RUSKIN, FL — Former East Orange resident Gladys E. Blount, who celebrated her 100th birthday this past June, was one of 855 women who were selected from more than 6,000 African American women serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II to become part of the exclusive all-black, all-female 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Blount, who is reportedly one of only six surviving members, was honored in her Ruskin, Fla., home on July 26 by East Orange Mayor Ted R. Green.
The 6888th battalion unit, nicknamed the “Six Triple Eight,” historically completed the massive undertaking while stationed in Europe in 1945 of clearing a six-month backlog of letters and packages — millions of pieces of mail — in just three months. Adhering to their motto, “No Mail, Low Morale,” these women provided essential support during the war by linking soldiers to their loved ones back home. These women tracked and rerouted mail, averaging 65,000 pieces per shift and a total of more than 17 million by their assignment’s end.
In recent years, the history of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion has been explored and celebrated in written accounts, documentaries, museum exhibits and public ceremonies, including in 2022 when the Six Triple Eight was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal — the nation’s highest award for distinguished achievements — by President Joe Biden.
“Words cannot adequately express how proud we are of our native daughter, Mrs. Gladys Blount — who during a time of racial strife both home and abroad — courageously answered the call to duty for our country,” Green said. “This honor is long overdue, and we found it fitting that we make this special trip to visit Mrs. Blount in her home and recognize her as one of our living legends on whose shoulders we humbly stand.”
Green presented Blount with a key to the city, a proclamation and a Green Medal of Honor, a new award to bestow the city’s highest esteem for East Orange citizens who have made notable contributions and achievements with global impact. A ceremonial street renaming on North Oraton Parkway, where Blount once lived, is being planned for this month.
A beautician before WWII, Blount said she initially enlisted because she was restless and concerned, as “there were only old men and young boys around.” As an able-bodied young woman, Blount said she was compelled to help in any way she could.
Upon her sister’s suggestion, Blount joined the armed forces and completed basic training in Des Moines, Iowa, before being assigned to Fort Benning in Georgia. While working in the dispensary at Fort Benning, Blount seized the chance to go overseas.
“I felt secure because there were so many women with me,” Blount said.
Although Blount acknowledged experiencing several incidents of racism and segregation during her tour, she said that those moments were eclipsed by the important mission at hand: “Our assignment may have seemed simple, but the work we did was important to so many.”
“It was an extreme honor to be able to sit with East Orange’s very own 100-year-old living legend, Mrs. Gladys E. Blount. Her bravery nearly 80 years ago has gifted us with a personal connection to both American and black history,” Green said. “It’s so important to pay homage to our elders, because their sacrifices yesterday are the reason we have rich legacies today. East Orange has always taken pride in building bridges within our community, and today, through our pillar Mrs. Blount, we were able to forge a connection with Ruskin, Fla., and I am forever grateful.”
Photos Courtesy of PamElla Lee Photography