Development of the WAAC
Foundation of the WAAC
||Before Pearl Harbor was attacked the first legislation regarding
the creation of a special Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) as a military-affiliated
organization was introduced by Congresswomen Edith Nourse Rogers in 1941.
Because of other more pressing issues of the Congress it wasn’t taken into
account within the same year.
At the beginning of 1942 Mrs. Rogers introduced another bill regarding
the same topic. The idea earned a lot of disapproval and prejudices by
Army members as well as civil representatives. Especially her amendment
suggesting a military status earned harsh criticism. It wasn’t conceivable
that women who were not nurses could serve in the Army.
However, the Army actually needed women to free soldiers for combat
duty overseas. So despite all rejections the Congress established the Women
Army Auxiliary Corps on 14 May 1942 by Public Law (PL) No.77-544. The law
passed with a slight majority of 11 votes. The demand of a military status
was too progressive to find consent. Just an auxiliary organization with
the immediate strength of 25,000 women was authorized, with an ultimate
strength of 150,000 when needed.
|The WAAC received its own distinctive auxiliary
grade titles as well as its own WAAC regulations patterned after Army regulations
but taking the special tasks and demands of a women’s organization into
On 15 May 1942 Oveta Culp Hobby became first Director of the WAAC.
Her leadership determined development of the organization during the following
|WAAC grade officers
||Equivalent Army Grade
||WAAC grade enlisted
||Equivalent Army Grade
||Master Sergeant and First Sergeant
||Auxiliary, 1st class
||Private, 1st class
A recruitment brochure from February 1943 states:” It is a corps
of women in military uniform and under military discipline organized for
noncombat service with the Army” … It offers American women, regardless
of race, color or creed, an exceptional opportunity for service.” (Brochure:
“This is our war … Join the WAAC”, LX 93-RPB-2-26-43-500M)
Unfortunately, discrimination still existed. Official orders limited
the number of colored women accepted for the service to a maximum of ten
percent of the total WAC strength. It was feared that too many members
of non-white race could deter the most desired, well educated, white middle-class
women to join the WAC. As in the Army, personnel of non-white races usually
trained and served in segregated units. Equality was a difficult process
and the Army was afraid of creating racial conflicts if too progressive.
At least, minority women had better chances of good payment and promotion
than in civil life. However, due to the poorer social background with less
good education, colored members of the WAC were more often assigned to
unattraktiv monotonous jobs or hard work.
Military Army Status
||During December 1942 the first WAAC members
rendered overseas duties in North Africa within Eisenhower’s theatre headquarters.
Next to others, this new special situation caused consideration to integrate
the Women’s Corps into the Army. So far women serving abroad weren’t treated
like Army servicemen. They didn’t get overseas payment nor could they receive
government life insurance. Also these women had no protection if they became
ill, wounded or captured.
Therefore, in January 1943, a law was introduced and approved on
14 February to place WAAC personnel completely under Army jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, members of Congress had objections and several questions
about details of conversion produced six months of debate and compromises.
On 3 July 1943 the WAC bill was signed into law (Public Law 78-110). It
established the Women’s Army Corps as integral part of the Army of the
United States and became effective on 1 September 1943.
|The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was transformed into the Women’s
Army Corps. With full military status the auxiliary grade titles were deleted
and replaced by common Army ranks. WAAC director Oveta Culp Hobby became
a commissioned colonel of the Army on the United States on 5 July 1943.
Now WACs obtained the same pay, allowance, benefits and privileges as Army
men. In contrast, previous WAAC personnel sometimes received only about
half as much pay as an Army member doing an equivalent job in the first
month after the foundation of the WAAC.
||The integration of the women’s unit necessitated special additions
to Army regulations regarding WAC service. For example. it determined
a clear limitation to noncombat duties only. To avoid high positioned women
in the Army it was prescribed that the director of the WAC could not be
promoted above the grade of colonel, other WAC officers could not promoted
above lieutenant colonel and enlisted could not promoted above master sergeant.
