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Her grandmother served in a historic WWII unit. She feels 'just joy' about Congressional honor

'They were able to get it done. And then they moved on to another location to do it all over again'
After facing sexism, segregation while serving in WWII, advocates fight for unit not to be forgotten
Posted at 3:29 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 18:09:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A descendant of one of the women who served in a historic World War II unit is thrilled the battalion will soon be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Advocates had been pushing for the honor for the unit nicknamed the Six Triple Eight and it is now a reality after President Joe Biden signed bipartisan legislation into law earlier this month.

A descendant of Maybelle Rutland Campbell, one of the women who served in the unit and spent most of her life in Virginia, hopes people will remember her service.

"We were beyond just overwhelmed with just joy about the fact that they finally been recognized for all of the great work that they did," Natisha Simms said.

After facing sexism, segregation while serving in WWII, advocates fight for unit not to be forgotten

RELATED: Honoring the women who served in all-female, all-African-American WWII unit

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, which was made up of 855 women from around the country, including around 50 from Virginia, was the only all-Black, all-female Army unit to serve overseas.

Campbell settled in the Commonwealth after her service, but enlisted in Georgia where she grew up.

"They saw a sign that says Uncle Sam wants you," Simms recalled. "And she's and her cousin dared her to sign up. And she signed up and then thought nothing about it."

Maybelle Rutland Campbell
Maybelle Rutland Campbell

Campbell and the rest of the Six Triple Eight were sent to Birmingham, England, to deal with a backlog of mail for the troops.

"When they arrived, that the mail was from the soles of their feet to the ceiling of like airplane hangars," Simms explained.

And while facing challenges like segregation and poor conditions, the unit got to work around the clock. While one general predicted it would take six months, the battalion finished the work in three months.

"They were able to get it done," Simms said. "And then they moved on to another location to do it all over again."

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When the unit returned to the U.S., it was without fanfare.

Simms said her grandmother did not speak much about the experience until later in her life.

"You have to remember they came home to a country and they were facing Jim Crow... They weren't received well in their country," Simms said. "So I'm thinking maybe it was just something that they put on the back burner."
But in the past few years, recognition has been growing, including a monument and now the Congressional Gold Medal.

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However, from the 855 women that served, only six still believed to be alive to receive the accolade.

Campbell was the last survivor in Virginia when she passed in February of 2021.

Maybelle Rutland Campbell
Maybelle Rutland Campbell

But the newest honor is bittersweet for Simms as she wishes her grandmother was here to get it.

However, she hopes people earning of the Six Triple Eight's story will be inspired to look deeper at American history.

"We're a country of a lot of different colors, a lot of different races," Simms said. "And a lot of times when you think of American history, sometimes there are a lot of times there are a lot of people that are left out of that in their contributions to this great country."

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