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Honoring the women who served in the country's only all-female, all-African-American WWII unit

After facing sexism, segregation while serving in WWII, advocates fight for unit not to be forgotten
Posted at 5:34 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 12:26:11-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia War Memorial hosted an event on Tuesday about a push to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the only all-woman, all-African-American unit to serve overseas in World War II.

Among the last surviving members of the unit was a Virginia woman who passed away earlier this year.

During World War II, among the millions of Americans sent over to the European Theatre, the 6888th Postal Battalion stood alone.

Nicknamed the "Six Triple Eight", it was made up of 855 women from around the country, including around 50 from Virginia.

"They were facing not only the Nazis, they were facing segregation, discrimination, sexism, everything that you can possibly imagine these women had to face. And they overcame," Zakia "Kia" Baker, a Navy veteran and the creator of the "Female Veterans Podcast", said.

The unit was first posted to England to deal with a backlog of mail in Birmingham. Natisha Campbell Simms recalls what her grandmother, Maybelle Campbell, who was in the unit, says it looked like.

"From the soles of your feet to the top of the ceiling of a building," Simms said.

While that task was expected to take six months, the unit was able to complete it in three.

"They absolutely slayed the task at hand, completed the mission in an exemplary fashion. And they should not be lost to history," Baker said.

On Tuesday, the Virginia War Memorial hosted its second event on the Six Triple Eight to try to ensure they are not left behind in history.

While nothing happened when the battalion disbanded, in recent years it has begun to get recognition, including a 2018 monument at Fort Leavenworth.

Advocates are now pushing to have them awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, an effort that failed last year, but they're hoping will work the second time around.

"I believe that at this point, we've got as many members in the Senate as we need, but we need more support in the House. So please, please reach out," Beverly VanTull, an Army Veteran and the Women Veterans Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services said.

Advocates hoped to get this done while members of the unit were still alive. Maybelle Campell was the last surviving member in Virginia but passed away in February. She would've been 100 last week.

Natisha said that the family didn't know until later in Maybelle's life how much she had gone through because she never spoke about it.

"Because it was never celebrated, never recognized, she just kind of moved on," Natisha said.

She said that it was surprising to her grandmother to start receiving recognition.

On Tuesday, Simms accepted another honor for her grandmother. It was a resolution passed by the Virginia Senate this year and she said that the family is thankful to do so on her behalf.

"She would be so amazed to know that so many of you have just been so thankful for what her service meant to you," Natisha said.