Saturday, February 14, 2015

WACs SERVE IN WORLD WAR II

ANNE GREENE here:

World War II initiated vast economic and social changes, and altered the role of women in American society.

Over 150,000 American women served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War 11. WACs were the first women other than nurses to serve in the United States Army. Both the Army and the American public initially had difficulty accepting the concept of women in uniform. However, military leaders, faced with fighting a two-front war and supplying men for that war, realized women were desperately needed. Women seized the opportunity to make a major contribution to the national war effort.




In the beginning WACs were called WAACs, Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. The WAAC bill permitted women to serve overseas, but failed to provide them with the overseas pay, government life insurance, veterans medical coverage, and death benefits granted Regular Army soldiers. If WAACs were captured, they had no protection under existing international agreements covering prisoners of war.

The day the bill became law, Oveta Culp Hobby was appointed Director of the WAAC. Oveta Culp Hobby believed strongly in the idea behind the Corps. Every woman enlisted would be trained in a noncombatant military job and "free a man for combat." Hobby explained, "The gaps women will fill are those noncombatant jobs where women's hands and women's hearts fit naturally. WAACs will do the same type of work which women do in civilian life. They will bear the same relation to men of the Army that they bear to the men of the civilian organizations in which they work." WAACs were to help the Army win the war, just as women had always helped men achieve success.

On 20 July the first officer candidate training class of 440 women started a six-week course at Fort Des Moines. The average officer candidate was 25 years old, had attended college, and worked as an office administrator, executive secretary, or teacher. One out of every five enlisted because a male member of her family was in the armed forces and she wanted to help him get home sooner. Several were combat widows of Pearl Harbor and Bataan. One woman enlisted because her son, of fighting age, had been injured in an automobile accident and was unable to serve. Another joined because there were no men of fighting age in her family. All of the women desired to aid their country in time of need by "releasing a man for combat duty."

Women were assigned as weather observers and forecasters, cryptographers, radio operators and repairmen, sheet metal
workers, parachute riggers, link trainer instructors, bombsight maintenance specialists, aerial photograph analysts, and control tower operators. Over 1,000 WAACs ran the statistical control tabulating machines (the precursors of modern-day computers).  By January 1945 only 50 percent of AAF WACs held traditional assignments such as file clerk, typist, and stenographer.

Some WACS computed the velocity of bullets, measured bomb fragments, mixed gunpowder, and loaded shells. Others worked as draftsmen, mechanics, and electricians.

Many processed men for assignment overseas, handling personnel files and issuing weapons. In the words of one WAAC, "Soldiers come in here unarmed and leave with a gun. It gives me a pretty good feeling." WAACs served as boat dispatchers and classification specialists.

Near the end of 1944, women replaced men as radio operators on U.S. Army hospital ships. Female secretaries and clerical workers were assigned to hospital ships soon after.

WAACs assigned to the Chemical Warfare Service worked in laboratories as glass blowers and made test tubes for the Army's chemical laboratories. Others field tested equipment such as walkie-talkies and surveying and meteorology instruments.

Over 1,200 WAACs worked as telephone switchboard operators, radio operators, telegraph operators, cryptologists, and photograph and map analysts.

WAACs were used as laboratory, surgical, X-ray, and dental technicians freeing Army nurses for other duties.

WACs served in North Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe, the Southwest Pacific, China, India, Burma, and the Middle East. They coveted overseas assignments, even though the majority consisted of the clerical and communications jobs. Only the most highly qualified women received overseas assignments.

The first WAAC unit overseas reported on 27 January 1943 to General Eisenhower's headquarters in Algiers. They served as postal workers, clerks, typists, and switchboard operators. Nightly bombings and antiaircraft fire made sleep difficult, but the women acclimated. A WAAC signal company arrived in November to take jobs as high-speed radio operators, tele-typists, cryptographic code clerks, and tape cutters in radio rooms.

The American press reported favorably on the WAAC, sympathetic to their adjustments to military life and the job and travel opportunities for those who enlisted.

Unfortunately, a variety of social factors combined to produce a negative public image of the female soldier. Eighty four percent of letters home from enlisted men contained criticism of female soldiers.

Anti-WAAC feelings originated with enlisted soldiers who did not want to be "freed" for combat. The mothers, wives, sisters, and fiancées of these men were also not anxious to see them sent into combat. They blamed the WAACs and believed the worst rumors about them and repeated such gossip to their friends and neighbors. Thus WACs got a bad reputation.

Many of these soldiers had never seen a WAAC. But they were away from home and facing dangers. Many kept up their spirits by imagining their return to family and community. Which they wanted unchanged! Women in the military represented change.