It was claimed that higher positions would require combat training and
experience which men were only supposed to receive. Additionally, WAC officers
were only allowed to command WAC units only.
These regulations were designed to prevent a man in the Army from
having to follow orders of a woman – a distasteful scenario for men of
"Winnie the WAC" cartoons were published weekly
in Camp newspapers (later compiled together in a book shown above). "Winnie"
was very popular with soldiers and WAC members. The cartoon kidded male
fears and prejudices against women in service as well as humorously pointing
out special female experiences with their service life.
Strength of the WAAC/WAC
||When the WAAC was founded President
Roosevelt set 25,000 members as the goal to achieve by 30 June 1943. This
number was already topped on November 1942. In view of this recruiting
success and the confirmed esteem of the work provided by the WAAC, the
full strength of 150,000 was authorized as goal for July 1943.
Recruiting standards were lowered despite disapproval of Director
Hobby in January 1943 to speed up the number of recruitments. Only three
months later the consequences were obvious because a high number of unskilled
and untrainable women entered the WAC. So Director Hobby was delegated
to restore higher standards in the following months.
In June 1943 approximately 60,000 women belonged to the WAC. This
was less than half of the envisioned total strength of 150,000.
There were causes for reduced recruitments apart from the reintroduction
of the higher recruitment standards. The Women’s Army Corps had to compete
with other women’s military organizations of the Navy, Coast Guard and
Marines as well as with civilian home industries that also needed replacements
for drafted male staff.
|The conversion to military status caused
further personnel losses. Each woman had to reenlist if she wanted to stay
in the service with the WAC. Many women who were dissatisfied with their
WAAC life took the chance to get out. Common reasons were problems with
assignments, the discipline or the long work day, homesickness and restricted
possibilities to meet suitable men.
Additionally a dirty slander campaign that started in spring 1943
hurt the reputation of the WAC. Obscene jokes, gossip and rumors about
doubtful moral character and behavior, as well as open hostile attitude
of male soldiers and officers, aggravated duties for the WAC. Civilian
circles took over and spread the rumors in abundance. Comparatively harmless
was a nickname like “wacks”. (How to become a lady in uniform, p.16).
However, it was not long until the WAC proved that it was not just
an extravagant extra but valuable assistance that no one wanted to miss
Not only WAC members were target of imputed immoral behavior
- other women in service like the Navy WAVES had to face jokes and gossip
Strength of the WAAC/WAC
(Source: Strength of the Army Reports (STM-30) June 1942-1959)
|End of Month
The length of service for the WAC was limited to the duration of
war plus a period not longer than 6 months afterwards. Then the Women’s
Army Corps was planned to be totally demobilized. But in May 1945 the first
endeavors were made to give women reserve status. After the end of
the war, the occupation forces faced many difficulties and needed to keep
their specialists, including WAC members. Other Allied governments already
planned to continue their women’s corps in postwar times. Intense debates
and controversies within the Army, as well as within Congress, followed
with compromises. Among the questions were: should the WAC be discontinued
or included in the Organized Reserve Corps, or even in the Regular Army.
Should only officers, or also some specialists or even all enlisted WAC
personnel have the option to be included in the postwar Army or a Reserve
Army Chief of Staff Eisenhower had excellent experiences as a commanding
general with the WAC overseas and supported the idea of a retention of
the Women’s Army Corps. On 5 February 1946, he directed the Army Personnel
Office to seek postwar introduction of women into the Regular Army and
the Reserve. But this process involved countless intense discussions filled
with prejudices and disapproval. Finally, in July 1948, the WAC actually
became an integral part of the permanent Army establishment and also got
reserve status. Nevertheless, servicewomen never received status equal
to that accorded to servicemen. Their number, promotion possibilities and
command authorities were still restricted and training and duty limited
to noncombat activities.
Col. Mary Hallaren (WAC Director, 1947-1953) died Feb. 13, 2005
read newspaper article (March 4, 2005 Washington