There are many stories of everyday labor changing the course of a war, raising troop morale or just helping to ensure the job gets done. From mail handlers to cooks, everyone plays a crucial role in the effort.
American Legion Director of Media and Communications Jeff Stoffer discussed how these service members, who served everyday roles, were able to inspire others on America’s Work Force Union Podcast.
6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion
In the February edition of the American Legion Magazine, Stoffer said the staff wanted to feature stories of Black service members going above and beyond, such as a battalion of Black women, who were tasked with clearing out entire mailrooms that were backlogged.
In 1945, a unit of a little more than 800 women were sent to France and tasked with clearing out a mailroom that became backlogged, sinking troop morale and blocking crucial communications in the midst of World War II.
The job, which was expected to take nearly a year, was completed in half the time. Many of these women went on to have long military careers, or use their GI Bill to obtain an education.
Stoffer expects the battalion to be recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal when the new Congress gets to work. Of the roughly 850 women, only eight remain living and Stoffer hopes they will be able to accept the award.
The story of Famous Lane
Stoffer then told the story of Famous Lane, a Vietnam era service member who went above what he was asked to do, resulting in many lives saved.
He first gained recognition while deployed to the Dominican Republic, where he served as a mess cook. The combat became too close one day, so Lane decided to pick up a 50 caliber machine gun, something that is nearly impossible, and proceed to shoot down an enemy aircraft.
He was later deployed to Vietnam, again to serve as a cook. While deployed, he was granted permission to serve as a machine gunner.
His unit came under heavy fire and two soldiers were stranded on the battlefield and became pinned down. Ignoring the two soldiers’ past racial remarks towards Famous, he ran onto the battlefield, put both of the men under his arms and ran them to safety.
Lane was shot in the back in the process, suffering injuries he would later succumb to.