Evelyn Clarisse Martin-Johnson


Object Number - UPL 34875 - Evelyn Johnson, Mail handler, 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, Women's Army Corps

Evelyn was one of a small number of African-American women who served with US forces in the UK. She joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps, or WAC) in 1942, and served until 1945, ending her service as a Sergeant.

Although trained as an orthopedic medical clerk, Evelyn was posted to Britain as a mail handler in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Based in Birmingham, she worked sorting packages to clear a large backlog at the US mail depot. Her unit then moved to Rouen in France, to complete a similar task.

Throughout her time in uniform, she experienced racism: ‘We knew better than to do anything about that, because we could get court martialled. So we’d disregard it,’ she said. ‘You have to remember segregation was still in, and many of the white military were from the South. Many of us were not. Some were from the South, some from the North, some from the West. But some of the Americans carried that segregation right over there.’

Evelyn Johnson, born in Buffalo New York in 1920, was the only child of a chef employed by the New York railroad and a cosmetologist. After school she started training as a nurse but a chance meeting with two military women - one black and one white, promoting the women's auxiliary - encouraged her to join the WACs. Initial training took just six weeks but the War Department took another two or three months to decide where to send the black recruits. She was eventually assigned to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. The Battalion - the only such in the Army to be sent overseas - consisted of 855 black enlisted women and their officers. They were commanded by Major (later Lt. Col) Charity Adams Earley, the most senior black officer in the Women's Army Corps.

When they were shipped out in 1945, they were not told their destination until out in mid-Atlantic; which even at this late stage of the war was alarming especially when the convoy had to change course because of submarines in the vicinity. They landed in Scotland and were put on a train to Birmingham and were upset by the bomb damage they saw on the way. The unit was to be housed in its entirety in the King Edward Boys' School where - Evelyn recalls - the facilities were not particularly suitable for women.

The Battalion was divided into four companies, Evelyn was in Company B, their job to redirect a backlog of mail, mostly packages, some two years en route: 'it was stacked in warehouses from floor to ceiling'. This was not the work they had been trained for; Evelyn was officially a medical clerk. The job, estimated to take six months, was accomplished in three. They appreciated being in England where they were treated as equals and with respect 'we were treated royally', could go anywhere and were entertained by the locals. Not so by some of the white GIs from the Southern USA.

She especially liked London and saw as many of the sights as possible. Another outstanding memory is the occasion when the entire unit was sent to London to parade before Mary the Queen Mother. The war in Europe was already over when the Battalion was sent to a base at Rouen in France to do the same job, Evelyn by now promoted to Staff Sergeant. She had learnt French at school and was thrilled to be able to explore Paris. Again they finished the task in record time and appear to have been shipped home in February 1946, the Battalion being disbanded in March 1946.

Evelyn went to college under the GI Bill and became a dental hygienist. She married twice and lived in Florida with her second husband, somewhat against her wishes, having had bad experiences in the South where segregation was still an issue in 1979. When interviewed in Tampa Florida in 2014 Evelyn was aged 94 and still going strong.


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Units served with



Event Location Date Description


Buffalo, NY, USA 25 January 1920


8 December 2015
Tampa, FL, USA




Florida National Cemetery


Date13 Aug 2020 15:50:16
Date24 Sep 2018 12:35:35
ContributorLucy May

Added place connections and events

Date17 Aug 2018 13:39:41

Biography completed by historian Helen Millgate. Information sourced from correspondence files and articles held in an IWM research collection related to the acquisition of various items and ephemera belonging to Evelyn Johnson.

Date17 Aug 2018 11:35:27

American Air Museum text from displays.

Evelyn Clarisse Martin-Johnson: Gallery (2 items)