One thing a deployed soldier, sailor, marine, or airman looks forward to is “mail call.” Receiving letters from home is the biggest morale booster known to military men and women. Before World War II, mail was mostly handled on an individual basis. But the two-theater Second Great War brought mobilization on a scale never before seen. And “mail call” became much more important and much more complicated. And since units were constantly on the move, they had no fixed addresses to receive their mail.
To the rescue of the mail strode the 800 African-American women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. They were “posted” to Great Britain and France to keep the mail moving and directed to the right soldiers in the field.
The “Six-Triple-Eights” were the only women, other than nurses, who were deployed overseas during the war. And unlike most units made up of black male soldiers, the women of the 6888th did not have white officers in command. They had black women officers over them.
The commander of the 6888th was Major Charity Edna Adams, a native of North Carolina. She was the first black women to become an officer in the then-Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC; later Women’s Army Corps (WAC)). Adams eventually was promoted to lieutenant colonel, becoming the highest ranking black woman to serve in World War II.
Charity Adams majored in math and physics at Wilberforce University in Ohio and later earned a masters degree from The Ohio State University. In 1942, she was among a small group of women invited to join the then-new Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. Against the advice of family and friends, Adams joined the WAAC. Following her training assignment at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, she served in various positions before taking command of the 6888th after it was formed.
After her wartime service, Adams taught at Tennessee A&I and Georgia State College. She married medical student and fellow veteran Stanley Armstead Earley, Jr., in 1949 in Columbia, South Carolina. The couple moved to Switzerland where Stanley attended medical school. The Earleys settled in Dayton, Ohio, upon his graduation from medical school. They had two children.
[The four-star general in the film with Major Adams is her boss, General John C.H. Lee, Commander of Services of Supply for the European theater.]
Charity Adams Earley lived up to her name in Dayton. She was involved with numertous civic organizations, including the American Red Cross, the United Way, the YWCA, the Urban League, the United Negro College Fund, and the Dayton Opera Company. She served on the boards of the Dayton Power and Light Company, the Dayton Metro Housing Authority and Sinclair Community College.
In 1989, she published a book called One Woman’s Army: A Black Officer Remembers the WAC.
Lt. Col. Charity Edna Adams Earley died on January 13, 2002, at the age of 83.
Video courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 111, Series SC and SCY, via YouTube.
March 12, 2013 Tuesday at 3:59 pm