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6888th Battalion sheroes to be awarded Congressional Gold Medals for WWII service

Members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion stand at attention in 1945. The red arrow shows Pvt. Indiana Hunt Martin.
National Archives and Records Administration
Members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion stand at attention in 1945. The red arrow shows Pvt. Indiana Hunt Martin.

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was the only all-female Black military unit to serve overseas. Its mission was to deliver backlogged mail to the some 7 million American soldiers fighting World War II in the European Union.

In a time before text and email, those envelopes and packages were the only connection with home, and the lack of letters was hurting morale in Europe. It was also a time when a military of 12 million members was still segregated, and only about 6,500 were African American women.

Generations after the fact, the House of Representatives has now approved awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the 855 women of the battalion, although only a half-dozen are still alive. It's an honor that's been eagerly awaited in Buffalo, the home of Pvt. Indiana Hunt Martin.

Hunt Martin, 98, was buried in 2021 as the nation was just beginning to recognize her distinctive military service with the battalion. Local veterans have been working to rename Buffalo's Central Park post office in her name, and the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park is planning to honor the 6888th in its new exhibit of African American service during World War II opening in July.

Indiana Hunt Martin near the end of her life and during World War II.
Janice Martin
Indiana Hunt Martin near the end of her life and during World War II.

WBFO's Marian Hetherly produced a feature on Hunt Martin in November 2021 for Veterans Day:

https://www.wbfo.org/local/2021-11-11/6888th-battalion-sheroes-fought-sexism-racism-and-nazism

NPR's Steve Inskeep contributed to this story.

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