tv African American Women Army Corps Battalion CSPAN November 24, 2019 11:20pm-12:01am EST
announcer: the 6888 central postal battalion was the only all-female african-american unit sent overseas during world war ii. next, veterans of that unit share memories of their service, processing millions of pieces of backlogged mail for troops. they spoke at the annual conference in washington dc. the first female african-american graduate of the military academy moderates. >> a young american stood in front of number 10 downing street in the mid-1950's is an old man with a cigar came out the door. the young american turned and said mr. prime minister, tell us the secret of your success.
the prime minister, winston churchill, replied, study history. study history. in it lie all the secrets of statecraft. you heard of great praise. there is nothing you can do about having a 20 or 22-year-old body, but there is no excuse for not having a 5000-year-old mind. it is at your fingertips. but let us continue to look back so that we can see forward. i'm pleased to introduce you pat lock, who will moderate the next panel. locke is the first african american woman to graduate from the united states naval academy, in 1980. she will bring forth a group of women that have an unheard story, unsung heroes that played an important role in america's history. i am pleased to introduce pat locke. [applause]
major locke: good morning, everyone. >> good morning. major locke: i know i have a lot of friends at the naval academy, but i am not the first african woman to graduate from the naval academy. i am the first african american woman to graduate from the united states military academy. so i just wanted you all to have that as an admin correction. so, with that, i would like to say that i am honored to be in the presence of this history. i remember reading about these ladies 40 years ago in a department of defense publication, and noticing everything that they went through to open the doors for people like me. so, with that, i know we have
very limited time here, so i want to make sure that i give them a chance to tell their story. so, i would like to start out with just a general question. and anyone that would like to respond, please do so. i would like to hear from everyone, but as you see fit, you can answer the question. so, i would just like to know, from that experience, and i think you may know the history, you have the history here, but they went into the 6888 battalion, it was formed to handle a backlog of mail. they initially had 800 african-american women in that battalion. they deployed to england and when they got there they had a surprise waiting for them of 17 million pieces of mail that was backlogged. so, with that, with all of the deployment, and i remember reading that the only way that african american women could
serve overseas was if the theater commander specifically requested them. so, the 6888 was one of those battalions that was recruited to come over to europe to serve in the european theater. so, with that, what was one aspect of your deployment, your effort, your successes over there, that you would like to relate to the audience? >> i would like for them to know how appalling it seemed it was for us to get it done and the length of time that they wanted us to do it. they gave us one year to get the blackmail. we did it in eight months. major locke: eight months. very good. very good.
so, did you have anything to add to that? >> yes. when we got there, the mail was just piled up, it was rat-infested. we had to find a place to make our postal facilities so that we could handle it. so we used an old airplane hangar, and built our post office. and with that, we worked seven days a week, three shifts, and we were able to get the mail out in one third of the time that they had assigned it. so, our motto was, no mail, low morale. that was our motto. and we felt that the one thing
that service people want is to be able to connect with their families. and the families of course want to see how their loved ones are doing. so it was a very important mission for us to be able to have that connection. major locke: very good. so, before we go on, i want to make sure i get the comments from the ladies over here also, but i want to make sure you know you are talking to. so on the far end is ms. johnson, thank you for your service. next to me is ms. king, thank you also for your service. and over here, i have ms. robertson. thank you for your service. and over here i have ms.
ruddock. thank you all for your service. i think you have your bios on the back of the screen. with that, did you have any comments about how much you had to do when you first arrived in england with the mail challenge? anything? did anybody else have any more comments regarding that before we go on to the next question? >> i think not only was there not a place for our mail, we had no facilities to live in. our facilities had been bombed, and we had to quickly make a place for us to stay. and we used an old school house. we cleaned it up and made that do for our lodging. major locke: very good. so you kind of improvised with everything. >> with everything we had to
improvise. major locke: from what i've read the theater commander came down and he was very impressed with the level of discipline that you had in your unit, your appearance, your military courtesy. how did all of that come about? how did you know to do that? were you emulating someone else that you saw? seriously, that kind of opened the door for the rest of us, because you guys set a standard for all african american women coming in to service after that. so did you have any comments regarding that? >> you're in the army. you do what you're told. you wear what you wear. [laughter] you won't have any problems. when you are enlisted you do when you are enlisted you do what you are told, you wear the garment of the day.
