September-October 1942: Beginnings of Field Duties
Among the more important officer assignments were those of the eighteen carefully selected members of the first graduating class who arrived in WAAC Headquarters on 17 September 1942. They reported with a formality that delighted Regular Army staff members, having been particularly trained by Colonel Faith in how to knock, enter, and salute.1 Third Officer proving unwieldy for direct address, the use of Lieutenant and Ma'am instead of Sir, as WAVES officers were addressed-was adopted.2
For their own guidance, the Director and her advisers decided that WAAC Headquarters should be irreproachably military, with salutes rendered when entering the office of a superior, and with a command-type organization wherein no junior member of one section conferred with a junior member of another except through their respective Army section chiefs. The Director observed, "War Department officials will have to get used to the idea of treating Waacs as officers rather than as women."
The impeccably formal behavior of the Waacs did cause comment, not to say consternation, in War Department offices; it also was to impose considerable handicaps on staff operation, which did not reach maximum efficiency for many months, until the WAAC was part of the Army and could stop being military. The very junior WAAC members reported that few of them ever at this time saw the Director or had opportunity to influence Army policy. However, they grasped their assignments with rapidity and covered the scheduled three-month indoctrination course in three weeks.
Prominent among the eighteen members were Third Officers Helen H. Woods and Marjorie D. Fling, the former civilian assistants, who were now- assigned, respectively, to Control Division and to Office Management. 'third Officer Emily E. Davis, a former insurance company employee, was assigned to a position in the Executive Office. An especial point was made of securing a Negro Waac, Third Officer Harriet West, as one of those assigned to Personnel Division, in order that minority needs might not be overlooked in planning. Other offices receiving Waacs included Public Relations, Supply, and Plans and Training.
Possibly the most important assignment
WAAC OFFICERS ASSIGNED FOR DUTY IN WASHINGTON sign the register, above, and receive explanation of Tables of Organization in Temporary M Building, below.
was that of the Director's first WAAC aide, Third Officer Betty Bandel, formerly a reporter, music and drama critic, and woman's page editor for an Arizona newspaper. Her duties at once tended to expand beyond those of aide, for which in her own opinion she was the world's least qualified. She recalled later a moment in a London hotel when "the Director came to herself to find that she was sewing a button on my uniform; she pointed a finger at me and screamed. 'You're fired!' " Lieutenant Bandel came to be employed chiefly as a traveling deputy; on visits to field stations the two officers developed tactics whereby, if the Director was hopelessly immobilized by local dignitaries, the aide unobtrusively detached herself and explored the enlisted women's viewpoints.
New Graduating Classes
Meanwhile, a steady stream of new members, officer and enrolled, graduated weekly at Fort Des Moines. Most initial assignments were naturally to the training center. Enrolled women were shortly doing most of Fort Des Moines' office work, driving its vehicles, and staffing its messes. There was even a Waac bugler, and a band was being organized. WAAC officers at once took over much of the instruction: a former aircraft spotter taught the course in Identification of Enemy Aircraft; home economics teachers revised the mess management courses; a graduate chemist taught the course in Defense Against Chemical Attack. WAAC officers were also assigned to staff the incoming training companies, with the aid of Army "tactical advisers." No major responsibilities were turned over to women, but they were assigned as understudies to various section chiefs.
During these weeks Colonel Faith reported himself as harassed by all the ills known to similar growing institutions, and a few previously unknown. With thousands of new students scattered through officer candidate school, basic training, administrative school, motor transport school, and cooks and bakers school, the training center was still lacking in training manuals, film strips, balopticons; photographic equipment, and instructional materials of all kinds. For lack of typewriters, the administrative school could not train typists in Army methods; it was to be almost a year before a typing school could be opened. The motor transport school, unable to obtain vehicles, graduated women drivers who had driven an Army vehicle only once, and built its own demonstration engines from junk salvaged from nearby Army posts. The burden of cutting orders for hundreds of graduates was a heavy one; but teletypewriter service to Washington was not to be obtainable for eight months.
Colonel Faith's increasingly urgent reports of these matters were necessarily referred to the Services of Supply's Military Training Division, which delayed action while making further inquiry into the basis of his estimates and whether he had properly staggered schedules in order to reduce requirements.3
The most alarming shortage, however, was that of winter uniforms. For reasons unknown to the training center, The
Quartermaster General's specified shipment schedules were not being met. The supply of summer uniforms became erratic, while almost no winter clothing of any sort-underwear, coats, or uniforms had been received. The Iowa weather proved un-co-operative, and an unseasonable cold spell struck in September, blanketing Fort Des Moines in snow. Temperatures stood near the freezing mark inside the newly constructed barracks and classrooms, known informally as Boomtown, where heating equipment had not yet been installed.
