with the challenge of sorting and delivering over two years worth of undelivered mail.
"They were given six months to sort it all out, they did it in three. I think it's fair to say they delivered literally and figuratively,"Crissman said.
The monthly average for parcels sorted during the war was approximately 624,000. The 6888 Battalion averaged more than 5 million letters and parcels per month in the 90 days they were stationed in England.The 6888 was then assigned to sort two additional backlogged mailrooms in France, before returning home at the end of the war.
But shortly after the war ended, the soldiers returned home without public appreciation and without an official certification recognizing their service.
"After the war the members of the 6888 returned to their lives and for the most part, their story remained untold," Crissman said.
After the war,Private First Class Elizabeth Barker Johnson returned to her hometown of Hickory, North Carolina and was trained as a truck driver at Fort Devens, Massechutess. Johnson went on to attend Winston-Salem University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education. Johnson taught middle school for 30 years and volunteered for 17 years in the school system.
Private Maybeel Rutland Tanner Campbell currently lives in Alexandria, Virgina. After her service in the United States Army Corp she worked for the United States government printing office for 30 years.
Corporal Lena Derriecott Bell King enlisted in the service after a close friend was killed and inspired her to do something in his name. After the was King returned home to Las Vegas, Nevada and worked as a nurse.
To be self sufficient,Private Anna Mae Wilson Robertson joined the then Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp which would them become the Women’s Army Corp in 1943. Robertson now lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has seven daughters and one son.
Private First Class Deloris Ruddock now lives in Laurel, Maryland. Ruddock enlisted in the Army Corp in October of 1943, after her discharge in 1946, she used the GI bill to receive training in fashion design in New York.
The monument pays tribute to the 855 soldiers who served in the 6888 Battalion. The bust of the monument dedicated to the 6888 Battalion leader, Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Charity Edna Adams Early. Early was a member of the first female officer training class in Iowa, and the first African American Women's Auxiliary Corp commissioned officer. By the end of the war, Early was the highest ranking African American female officer.
Senator Moran said he will be working to obtain a unit meritorious citation for the women of the 6888 Battalion.
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