clothes was not a thing, that's not a problem. you have a uniform, you wear it. the point is that you have a job to do, and you do the job. period. i don't know what other questions you have, because i could go on forever. [laughter] major locke: i just remember, i really appreciated -- when i saw the photos, i didn't know anything about the military when i was enlisted. when i saw you all photos and how sharply you looked with your uniforms and shoes and everything, it made me want to join. >> well, you are in uniforms for just parades, but you have, you are working, you are there to work. we had a job to do. so you wear fatigues or whatever there, period.
clothing is not the point. the point is to get the mail out. major locke: and your motto was? morale.il, no major locke: what is one of the primary, the most important lesson that you can share with our audience right now, about leadership, hardship, about work ethic? anything like that that you can share with our audience right now? >> well, you are enlisted to do a job, and whatever you were assigned, this is what you did. this is why you were there. so you can't go on just doing whatever you want to do. you came there to do this, to do your duty for the country. and, of course, you had to follow the rules and regulations.
and this is what we signed up for. major locke: so, you had a very hard experience, you had to deploy to england but you also had to deploy from england to france. and you had all that happen in a very short amount of time. can you tell me about the transition? how did you do that? you had to have a huge work ethic to get that done. and the hardships. did you have all nighters? >> you're in the army. you do we are told. -- what you are told. when we worked, we had three shifts, right? and we did what we were told. so therefore, i was a pfc, so i did what i was told. therefore, we sorted the mail, we directed it to where it was supposed to go, and we did as we were told. as i said, we worked three shifts. so when you are doing that, you
do the best you can. there's no question about it. in the army, you don't question anything. you do as you are told, or else. so therefore, that was not a big problem. this was something new to us. we were pretty young. i was 19 when i went in. that was it, and, no problem. we went to england, then we went to france some of the new went to paris and we worked the three shifts from there. and we were able to get the mail redirected in a very short time. so, we were able to do it in less than a year. to come back, and that's it. major locke: ok. can you talk to us a little bit about the leadership that you had? you obviously accomplished a lot in a small a amount of time. did the leadership have anything to do with that?
>> i think we all were dedicated and knew what we had to do. we were told in the beginning that this was our job, so this is the way that we had been trained, and we went there to do this job and we got it done. i think, when they chose the group, when we went and were trained, we knew that it was discipline that kept us intact, and made us know that this was the assignment, and we knew this is what we signed up for. major locke: ok. >> so, it was just that work
ethic that we had. and i think they chose women who they could rely on to work that way. think that way. major locke: ok. very good. so, you had both army and air force women in the same battalion? >> it was, at that time, they were all one unit. air force and army were together. major locke: ok, very good. >> it was later, a number of years later that they were separated. major locke: how did you all get along? did you guys get along ok? did you have individual bedrooms, best friends, people you hated? being in an army unit with that amount of pressure to get things done, did the pressure cause
friction, or you just were all best friends? >> you do as you are told. >> you do it like it's college. [laughter] >> it doesn't matter how you feel or what you think, you have a job to do and you do it. major locke: ok. very good. so we have a theme here. you've got a job, you've got to get it done, no matter what, right? >> that's right. just like anywhere else, you choose the group that you do want to hang out with. it was a large battalion. you don't know everyone, but you are there for the same purpose. your leadership helps to guide, but your little groups, you know what your assignment is, your discipline, and you do it.
