WWII veteran who served in first African-American female battalion recognized 70 years after joining Army Corps
Earlier this week, Congressman Brian Higgins presented Private Indiana Hunt-Martin with the Women's Army Corps Service Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button for her service during World War II - just days before the 69-year anniversary of her honorable discharge.
"Private Indiana Hunt-Martin is a true trailblazer," said Higgins, at a ceremony held at AMVETS Medallion Post 13 in Buffalo. "Not only did she honorably serve our country, but she did so despite facing discrimination as both a female and African-American. On behalf of a grateful nation, I am honored to present her with these medals that she so clearly deserves."
Born in Lyons, Georgia, in 1922, Indiana Hunt-Martin moved to Niagara Falls with her family in 1926 at the age of 5. She graduated from Niagara Falls High School in 1940 and worked at Carborundum before joining the Women's Army Corps Sept. 15, 1944.
Following enlistment, Indiana Hunt-Martin traveled by railroad to Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia where she underwent training for her service overseas. She recalled encounters with segregation as she traveled south, including a train stop in Washington, D.C., where passengers were separated into railcars based on their race; facing separate restrooms and drinking fountains when she left the Georgia base; and fellow military members getting in trouble for refusing to sit in the back of the bus.
Hunt-Martin was a member of the 6888th (The Six Triple Eight) Central Postal Directory Battalion within the Women's Army Corp. Composed of 855 women, the 6888th one of a kind - the first African-American female battalion, as well as the only all-women battalion to be deployed overseas.
The battalion sorted and redirected millions of backlogged letters and packages sent to the soldiers. Members were required to maintain accurate information cards for more than 7 million U.S. military, civilian and Red Cross personnel serving in the European Theater of Operation. The 6888th worked around the clock to deliver approximately 65,000 pieces of mail each shift. Often, the letters and packages soldiers received were the only contact they had with their families and, consequently, this communication was critical to keeping their spirits up.
Members of the Women's Army Corps worked in more than 2,000 jobs stateside and in every theater of operation during World War II. By 1945, there were more than 100,000 members and 6,000 female officers in the U.S. Armed Forces. Throughout the war, an estimated 350,000 women served at home and abroad.
Indiana Hunt-Martin was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army Nov. 10, 1945. After the war, Hunt-Martin worked in New York City for the State Department of Labor before being transferred to the Labor Department's Niagara Falls office in 1949 and later the Buffalo office in 1964. She worked for the New York Labor Department for a total of 41 years, before her retirement in 1987.
Service was a part of Hunt-Martin's life following her military duty. She is a member of Erico American Legion Women's Post, the AMVETS 5 Henry Pollard Post, the American Legion Bennett Wells Post 1780 and the Pratt Willert Community Center Seniors Club.
Indiana has one daughter, Janice Martin (a registered nurse), and one grandson, Andre Theobalds, who hold a Master's Degree in electrical and computer engineering. Her family has a strong record of military service. Her brother, William Hunt Jr., served in the Army during WWII; another brother, Samuel Hunt, served in the Army during the Korean War; and a nephew, James Brown Jr., a Marine, served during the Vietnam War.
Higgins said, "Hunt-Martin's pioneering courage contributed to the desegregation of the armed forces, and it has helped plant seeds for the equal treatment of women and African-Americans in the United States."
Shortly after her service, on June 12, 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, prohibiting racial segregation in the armed services.
Now, more than 70 years after she began her service, Private Indiana Hunt-Martin has received the recognition she should have when she returned to her country after World War II.