Within a few days the training center was plunged into a crisis of health-and, it was feared, of public relations-as respiratory disorders swept the student body. Hospitals filled suddenly, while continued instruction was made difficult by coughing and sneezing in the unheated classrooms.
At this point Director Hobby herself hastened to the training center. Putting on the summer raincoat the women were wearing, she immediately caught a bad cold, and, more practically, telephoned to higher headquarters in Washington in a manner that evoked a promise to expedite clothing shipments without delay. She also took the precaution of demanding several thousand enlisted men's overcoats from a neighboring station's surplus stock, and these were on their way before nightfall. They were to be worn all winter while action was being expedited in Washington.4
The men's overcoats proved excellent substitutes not only for WAAC coats but also for mittens and leggings, since they covered hands and feet and trailed on the ground. Unfortunately, Waacs found them so amusing in appearance that they could not forbear taking pictures, which they sent indiscriminately to friends and relatives, to the dismay of recruiters.
Close behind the Director came the Deputy Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Joseph T McNarney, who verified her comments and immediately wrote to the Services of Supply: "Although the weather was cold, the Waacs were still wearing summer uniforms. They had been issued enlisted men's coats as an expedient. Please look into the matter of expediting winter uniforms." 5 Meanwhile, a brief Indian summer intervened to make summer uniforms again adequate.
In spite of supply difficulties, officers who inspected the training center in late September and early October reported that an excellent state of training had been attained. The WAAC graduates, both officer and enrolled, won unanimous praise. What seemed most remarkable to reviewing officers was the somewhat unremarkable fact that women could march and drill, a sight which melted the sternest critics. WAAC Headquarters' superior, General Grunert, Chief of Administrative Services, reported upon his return from Des Moines in early October:
I was received at the entrance to the post by the band and an escort of honor
which I complimented on its smart appearance, correct procedure, and excellent
marching . . . . I was particularly impressed by the uniform smart appearance of
all personnel, with the instructional setup, with the orderliness and
arrangement of quarters, and with the punctilious saluting . . . . A late
afternoon review was a gratifying sight to behold. The formations, evolutions,
marching, and saluting compared favorably with the best I have seen anywhere. .
I feel assured that the WAAC is off to an excellent start and that the commands re-
ceiving WAAC units will be agreeably surprised to find how much these units can contribute to the war effort. 6
Also, in spite of the inconveniences of supply and climate, the women's morale remained high. Psychiatrists later remarked that the women seemed pleased with the idea that they were approximating the hardships of Army men. Whatever the cause, the trainees joked through their sniffles, laughed at their own appearance, and felt great pride in their new status and enthusiasm for the Corps' future. At night, wrapped in blankets, they sat on the floor in freeing unfurnished dayrooms to sing Army songs; including one written by a member of an early class which soon swept the training center:
All you fighting men, keep on fighting to win,
For the WAAC is in back of you;
If a plane you fly, keep it flying high
For the WAAC is in back of you.
Spread the news around that we're victory bound,
And our hearts we pledge anew
That our flag shall wave o'er the home of the brave,
And the WAAC is in back of you. 7
The character and ability of the incoming recruits also continued to receive approval. By the end of September there were more than 3,000 Waacs at Des Moines, including 792 officers, with more arriving daily. Some 3,300 more had also been enrolled but could not yet be called to active duty for lack of training space.8 The average ability of these recruits remained surprisingly higher than that of the Army or the civilian population. In the month of September, some 60 percent were found to be in the first two AGCT groups, I and II, having scores ordinarily required only of officers, and only 0.8 percent were in the fifth or lowest group.9 Furthermore, every recruit possessed a civilian skill expected to be readily useful to the Army.
The Second WAAC Training Center
It had been known since summer that a second WAAC training center would be required to meet the expansion program directed by the General Staff. The only site offered the WAAC was that of Daytona Beach, Florida, where it was proposed to train women in leased city buildings, rather than to dispossess the occupants of any established military post. It was also believed that the climate would prevent suffering from the current lack of winter clothing for women.
However, soon after Colonel Faith first inspected the proposed facilities, Director Hobby appealed to the Services of Supply for any other location, stating that a military atmosphere and reasonable discipline could not be inculcated at any such establishment. The town itself was a resort area, with streets perpetually crowded with sail-
ors, soldiers, and coastguardsmen from nearby military stations. For barracks, it was proposed to house the Waac trainees in a number of scattered hotels and apartment houses, ranging in capacity from 37 to 600, as well as auto courts, inns, and villas; and a 6,000-woman tent camp was to be built in a cantonment area. For classrooms there were to be provided the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, a golf course, several garages and storerooms, the city auditorium, the Fifth Avenue Gown Shop, a theater, and other business houses. There were no recreation facilities other than the resort nightspots plentifully sprinkled among the buildings to be leased. 10
In her appeal to the Services of Supply, Director Hobby asked instead for any regular Army post, preferably part of Fort Benjamin Harrison, which currently had vacant space. 11 This request was refused by the Services of Supply, the various facilities at Daytona were leased by the Army, and Colonel Faith was ordered to divide his staff and to activate the Second WAAC Training Center on 10 October, with recruits to arrive 1 December.
