The oldest living member of the largest Black women World War II battalion is being honored in Alabama, 11 Alive reports.
Romay Davis is a Virginia native who enlisted in the Army in 1943, following in the footsteps of her five brothers. There she became a member of the 688th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the largest all Black, all women, group to serve in the war. The unit was a byproduct of the Women’s Army Corps created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the urging of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune, the President aimed to create a more racially inclusive Army unit for African Americans.
The battalion of 855 women were tasked with clearing the mail backlog in Europe. While evading attacks by Hitler’s German Army, the women were able to develop a system that processed 65,000 pieces of mail daily, clearing the backlog in record time and processing millions of pieces of mail that linked the soldiers back to their homes and boosted morale. For most of history, their contributions went virtually unknown. But last year, Congress set to honor the group with Congressional Gold Medals, with Biden officially signing the bill for the Six Triple Eight this past March.
Now Davis, the oldest living member of the group at 102 years old, is set to be honored at an event at Montgomery City Hall. While the Congressional Medals won’t be ready for some months, given her and the five other surviving members’ ages, many leaders are proceeding with their celebratory honors now. While a short period in her very long life, Davis looks back at her time with the battalion fondly, despite the racism and sexism they had to endure. The centenarian said she is very proud of what they accomplished, working 24/7 shifts to clear the six-month backlog in a record three months.
“We all had to be broken in, so to speak, to do what had to be done. The mail situation was in such horrid shape they didn’t think the girls could do it. But they proved a point,” said the former motor pool driver.
After her time in the army, Davis married and enjoyed a 30-year career in New York’s fashion industry before retiring back to Alabama. She kept herself busy, earning a martial arts black belt in her late 70s and working at a grocery store in Montgomery for more than 20 years up until she was 101 years old. Davis said the most challenging part of her experience in the battalion was experiencing freedom and inclusion overseas and then returning to a home country that was light years away from that for Black people at the start of the civil rights movement in 1955.
“I didn’t find any Europeans against us. They were glad to have us,” she recalled.
The WWII veteran said she’s grateful to receive such a prestigious honor, for all of the women who served and she’s glad she can be here to participate in it.
“I think it’s an exciting event, and it’s something for families to remember. It isn’t mine, just mine. No. It’s everybody’s,” said Davis.
Thank you for your service Mrs. Davis! Congratulations!
Photo Courtesy of 11 Alive