African American Women making a difference in their communities: Novella Auls:
During World War II, many women were looking for ways to support the American troops and take part in the war effort. Novella Auls was one such woman, and she found a place in the Women’s Army Corps 6888th Postal Directory Battalion. Auls’s battalion was made up entirely of African American women.
As the name would suggest, the women of the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion were postal clerks, tasked with gathering and sorting mail to be sent to American troops posted all around Europe. The unit was largely self-sufficient with the women filling other positions such as cooks, mechanics and medical staff. They even had their own sports teams.
The 6888th was stationed overseas starting in 1945 serving in England first and then in France. The women had their work cut out for them. Until their arrival, mail had not been consistently delivered for some time, and so they set about creating a system to organize the mail, repackage damaged ones, and ensure delivery to their intended recipients. Auls and the other women of the 6888th still faced many of the racial prejudices overseas that they experienced at home in the United States. They were barred from participating in military sports events and barred from establishments used by the white military for relaxation. Prejudices were perpetuated and spread. In the face of all of this, the women excelled at their work. They processed hundreds of thousands of letters and packages, which boosted the moral of the frontline soldiers.
Novella Auls’s service in the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion is remembered in the handful of photos of her and other members of the battalion. They are all headshots of the women in their uniforms. These photos that had been kept by Auls are signed with nicknames and messages faded and smudged over time.
Novella Aul’s name is listed on a page dedicated to the 6888th on the U.S. Army website, . In 2018, a memorial was built to honor the women of the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion. Located at the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area in Fort Leavenworth, Kansa, it is inscribed with the names of members and is topped with a bronze bust of Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley, who led the 6888th. Surviving members of the battalion attended the memorial dedication ceremony. It serves not only to honor the service of these women, but to remember their resilience in the face of prejudice and their determination to serve despite the odds.
You can check out: https://www.womenofthe6888th.org/ to learn more about the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion.
This post was written by Wright State University Public History graduate student Amanda Wachowiak. She just completed a capstone project processing and researching archive collections of African American women which are held at the National Afro American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio.