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Millie Dunn Veasey

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by The_Historian, Mar 17, 2018.

  1. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    "When Millie Dunn Veasey joined the US military it wasn't the most auspicious of starts.
    "I didn't weigh more than 102 pounds (46kg) and didn't know how to tie my tie," she later recalled.
    But she was making history: it was 1942 and she would go on to serve in the only all-female, all-black unit in World War Two.
    After that, she would return to her native North Carolina and play a leading role in the burgeoning civil rights movement.
    Dunn Veasey died on Friday, 9 March, a little more than a month after her 100th birthday. She was one of the last surviving African-American women to have served in WW2."
    Born Millie Dunn in Raleigh, she was one of six children. Her grandparents had been born into slavery, but did not speak about it.
    In December 1942, a year after the US had joined World War Two, she saw posters - all featuring beautiful white women - encouraging women to join the military.
    At that time, few African-American men joined the Army - and it was even more unusual for an African-American woman to do so.
    "I thought to myself that if those white women can do it, so can I," she said shortly before her 100th birthday. "And besides that, my country needs me."
    Dunn Veasey went on to join the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, based first in North Carolina then Colorado.
    By late 1944, the US military was facing a shortage of manpower and troop morale was low, with an enormous backlog of mail ensuring many had been left with no news or packages from home for years.
    First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, spurred by black activist Mary McLeod Bethune, pushed the War Department to make use of the women's corps, and a new all-black unit was formed from it: the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, also known as The Six Triple Eight.
    "It was huge," Beth-Ann Koelsch, the curator of the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina, told the BBC.
    "A lot of these women were very educated but the only jobs commanding officers had thought they could do were janitorial, or working in the kitchen.
    "They were not storming the ramparts, but the work that they did do was huge.""
    Obituary: The pioneering sergeant turned activist
     
  2. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    Millie Dunn Veasey, one of the last members of the only all-black, all-women battalion to serve overseas in WWII, passes away at age 100
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    Millie Dunn/ U.S Army photo by David Vergun
    Just two years before arriving in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1944, Millie Dunn had never left her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. But enlisting had taken her around the country and then overseas, in a voyage that had made her seasick nearly the whole way. One of 800 women in the all-black 6888th battalion en route to Birmingham, England, Dunn gaped at the unfamiliar surroundings of the U.K. Locals stared right back.

    “They had never seen any black persons, I don’t guess, because they thought we were women in Technicolor,” she remembered in a 2000 oral history interview with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “They said, ‘Oh, look at the women in Technicolor.’ Oh, dear, dear, dear. Those people at that time.”

    Millie Louise Dunn was born in Raleigh on January 31, 1918, one of six children. Her grandparents had been born into slavery. She graduated from Washington High School in Raleigh and had a job with the county extension agent’s office.

    In 1942, after the U.S. had entered World War II, Dunn saw a poster encouraging women to join the military—white women, that is. “I thought to myself if those white women can do it, so can I,” she told Central North Carolina’s Spectrum News.

    Dunn joined the service in 1943, over her mother’s skepticism that she’d pass the medical exams. Before going overseas, she was sent to train in Colorado, Iowa, Texas, and Georgia. “It was the first time I’d ever left home, period,” Dunn told the oral history project.

    [​IMG]
    Members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion take part in a May 1945 parade ceremony in honor of Joan d’Arc at the marketplace where she was burned at the stake

    Dunn was assigned to the all-black unit of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps’ Central Postal Directory Battalion, tasked with sorting mail to bolster the spirits of men on the frontlines. The 6888th battalion was over 800 women strong and was the only all-women, all-black unit to serve overseas during WWII.

    First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt pushed the War Department to make use of the women’s corps. Millie Dunn was a staff sergeant for the “six triple eight” battalion’s Company B. In three eight-hour shifts, the women sorted through millions of pieces of mail that had piled up in dark, cold, rat-infested warehouses in Birmingham. They had quarters separate from the white women, and slept on beds made of straw.

    After Germany’s surrender, on May 8, 1945, the 6888th battalion transferred to France, where it worked for another nine months.

    “The women of the 6888th were under an incredible spotlight,” Beth Ann Koelsch, curator of the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, told the New York Times in March. “And they knew that any failure or misbehavior on their part would reflect upon all African Americans and all women. They struggled against prejudice, but in all accounts I have read, these women talk with great pride about their service.”

    Three weeks after VE Day, the women of 6888 were honored in a parade commemorating Joan of Arc in Rouen in Normandy. The crowds applauded as the hundreds of black women stepped smartly through the cobble-stone streets in their snazzy double-breasted coats, white gloves, close-fitting narrow hats, and practical low heels.

    After Millie Dunn returned to the United States, she attended St. Augustine’s College on the G.I. Bill, where she met Warren Veasey, whom she married in 1949 and with whom she’d have two children.

    Millie Dunn Veasey taught school for four years in Virginia before returning to work as a secretary at St. Augustine’s, where she’d remain for three decades, even after earning a master’s degree. She was active in the civil rights movement, marching alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1963 March to Washington, in which he delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. Two years later, she became the president of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., the first woman to hold that position.

    Millie Dunn Veasey died March 9, a few weeks past her 100th birthday, in her hometown of Raleigh. Up until the very end, she liked to wear a cap emblazoned with her military designations.

    “Her hat is her conversation piece,” her niece Elsie Thompson told Central North Carolina’s Spectrum News on the occasion of Veasey’s 100th birthday. “It says, ‘World War II,’ and everybody comes up to her and says, ‘Oh, where did your husband serve?’ She says, ‘Oh, no; I’m the vet.’
     
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