A Summary of Controversy on Legal Status of WAAC
After the conversion of the WAAC to the WAC in September 1943, numerous questions continued to arise concerning the Auxiliary Corps' legal status.
WAAC service was eventually counted by the Army toward the points required for demobilization, and in computing accrued leave. Under legislation existing at the time of the conversion period, it was not possible to go further and count it toward longevity pay and the various benefits of the GI bill such as educational rights.1 Congress did recognize the WAAC service in two further ways: it had already granted medical, hospital, and domiciliary care under the auspices of the Veterans' Administration to former Waacs; and in early February 1944 it shortly added legislation to give mustering-out pay to those Waacs who had been discharged for disability.2
Director Hobby shortly proposed that the War Department recommend to Congress that service in the WAAC be counted as military service for all purposes. She stated, "Such legislation would give recognition to the fact that from a practical standpoint members of the WAAC were regarded by the War Department as military personnel." 3
The matter dragged on for some eight months without decision by the War Department. It appeared that Congress might be favorably disposed to such a request, since certain members were experiencing considerable pressure from various constituents including American Legion posts, and several members of Congress asked the War Department to take action in the matter.
In the fall of 1944 one member of Congress actually introduced a bill to provide educational benefits for members of the WAAC and the Merchant Marine. Colonel Hobby favored this plan, but the Legislative and Liaison Division disapproved of Colonel Hobby's proposal and of the legislation, and was upheld by G-1 Division and the Secretary of War.4 Said the Secretary:
The fact remains that the legal status of the members of both groups has been that of
civilians . . . . The proposed grant would establish a precedent for granting other veterans' benefits to the same and other groups of persons whose service was that of civilians. In the present war, such groups include, among others, certain contractors' crews; civilians serving on Army transports; civilian pilots of the Air Transport Command; civilian instructors of the Air Forces: war correspondents; personnel of the Army Specialists Corps, Civil Air Patrol, and the Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots; and certain personnel of the Red Cross. 5
Director Hobby continued to protest this decision, pointing out that there were two differences in the WAAC and all of the cited groups: (1) the Corps had later been brought into the Army as a group, and (2) its members had received, not the larger salaries which supposedly recompensed the Merchant Marine and all others for their civilian status, but the mere $21 a month (later $50) of the Army men. They had also been obliged to live in barracks and under military restrictions not encountered by any other such group. Her proposals were disapproved and, ironically enough, she was blamed by the public for the War Department's action; a former member of the Corps wrote her:
God frowns on such things, especially in a democratic country, and he frowns on those who are in power to change it and don't .... Before you leave office have this cleaned up and your conscience will be cleared.6
Director Hobby was unable to secure approval before her departure, and neither was the second Director, after the end of the war. At this time three bills were introduced in Congress: one to give military benefits to all Waacs, one only to Waacs discharged for disability, and one to count WAAC service toward longevity pay of its members who had joined the WAC.7 For at least the last proposal, the second Director could. marshal strong support, since credit toward longevity pay had been given to Army nurses for their civilian contract service, to female dietitians for their earlier civilian service with the Army, to members of the Officers' Reserve Corps for the time during which they had resigned commissions to serve with the American Volunteer Group in China, and to numerous others including the National Guard and Reserves. However, the War Department again disapproved all proposals, saying:
There is no policy in the War Department more soundly fixed or more historically adhered to than that the Department should oppose the inclusion of civilian groups within the special class of the military group in the matter of eligibility for benefits . . . . As for the citation of the cases of Medical Department female personnel service being included as military service, since a statute of 1802 . . . nurses and surgeons have been closely associated with the military forces in their peculiarly military status . . . .
On only one such matter was legislation enacted. After Congress passed legislation granting re-employment benefits to members of the Merchant Marine, the War Department sponsored and obtained legislation to give the same to former Waacs who had joined the WAG, and who otherwise lacked the re-employment benefits of those who had joined the WAG direct from civilian life. 8
Page Created August 23 2002
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