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Margaret Jones; Served With WWII Black Battalion

April 28, 2000

Margaret E.B. Jones, 89, a retired Army major who served with the only battalion of African American women sent overseas during World War II. In 1945, Jones was one of 32 officers to accompany more than 800 enlisted women to Scotland to work in a special wartime postal unit. The 6888th Central Postal Directory had been formed after pressure from civil rights organizations and black newspapers forced the military to place African Americans in meaningful Army jobs. The battalion's initial mission was to redirect mail addressed to dead or missing military personnel after the D-day invasion of France. Before the 6888th arrived in Scotland, the mail operation had been run by enlisted men and civilians, and it was in chaos, Army historians later said. One warehouse was filled with 3 million parcels, many of them containing spoiled cakes and cookies, with the accompanying problem of rats eager to get to the food. Working around the clock, and averaging 65,000 pieces of mail a shift, the women managed to clean out the place in three months. Jones, a native of Oberlin, Ohio, was among the first African American women in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. She had studied for three years at Howard University, where she later received a bachelor's degree. Her first posting as an officer was as executive officer of a company of African American women in Kentucky. The company was assigned to clean floors and latrines at the Ft. Breckenridge hospital and to work in the post laundry. It was there that she began working to secure better opportunities for women under her command. After the war, Jones did graduate work at the University of Minnesota before being recalled to active duty in 1949. She was placed in command of a training company at Ft. Lee, Va. She stayed in the Army, retiring as chief of administration at Maison Fort in France. Over the years, she received commendations from the Congressional Black Caucus and the Veterans of Foreign Wars and won the Army commendation medal. On April 11 of congestive heart failure at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

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