VFW Magazine March 2011 : Page 15

Birmingham [the unit’s base].” The primary responsibility of the 6888th was to re-direct all V-mail (mail reduced to microfilm for shipment) for Europe. The battalion’s motto was “No mail, low morale.”Unit members worked seven days a week in three eight-hour shifts. The unit, later based in Rouen, France, and Paris, routed mail—much of it backed up at English warehouses in the chaos that followed the Battle of the Bulge—to millions of members of the armed forces in Europe. Members of the 6888th were the first black women many Britons in Birming-ham had ever seen, and they shattered stereotypes. “These WACs are very different from the colored women portrayed on the films, where they are usually either domestics or the outspoken old-retainer type or sloe-eyed sirens given to gaudi-ness of costume and eccentricity in dress,’’ The Birmingham Sunday Mercury wrote. “The WACs have dignity and proper reserve.’’ Korean War: Nurses, 1950 steered the boat as Rogers rowed. Pinette pulled five soldiers from the water and into her lifeboat. After a night at sea, the group was rescued the following morning by a British destroyer, which also had earlier rescued Drezmal and Anderson. When the officers finally arrived in Algiers, they had nothing but the clothes on their backs. Theywere issued the smallest men’s uniforms available. Gen. George C.Marshall,Army chief of staff, was in North Africa to attend the Casablanca Conference. He told the women that once he got back to the States, he would replace their personal effects lost when the ship sank. Since WAACs had no real military standing, the government refused to replace their belongings. So Marshall paid for the items out of his own pocket. On July 1, 1943, President Roosevelt signed Public Law 110, officially estab-lishing the Women’s ArmyCorps (WAC) as a component of the U.S.Army. It was no longer an auxiliary. WACs would play an important role The first members of the WAAC to serve abroad flew to England in 1942, and then sailed a month later for North Africa. They are Alene Drezmal, Louise Anderson, Martha E. Rogers, Ruth Briggs and Mattie Pinette. during the war. In 1944, for the first time, some 800 black women were requested for mail duty in Europe. Assigned to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, they arrived in England on Feb. 12, 1945. The officer in charge was Maj.Charity Adams, the first black woman commis-sioned as a WAC officer. She was later promoted to lieutenant colonel. Adams was at Ohio State University working on a master’s degree in vocational psychol-ogy when she entered the Army in 1942. “As the 6888th maintained its effi-ciency,”Adams later reported, “we were inspected, visited, greeted, checked out, congratulated, called upon, supervised and reviewed by every officer of any rank in the United Kingdom who could come up with an excuse to come to At 24,Army Lt.Margaret Gibson found herself shivering as she crossed the Inchon, Korea, beachhead. Serving with the 121st Evacuation Hospital, just behind the Marines, Gibson had only the summer uniforms issued to her by the Army. “General MacArthur had told all of us in Korea that we would be home for Christmas,” Gibson recalled, “but that didn’t turn out to be true.” Christmas found the 121st in Wonsan, a town on Korea’s east coast.While set-ting up, they were informed that there were about 5,000 Chinese troops in the area and that the nurses, doctors and medics were to defend their patients and themselves at all cost. “Howwewere supposed to do that was never made clear,” Gibson said.“None of us—nurses, doctors or medics—had guns, so just how we were to defend our-selves was a mystery.” Fortunately, the Chinese never spotted the 121st. Gibson next moved to Hung-nam and later to Hamhung on the coast of the Sea of Japan to board the USAT Ainsworth,an Army transport ship. March 2011 • WWW.VFW.ORG • 15 NATIONAL ARCHIVES #III-SC-151934, COURTESY WOMEN’S MEMORIAL FOUNDATION COLLECTION

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