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WAC Air Controller by Dan V. Smith, 1943.

The Women's Army Corps (WAC) was the women's branch of the US Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps the 14 May 1942, and converted to full status as the WAC in 1943. Its first director was Oveta Culp Hobby, at the time a lawyer, a newspaper research editor and the wife of a prominent Texas politician.[1][2]

About 150,000 American women served in the WAAC and WAC during World War II. They were the first women other than nurses to serve with the Army. While conservative opinion in the leadership of the Army and public opinion generally was initially opposed to women serving in uniform, the shortage of men necessitated a new policy. While most women served stateside, some went to various places around the World, including Europe, North Africa and New Guinea. For an example WACs landed on Normandy Beach just a few weeks after the initial invasion.[3]

Some men feared that if women became soldiers they would no longer serve in a masculine preserve and their masculinity would be devalued.[4] Others feared being sent into combat units if women took over the safe jobs.[5]

General Douglas MacArthur called the WACs "my best soldiers", adding that they worked harder, complained less, and were better disciplined than men.[6] Many generals wanted more of them and proposed to draft women but it was realised that this "would provoke considerable public outcry and Congressional opposition" and the War Department declined to take such a drastic step.[7] Those 150,000 women that did serve released the equivalent of 7 divisions of men for combat. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said that "their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable".[8]

During the same time period, other branches of the U.S. military had similar women's units, including the Navy WAVES, the SPARS of the Coast Guard and the (civil) Women Airforce Service Pilots. The British Armed Forces also had similar units, including the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.

The WAC was disbanded in 1978. Since then, women in the U.S. Army have served in the same units as men, though they have only been allowed in or near combat situations since 1994 when Defense Secretary Les Aspin ordered the removal of "substantial risk of capture" from the list of grounds for excluding women from certain military units.


List of Directors

Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby   (1942 – 1945)
Colonel Westray Battle Boyce   (1945 – 1947)
Colonel Mary A. Hallaren   (1947 – 1953)
Colonel Irene O. Galloway   (1953 – 1957)
Colonel Mary Louise Milligan Rasmuson   (1957 – 1962)
Colonel Emily C. Gorman   (1962 – 1966)
Brigadier General Elizabeth P. Hoisington   (1966 – 1971)
Brigadier General Mildred Inez Caroon Bailey   (1971 – 1975)
Brigadier General Mary E. Clarke   (1975 – 1978)

Louisiana Register of State Lands Ellen Bryan Moore attained the rank of captain in the WACs and once recruited three hundred women at a single appeal to join the force.[9]

Popular culture

See also



WACs operate teletype machines during World War II.
  • Holm, Jeanne (1994). Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution. Presidio Press. ISBN 0891414509.  
  • Meyer, Leisa D. (1992). Creating GI Jane: Sexuality and Power in the Women's Army Corps During World War II. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231101457.  
  • Moore, Brenda L. (1997). To Serve My Country, to Serve My Race: The Story of the Only African-American WACS Stationed Overseas During World War II. New York University Press. ISBN 0814755879.  
  • Putney, Martha S. (1992). When the Nation Was in Need: Blacks in the Women's Army Corps During World War II. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810840170.  
  • O'Neill, William (1993). A Democracy at War: : America's Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674197372.  

External links



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