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"But when we marched down that Champs-Élysée in our Class A uniforms… to the thunderous applause of those Parisians—it was a sight to behold and I feel it to this day." (25:38)

   Mary Crawford Ragland
Collection image
Mary Ragland at time of interview
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: WAC (Women's Army Corps)
Unit: 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion
Service Location: Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia; Birmingham, England; Rouen, France; Paris, France; European Theater
Rank: Technician Five
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Technician Fifth Grade Mary Crawford Ragland was inspired by her mother to join the Women’s Army Corps in 1944 when she was seventeen years old. Ragland was assigned to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, who were sent to Europe in February 1945 to process an enormous backlog of undelivered mail. The 6888th exceeded expectations in tackling the backlog that existed in England, and were sent on to Rouen and Paris, France. Ragland survived German bombing raids while in England, passed through French towns that had been reduced to rubble by the fighting, and saw firsthand the horrors of concentration camps. After the war, the 6888th had the opportunity to march victorious down the Champs-Élysée to a rapturous reception from the French people.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (56 min.)
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»75th anniversary of VE-day
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion’s accomplishments in organizing mail service and eliminating the large backlog of mail that had built up in the European theater. (01:13) Saw the 6888th as ambassadors for the African American community; building awareness among Europeans of African Americans’ experience in America. (01:37) Avoiding German U-boats on trip to England; enduring V-1 flying bomb attacks while in England. (01:30)
Seeing concentration camps in France; effects of the war on French towns; marching down the Champs-Elysees in Paris. (03:06) Pervasive racism in American society at the time; desire to prove themselves; pride in 6888th’s achievements (00:40) Reactions on finding out the war was over; experiences coming home; career after the war; visiting Paris again. (03:34)
Discrimination she faced in applying for civilian jobs after the war. (01:28)  

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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