i think we went there with the attitude that we were there to do a job. major locke: and you were very, very successful with all that pressure and that sisterhood in the battalion. did you have a social life at all? 17 million pieces of mail, did you have time to do anything else? go to a movie, go out on dates, any social life whatsoever? >> no. not too much, really. major locke: ok. i just thought i would ask, because you all had a lot to do. >> we made our own fun. we played games. we had friendships, but as far as getting out in the public, it was very late in the game that
we were able to get out and meet people. major locke: ok. >> when we were in birmingham, the people were so wonderful to us. they knew what we were there for, they gave us a lot of support. so, we enjoyed their hospitality. and, but when time came for work, we did work. and after our work was done, we had time for a little socializing, but that was quite limited. major locke: ok, very good. is there any aspect of your job that was the hardest thing that you had to deal with? >> say what? major locke: was there an aspect of your job, your mission, that
was the hardest thing to deal with? and what was that? >> we didn't think about that at all. you had a job to do, you did the job. period. [laughter] i am sorry, but it doesn't matter. major locke: ok. >> you made a commitment and you go through with it, all right? and it is all new to everybody. and here we are. we are in the army and we have a job to do. we have sergeants to tell us what to do. i am a private. so therefore, you do it. if you have any questions, you have to keep it silent because it's not going to get you anywhere. therefore, the best thing to do,
and this is all new to americans. we did it, and the thing i can say is, hey, after we finish the job ahead of the schedule that they thought had to be done, we did it in about six months or so, so we covered it and got it out, three shifts. and then we came home. so, that's it, you know? and the army was good. those of us who left, me, i came out of the service. and the army gave us schooling, where we wanted to go. and a little subsistence pay along with that. so, i took advantage of it, and that was it. period. and no more worried about the army, period.
that's it. no more worries. major locke: ok. do you all want to just tell us a little bit about what happened after your tour overseas, and you came back home? did you want to share with the audience anything that happened after that? >> i went directly home because i lost my father while i was in the military. my mother was very sick, so i got a discharge and went home. major locke: you have anything? >> i went to fort dix and was discharged. i married while i was in the service. i went from philadelphia where i enlisted. my husband was from california, and i lived in california and started a family.
went to school and became an rn, and had a family, and that was the end of it. we never heard anything more -- all of that was behind us until a gentleman by the name of carlton philpott thought we deserved to be recognized. because we never had a parade. we just came out and went home and that was it. carlton philpott thought we deserved some recognition. and he invited us, after 75 years, just a few of us that are still remaining. we are all in our 90's. i'm 96. she's, i don't -- [laughter]
but anyway, he thought we deserved a parade. and he invited us all to come to kansas city. he had a monument for us. he said, these ladies deserve some recognition. they were over there in the first african american battalion. they were very well-disciplined, they did a service. and he thought he would give us a parade, which he did. not only that, he had a monument for us. he had the country, really, we would not be here today if it weren't for mr. philpott.
he made the world aware of us, and for that, i really thank him. because we would have lived, you know, just really unknown. and carlton thought that these ladies deserve a parade. and so, we had the parade we never had before. we are here because of him. >> ok, let's go. [laughter] major locke: go ahead. >> huh? no? i'm here. major locke: did you want to comment on anything that happened after you all left service and came back to the united states?
>> i beg your pardon? major locke: did you want to comment on anything that happened after you left the service and came back to the united states? >> oh, i said before i took advantage of the gi bill and i went to the school that i wanted to go to. uncle sam paid me my little subsistence, $50 a month. and that was it. there are others that stayed in the service, but i came out and that was it. and i never heard anything more about it until november, so there you go. we are making it known to the world that there was a group there. and of course by the time we
finished doing our processing of the mail, the snail mail, the mail to the soldiers was already formulated, so there was no backup mail at that time. so we got rid of the backup mail, and the mail has gone on since then. this is a little belated thing, unfortunately it came so late that it ended up were only seven of us out of the 100 that were there to work the job. and i'm afraid that at our old age we are not not really capable of giving them full credit as much as we should. because the memory helps, little bit. however, here we are. major locke: thank you. ladies, is there one other thing , i am looking to see if there
is a time limit, if we can take a couple questions from the audience. i am not seeing any rejections. oh, yes, sir. >> this question is for miss parker. my name is james. good to see you all. thank you. good morning. my name is james. good to see everyone again. ms. barker, could you tell the audience in may of 2019 what happened at winston salem state university? >> i received my teachers degree. no, this was before then, but i got to march down the aisle. i was not able to march when i finished my four year college because i was teaching in virginia. and my superintendent would not give me permission to leave, so
i taught for 32 years and got my degree last summer. [applause] >> good morning ladies. thank you very much for coming. i'm from the naval academy. my question is, how did your families initially deal with you joining the army? >> what did she say? major locke: how did your families react to you joining the army? >> actually, what happened was i was 19 when i joined, and since i couldn't go to the school that i really wanted to go to, because my dad could not afford it, the opportunity came, someone said why don't you join the army?
