By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
The women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion may soon have their own official commemorative day in the state of Maryland.
On March 15, HB0370 was heard in the Health and Government Operations Committee in the House Office Building. Del. Mike Rogers (D-32), leading sponsor of House bill 370, was joined by numerous delegates who served as co-sponsors.
House bill 370 passed the House on March 18, and was read in the Senate and referred to the Education, Energy and Environment Committee on March 20.
“I am a veteran who served 32 years in the military in both the Marines and the Army. Today
] was important to testify on creating a commemorative day for the 6888th because those ladies paved the way for people like me, who had a chance to serve in the military,” Rogers told the AFRO. “Last year, we did a commemorative day for the Tuskegee Airmen and we need to pass a remembrance day for the women.”
The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, would require Maryland officials to recognize March 9 as 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion Day on an annual basis. Rogers explained that March 9 was chosen because it’s in Women’s History Month, it is the same date the President deactivated the unit and the same month that the Tuskegee Airmen are being recognized in Maryland.
“This bill ensures that March 9 will be the commemorative day to honor the service of the 19 Maryland veterans who served overseas during World War II and solved the Army’s mail and morale problems,” said Edna W. Cummings, a retired Colonel of the U.S. Army and producer of the 2019 documentary, “The Six Triple Eight.”
The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was a segregated unit within the Women’s Army Corps. In recent years it had been revealed that the 6888th was not an all-Black unit, but a multi-ethnic squad with at least one Puerto Rican and Mexican woman, according to
“One 6888th member, Vashti Murphy Matthews, was the daughter of Carl J. Murphy,
] of Baltimore-based AFRO Newspaper. The AFRO’s reporting of WWII captured the Six Triple Eight’s history and those Black troops whose history would have been otherwise lost,” said Cummings.
Descendants of the 6888th gathered to testify in support of the bill, including AFRO Publisher Frances “Toni” Draper, who’s relative, Vashti Murphy Matthews (1921-1981), served with the unit.
“We are the oldest Black-owned business in Maryland, and I’m proud to have had a family member who served in that battalion – to serve our country in the armed services,” said Frances “Toni” Draper in her testimony. “Marylanders and everyone will be reminded of the service of these 800 plus women.”
Draper’s sentiments were echoed time and time again as descendants spoke on behalf of the women who went before them.
“This bill ensures that March 9 will be a commemorative day to honor the service of my mother, Indiana Hunt Martin, now deceased, and her 854 fellow soldiers who served overseas in the now historic 6888th,” said Martin’s daughter, Janice Martin. “It’s due to her sharing her journey during those last two years of life that the President of the United States signed legislation to rename a Buffalo, N.Y. Post Office in her honor.”
Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.