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Women's Army Corps: History & Definition

Instructor: Cirrelia Thaxton

Cirrelia is an educator who has taught K-12 and has a doctorate in education.

Discover the contributions of the Women's Army Corps in U.S. military history and observe the accomplishments of these women who served their country proudly. Afterwards, take a short quiz to see what you have learned!

WAACs In the Beginning

On May 14, 1942, the U.S. Congress established the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), which had no military status but was assigned to work with the Army. Supplied with special training, food, shelter, uniforms, medical care, and pay, women in WAAC (or WAACs) could volunteer in the Army, but they could not command men. WAACs in charge, such as the first Director, Oveta Culp Hobby, received less pay than their male counterparts. WAACS, who went overseas, had less protection than regular Army soldiers who received greater pay, government-sponsored life insurance, veterans' medical coverage, and death benefits. The main purpose for WAAC was to train women auxiliaries for noncombatant military work so that male soldiers would be freed for combat in the event of war. And WAACs felt that their men would come home sooner due to their auxiliary services.

Definition and Duties of the Women's Army Corps

After much commotion over the seemingly unfair status of WAACs compared to the men, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) signed the bill to appoint females into the U.S. Army on July 3, 1943. With the stroke of his pen, FDR had discontinued WAAC and established the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Being the first females to serve as Army soldiers among males, the women in WAC or the WACs took their rightful places, having both protection and distinction. During the WAAC to WAC conversion period, female soldiers were promoted to their next ranks, unless they had chosen to return to civilian status. For instance, Director Hobby stayed on to achieve the rank of colonel and faithfully led the WAC.

At first, many of the WACs' duties involved mainly office work. Then, many WACs were placed on assignment with the Air Force to command listening posts that monitored U.S. borders. Forty percent of these WACs had traditional jobs, such as typing and filing; while others took on jobs that required specialized skills and training, such as meteorology, crystallography, photography, metallurgy, radio operation, and control tower operation.

A WAC on Duty
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Wartime Efforts

In 1943, WACs served in the U.S. Army during the Second World War along with the Army Nurse Corps. WAC platoons were stationed in India, Italy, Egypt, and Australia. Approximately, 150,000 WACs, holding the positions of dieticians and communications specialists, helped with the WWII effort. Next, with the start of the Korean War in 1950, WACs were needed in Japan and Okinawa. Most of the WACs provided support but did not go into battle zones. A few, however, were sent to give administrative support in Seoul and Pusan, Korea where the men were fighting. By the time of the Vietnam War in 1962, female officers were stationed closer to battlegrounds within range of Saigon. These brave women remained at the army headquarters until the troops were withdrawing from the territory in October 1972. By the war's end, WACs, officers, and enlisted soldiers, were working side by side in Saigon.

WAC Status, Expansion, and Discontinuance

Since its initiation by FDR in 1943, WAC did not recognize the status of the women compared to the men, who had regular status and an Organized Reserve Corps. Then, with the passage of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of June 1948, women attained an enduring place in U.S. military history. Because of this legislation, the WAC became a permanent part of the Regular Army. Acknowledging the vital role that WACs had played in wartime efforts, the Army showed its appreciation. In fact, by 1967, an act of Congress gave WACs the opportunity to achieve the rank of general.

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