A conversation with one of the last survivors of the 6888th -- the only Black women's unit to serve overseas in WW2
It’s been 75 years since World War Two ended, but the memories are still fresh for Indiana Hunt-Martin.
Now 98, she was a member of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in the Women's Army Corps – the only unit of Black women to serve in the U.S. military overseas.
Their job: Get two years’ worth of mail -- some 18 million letters -- to soldiers scattered across Europe.
Martin, joined by her daughter Janice Martin, talked with KUOW’s Angela King about how that experience shaped her.
Angela King: So what did you think when you got to Birmingham, England, and saw that two years’ worth of mail had just been piling up?
Indiana Hunt-Martin: Well, we didn’t say any nice words. We realized that the girls had to dig through all that ... we said, “crap,” at the time ... and they had to sort out the letters and get them to us in the other room where it was clean. Some things are falling out of the boxes, letters falling out ... it was a big mess. So we stayed there about three months and we cleaned it up, no doubt. And they decided to send us to Rouen, France.
King: So how did the people of Europe treat you?
Indiana Hunt-Martin: To tell you the truth, they treated us like anybody else. We had no prejudice. They invited some girls to their homes and different stuff like that. We didn't feel like we were segregated again. We were just ... human beings. Being overseas and seeing how things work, it's kind of a funny feeling to come back and had to start all over again being ... well, let me say being Black. But way back then we were just soldiers returning home from service, that’s all.
King: So, Janice, did you know anything about your mother's service and her role in the 6888? I mean, we're talking about her being one of only 855 black women to serve overseas.
Janice Martin: I had no clue. I mean, I just know she was in the military. And as a kid, I guess I never really saw the racial aspect of it. As you age, you can see -- where are we in World War Two? There's nothing except the Tuskegee Airmen. It was like those were the only African Americans in World War Two.
King: So what do you think of the efforts to have a Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the 6888?
Janice Martin: I think it's long overdue, and especially with women in the military I just think they were just so overlooked.
King: How do you hope the country and the world will remember the 6888?
Indiana Hunt-Martin: Now that they're discovered how important we were at the time, I think they should remember the living and the dead – how good a job we did when we were needed.
This is Part 2 of interviews about the 6888th. Click here to hear a military historian recount more of this unit's history, along with her effort to have the 6888th recognized by Congress.