The unknown story of the Six Triple Eight: an all Black, female WWII battalion

members of the 6888 battalion

Members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion take part in a May 1945 parade ceremony in honor of Joan d'Arc at the marketplace where she was burned at the stake.

The story of the Six Triple Eight, an all-Black, all-female World War II Battalion, is unknown to many Americans even after they were recognized and received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2021. But Netflix is working to share their story in a new feature film written and directed by Tyler Perry, and featuring a star cast, including Kerry Washington, Ebony Obsidian, Oprah Winfrey, and more. This film will highlight their story and allow more people to know the hidden history of these women who served during World War II. 

Tyler Perry’s new film Six Triple Eight will tell the inspiring true story of the incredible and brave women of the only all-black, all-female World War II Battalion. Perry based the movie on an article by Kevin M. Hymel published in WWII History Magazine by Sovereign Media. Perry shared how much this new film means to him saying, “To honor the long-ignored worth of the 6888 has been the greatest privilege of my career thus far.” This is Perry’s fourth film directed for Netflix. 

The history of the 6888 goes back to before they were sorting mail in Europe. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation that converted the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) to the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) that gave women official military status opening the door for them to serve overseas and be recognized as veterans for their service. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune advocated for Black women to be able to serve in the newly formed WAC as officers and enlisted personnel. Previously, Black women were limited to a cap of 10% in the WAAC. During World War II, a total of 6,520 Black women served in the WAAC and the WAC. 

“The first Negro WACs to arrive [on] the continent of Europe were 800 girls of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Bn, who had also been the first to arrive in England. After the battalion had set up its facilities at Rouen, France, it held an `open house’, which was attended by hundreds of Negro soldiers. Pvt. Ruth L. James,…of the battalion area is on duty at the gate.”
Department of Defense photo/caption.

Even though there was an Executive Order in 1941 banning racial discrimination in defense industries, the Armed Forces remained segregated. Enlisted women served in segregated units, participated in segregated training, lived in separate quarters, ate at separate tables in mess halls and used segregated recreational facilities. Officers received their officer candidate training in integrated units but lived under segregated conditions. Specialist and technical training schools were integrated in 1943. It wasn’t until 1948 when Truman signed Executive Order 9981 that the Armed Forces was desegregated. 

As for the story of the 6888th, after the military sent over a few groups of women soldiers to Europe during World War II, Black-led organizations advocated for the War Department to give Black women the opportunity to serve overseas. The 6888th was eventually sent to Europe in 1945 after clearing a six-month backlog of mail in Alabama in three months. In France, they worked to go through the backlog of mail, some undelivered packages dating back over three years. 

Facing discrimination, unfamiliar land, and a war-torn country, they persevered and sorted over 17 million pieces of mail, reconnecting American soldiers with their families and loved ones back home. The 855 women who served as part of the 6888th followed the motto that kept them going each day, “No Mail, Low Morale.” These women of the 6888th weren’t just delivering mail, they were delivering hope.

Even though the history books had forgotten their story, their accomplishments did not go unnoticed by the General Board, United States Forces, European Theater of Operation. The Board, following premise in their study of the WAC, said, “[T]he national security program is the joint responsibility of all Americans irrespective of color or sex” and “the continued use of colored, along with white, female military personnel is required in such strength as is proportionately appropriate to the relative population distribution between colored and white races.” The work they did not only provided mail and hope to soldiers overseas, they also helped pave the way for future generations of women in the Armed Forces. It is great to see them recognized today, over 75 years since they delivered mail to the front lines during WWII.