and that was something new. so i asked my father if i could join. and he said ok. so i was representing him in the service, and he signed me up to go into the army. so, that was it. there were others of course signing on their own, but i went into the army for one reason, and i guess i accomplished that, because after i came out, i did what i wanted to do. major locke: right. thank you very much. did you all have a comment about how your family reacted? did they support you going into the army? >> my mother did, but my father was not, no. he did not think it was a good idea. there were all kinds of negative comments from various people about what was happening with women in the service and so
forth, and it was because of ignorance. they did not know. but my mother, she went along with the program. it was my father who sort of objected. he wondered how i would fare, because i was his little girl. i was the only child. and that was very difficult for him to sign up. major locke: ok. very good. did you have an experience? how did your parents support you going into the military? >> they were very supportive. at first they thought, you, going into the military? my dad said, that is a man's job. i said, there are women in there, too.
but it was not a struggle, no. major locke: all right. very good. any other questions? >> thank you, ladies. >> i have one, young lady. can you all hear me? major locke: we need to mic, because we are recording. >> ladies, i want to thank you, but can you take a minute, having been involved in the congressional gold medal process, can you please tell the audience what they're trying to do for you, to contact your senators and congressmen, give them the bill numbers to support your efforts for your congressional gold medal. >> we have to have edna cummings answer that question. >> i just wanted the information to get out there. >> hello, i'm edna cummings, the 888mpion for the 6 congressional gold medal. the number is bill number 633,
introduced by senator jerry moran of kansas. that is where the monument is located at fort leavenworth, kansas. he sponsored the bill on the senate side. on the house side the bill number is hr-3138 on this. it was introduced by the representative gwendolyn more of wisconsin, where ms. robinson is from. 3- hr-3838. as of today we have 15 cosponsors on the senate side, and 68 on the house side. we need two thirds from the senate and house, which equates to 67 on the senate side, 290 on the house side. so we have a ways to go. i appreciate your support and i appreciate the question. does that answer your question? about the congressional gold medal? >> it does, young lady. >> thank you. >> my name is elizabeth and i am the other producer of the film. so we just want to thank you guys. thank you for your service.
please come out and support this gold medal. but on behalf of these amazing ladies, i called them superstars, on behalf of all of them, we are going to present major locke with a poster signed by all these women sitting there, and it is a documentary that was done by james, he asked that question the first time, and it is simply called the 6888. the 6888. make sure you get that. don't let me have to use my army voice, ok? so, thank you ma'am. major locke: thank you. thank you. you want me to -- whoa. thank you so much. [applause] major locke: well, i'm honored to be here in your presence, and it is because of women like you
and your discipline and your discipline and your work ethic, and your "get the job done," want you to get the job done, because of that i have the same attitude when i came in, just get the job done. so thank you very much for your service and thank you for paving the way for not just me, and not just women, but for men also. thank you so very much. [applause] >> hillary rodham clinton served as a lawyer on the staff of the
house judiciary committee during the impeachment inquiry of president nixon in 1973 and 1974 . american history tv will feature the interviews about their experience next sunday, december 1 at 6:00 p.m. eastern. conducted by former nixon presidential library director timothy.a tally -- a behind-the-scenes perspective on the judiciary committees work during the nixon impeachment inquiry. that is next sunday at 6:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv, only on c-span3. >> the media marketplace has shifted dramatically in the last dozen years or so. we have these rules in place that assume the entire media marketplace is three broadcast television stations at night and a daily newspaper that clunks on your front doorstep on the .orning
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ensure continuity of government. upon him now falls all the weight of leadership. >> this is a sad time for all people. --have suffered a loss that for me, it is a deep personal tragedy. i know that the world shares the sorrow that mrs. kennedy and her best. bear. i will do my that is all i can do. , and god's.ur help > the mission, the world mourns john fitzgerald kennedy. living from the white house to the capital.
-- moving from the white house to the capital. >> you can watch archival films on public affairs in their entirety in our weekly series, weekly america. saturday at 7:00 on american history tv. next on the presidency, former white house administration staff members analyze the work of political cartoonist. they focus on the presidencies and includew bush barack obama's 2008 election. the miller center hosted the event. >> we are going to get