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COL. EDNA CUMMINGS
U.S. ARMY, RETIRED
Maryland
COL. EDNA CUMMINGS COL. EDNA CUMMINGS

SHE ADVOCATES FOR RECOGNITION OF THE 'SIX TRIPLE EIGHT'

By Kristin Davis
Photo by Mike Morones

The backlog of mail meant for U.S. servicemembers overseas numbered 17 million items in February 1945. The letters and packages, some nearly two years old, rose to the ceiling in the hangars converted into a temporary post office in Birmingham, England.

'I learned a lot about choosing your battles.'

One Army general estimated it would take six months to process it all. But the 855 officers and enlisted women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion did it in half that time. The only all-female, all-Black battalion to serve overseas in World War II returned home with no official recognition of their achievements.

More than seven decades later, legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives would award the “Six Triple Eight” with a Congressional Gold Medal for “their pioneering military service, devotion to duty, and contributions to increase the morale of personnel.”

Col. Edna Cummings, USA (Ret), has led efforts for the long overdue honor, meeting with members of Congress and staff. In early 2019, she also served as producer for a documentary titled The Six Triple Eight that tells the battalion’s story.

“Not only do they deserve it for processing millions of pieces of mail in record time. There were no other units like the 6888,” Cummings said.

She connected with the story of the 6888, and to that of commanding officer Charity Edna Adams, who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel — an achievement unheard of for a Black woman in the military at that time.

Cummings grew up as the daughter of a career enlisted soldier, and she admired the professionalism she witnessed in the Women’s Army Corps.

“I saw this path to becoming an officer,” she said. “My father said if I wanted to join the military, that was the only way he would support me.”

In 1978, Cummings was the first African American female ROTC graduate from Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

“I learned a lot about choosing your battles, and when to take a stand,” Cummings said. “The military will push you to your limits. It is designed to build leadership. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to do some of the things I do now.”

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This material originally appeared in Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA PREMIUM and LIFE members.

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