Rumors said ninety percent of WAACs were prostitutes and forty percent were pregnant.  

Americans of the 1940s found the concept of women in uniform difficult to accept. They couldn’t believe the highly skilled office jobs which the WACs held, because such positions carried significant responsibility and people doubted women could handle such jobs.

Women in the Army broke the stereotypes which restricted them, moving into positions outside traditional roles. Overcoming slander and conservative reaction by many Americans, women contributed to the war effort. The 1943 transition from WAAC status to WAC recognized their valuable service.




General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Allied Commander, praised the WACs calling them “my best soldiers.” He alleged they worked harder than men, complained less and were better disciplined. . .he would take any number of the WACs the War Department would give him in any future command he might ever have.
Did any female member of your family serve during World War II? Please leave a comment and Anne will love visiting with you.



ANNE GREENE delights in writing about wounded heroes and gutsy heroines. ANGEL WITH STEEL WINGS, Anne’s WWII WASP romance about a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot, releases soon. Look for it on Amazon. Anne’s highest hope is that her stories transport the reader to awesome new worlds and touch hearts to seek a deeper spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus. Anne makes her home in McKinney, Texas. She loves to talk with her readers. Buy Anne’s books at http://www.Amazon.com. Talk with Anne on twitter at @TheAnneGreene. View Anne’s books, travel pictures and art work at http://www.AnneGreeneAuthor.com.

Learn more about Anne as well as get tips on writing award-winning books at http://www.anneswritingupdates.blogspot.com.











15 comments:

  1. Great post! This subject has interested me ever since I visited the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington Cemetery.

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    1. Yes. These fascinating women opened a new world for women. I admire them.

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  2. I was a young girl during WWII. Very impressionable and fascinated with women in the Armed Forces. I was a tomboy from the beginning and dreamed of one day being a WAAC or a WAVE. Didn't consider WASP because I was little uncertain about flying, but the others my sister and a few friends pretended all the time. My father almost had a stroke when I told him I was going to grow and join the Army. He had the exact negative attitude as you described. My mother's cousins were in service and they spoke horribly about the women who served. It made me so mad as an eight year old that I wouldn't speak to them when we had family events. I even went into nurses training in hopes of either joining the service or becoming a missionary. Neither happened, but I'll never forget those days of dreaming and pretending. Thanks for post, Anne. I'm always fascinated with everything about WWII because it was the major event of my childhood.,

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    1. Hi Martha, years later I too wanted to join the WACs or WAVES. My Dad wouldn't let me stating the women were sluts. Horrible how their names and service were disgraced by disgruntled men.

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  3. My aunt served in the WAVES. She was so small that she was put to work in an airplane factory where she could reach areas the men couldn't, because of her size. My mom was a "Rosie the Riveter" and was honored for her service a few years ago. I also had four male members of my family serve, including my dad, who was involved in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge.

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    1. Rebecca, your family is really patriotic! I thank them all for serving.

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  4. Oh, Rebecca, what a legacy. My dad was classified 4-F because of a birth defect in his leg, but Mother had cousins who served and one came home one minus a leg. My uncle married a young woman he met while stationed in Indiana, and I remember their wedding. He shipped off, but came home safe and sound in 1945. Two of mother's cousins brought home brides, one from England, the other from Italy.

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    1. So interesting! especially the war brides. I wonder, did the marriages last???

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    2. Ironic, but the marriages from Italy and England lasted until death, but the one here in the states ended after 15 years or so. I have nine cousins from that union. Maybe they had too many children too quick.

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  5. Thanks for your post, Rebecca. It was very informative. On Veterans Day, it's been only the men who stand. Last year our pastor pressed the issue and two women finally stood. They said they served in WWII, but didn't say anything more. Perhaps at the next women meeting they will be amiable to talk about their experiences. Appreciate you.

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    1. Hi Linda, Perhaps these were women whose names where tarnished because of the bad report jealous men made.

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  6. No one in our family was a WAC but a nurse I worked with was a WAC and marches in the annual parade here in San Diego during military week. Thanks for your interesting post about all the noncombatant things that they did to advance the effectiveness of the male soldiers. Sm. wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. In my soon to be released WWII book, Angel With Steel Wings, the WASPs did everything but fly in combat. There were a number killed in the line of duty. Of all the branches of service, I found the WASPs most interesting.

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  7. The mother who enlisted in place of her son was courageous. Getting through training camp could not have been easy, especially if most other women were young enough to be her daughters.

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