“Six Triple Eight” documentary honors the overlooked heroes of WWII
The men and women who served in World War II were coined the Greatest Generation because they sacrificed not for recognition or fame but because they believed it was the right thing to do. One women’s battalion may embody this more than any other for its unwavering impact on the war effort that is still overlooked today.
The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion―nicknamed “Six Triple Eight”―was the first and only all-Black, all-female Army battalion that served overseas in WWII. The battalion played a critical role in boosting morale by delivering mail to troops fighting across Europe and paved the way for military careers for women and minorities.
To honor their impact, the University of Phoenix Office of Military & Veterans Affairs, in association with the Office Multicultural Affairs & Diversity and the UOPX chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, hosted a virtual screening of the documentary, “The Six Triple Eight: No Mail, No Morale,” on August 7. More than 1,400 attended the event, which also included a panel discussion with Six Triple Eight veterans and University leaders to discuss the documentary’s themes of inclusion and perseverance.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. John Ramirez, dean of operations for the College of Doctoral Studies, and Retired Senior Chief Christine Martinez of the Office of Military & Veterans Affairs organized the event and led efforts on securing a proclamation from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to declare August 15, 2020, as 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion Day. Work is also underway to create a Congressional Medal of Honor for the members of the 6888th Battalion to honor their legacy and contribution to WWII.1
Martinez said it was an honor to bring awareness to these inspiring women.
“The women of the Six Triple Eight are inspirational trailblazers who opened the door to military careers that were unheard of for women, especially women of color,” Ramirez said. “Honoring their legacy and rightful role as an important ‘first’ in U.S. history prior to the integration of the U.S. Army is long overdue.”
During the war, the 855 members of the Six Triple Eight delivered a backlog of two years’ worth of mail that had lost its way to U.S. troops stationed in England in approximately six months. After that, they went to France to alleviate a similar glut of undelivered mail in Paris and Rouen. Their motto was “No mail, No morale.”
The women of the Six Triple Eight are inspirational trailblazers who opened the door to military careers that were unheard of for women, especially women of color.
– Retired Command Sgt. Maj. John Ramirez, dean of operations for the College of Doctoral Studies
The battalion accomplished their mission, overcoming the logistical challenges of wartime, all while facing the harsh realities of racism and sexism present in both military and civilian life at home.
Alva Stevenson, daughter to the 6888th’s Cpl. Lydia Thornton, said the film screening and panel are especially timely right now, with the larger discussions of race happening across the country.
She said these types of events help to undo the erasure of Black history that happens so often under systemic racism.
“Most Americans have a great respect for the military, and I believe these stories of Blacks in the military, and other people of color, are a safe lens, for whites in particular, to learn about Black history,” Stevenson said. “I think it is humanizing.”
Cpl. Thornton was born in Nogales, Ariz., and was mentioned in the Governor’s proclamation. Stevenson said the honor brought tears to her eyes because she is so proud of her mother’s legacy and to see that her contribution to the war is finally being recognized.
Cpl. Thornton was raised in a tight-knit afro-Latino community of military men and their wives from “across the line.” She grew up with a sense of duty and family obligation that led her to enlist in the Army after her brother was bayoneted in the Battle of Guadalcanal in WWII’s Pacific Theater. He survived, but was critically injured and never fully recovered.
Stevenson said her mother’s sense of duty was common among the women who enlisted in the 6888th.
“She would say, it is just what you did,” Stevenson said. “It was something she not only did because of [her brother], but for her country.”
During the panel discussion, UOPX President Peter Cohen said it is now our duty as a nation to do something about our country’s history of racism and discrimination. The story of the Six Triple Eight fits the time we find ourselves in right now, he said.
“We cannot sit by quietly as systemic racism and the resulting inequities continue to limit this country’s potential. Race and violence are unequivocally wrong,” he said. “These conversations can start with the goal of better understanding how we each experience the world differently from each other.”