Both Army and WAAC cadre at Des Moines were divided as equally as possible, and efforts were made to duplicate courses of study, instructional materials, and the operation of staff sections. Over his written protest, Colonel Faith was assigned as commandant of the Second WAAC training Center, with the promise that he could return to Des Moines in six months. A member of the Des Moines staff was promoted to be commandant at the First WAAC Training Center, but lasted only a few days after planning a series of measures considered discriminatory by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. A third commandant was then selected-Col. John Hoag, Field Artillery, who was to remain at the First and Fifth WAAC Training Centers for the next seven months. 12
Aircraft Warning Service Units
The first enrolled women to reach the field were those of the Aircraft Warning Service, to which shipment of units began in early September. These units went out complete with officers and formally activated under Tables of Organization for operations and filter companies.13 Within less than two months, nine operations companies and eighteen filter companies were in the field, located at First Fighter Command stations along the east coast -New York, Norfolk, Boston, Philadelphia, Portland, Albany, Harrisburg, Baltimore, Syracuse, Wilmington, Charleston, Jacksonville, and Miami. 14
In preparing these units for the field, there became apparent in rapid succession the unexpected problems that these early WAAC field units were to face. Although a number of the units went to northern and eastern stations where winter clothing was already required for men, winter uniforms were not available at the training center, and the first units went
out in summer khaki. By October the supply of even this was exhausted, and whole units trained, graduated, and crossed the country by public carrier, costumed only in the short seersucker exercise dresses and bloomers. The long-curious citizens who lined the streets to see a Waac in uniform were reportedly thrown into a state which wavered between panic and hilarity. The problem soon became one of health as well as publicity, as Waacs in short-sleeved seersucker marched to work through the October weather of Maine and Massachusetts. 15
It had been planned to have WAAC regional directors on hand to complete advance arrangements for the women, but this had not been possible because of the Services of Supply's continued delay in publishing authorization for these positions. In the total absence of published Army Regulations on the subject, the Air Forces' station commanders fended for the women as best they could in the unfamiliar matters of auxiliary supply, finance, and discipline. Luckily, few discharges, promotions, or other personnel actions were yet required. It was supposedly understood that the companies were assigned to the Services of Supply and attached to the Air Forces for duty; it became clear at any rate that the Air Forces were firmly attached to the units.
The women were assigned at once, a few as clerical help in the wing headquarters offices, but the majority to staff the filter boards and operations censers on which they had worked before enlistment. Here they received telephone calls from civilian spotters as to aircraft sighted, plotted the information on the boards, and traced the path of every aircraft to cross the area, for the benefit of liaison officers from the various services who identified them or sent up interceptors. Some filter boards had as many as fifteen or twenty positions, each filled by a woman wearing headphones and enduring endless boredom while waiting for the scarce telephone calls. Company commanders argued ceaselessly to keep the women assured of the importance of the work, since an unfilled position meant an uncovered area of several square miles into which an enemy plane might penetrate before detection.
The Air Forces soon reported that the boards and centers showed a marked increase in efficiency when freed from reliance upon the uncertain attendance of part-time volunteers. It also appeared that the use of Waacs might be more efficient than the use of soldiers in duties of such a monotonous, sedentary nature. Therefore, the Air Forces announced that Waacs would be requested to staff literally hundreds more Aircraft Warning Service stations to be established on both coasts and eventually inland. Other units were requested for regular air bases, and a new type of company, the WAAC Headquarters Company, AAF, was devised to fit the reed. After less than three months' experience with the employment of Waacs, the Air Forces in November approached WAAC Headquarters with a discussion of the possibility of obtaining 540,000 more and of giving them full Army status. 16
In spite of their efficiency; the units encountered a series of difficulties which em-
FILTER BOARD, MITCHEL FIELD, NEW YORK. The Waacs, tearing headphones, plotted the path of every aircraft that was called in by civilian aircraft spotters.
phasized the need for regional directors to get to the field. Problems began when the Air Forces found themselves unable to recruit sufficient local women to fill the enlisted vacancies, although officers had been easily obtainable. To fill out the units, WAAC Headquarters was obliged to divert to the Aircraft Warning Service many women who had been recruited elsewhere for general service, although such women were seldom very happy about loss of the expected work on a military post. Since :these nonlocal recruits could not live at home; government quarters had to be hastily provided. No sooner was this action under way than it was found that Army Regulations forbade any member of a unit to live at home if government quarters were provided. Many local women with husbands and young children had been enlisted on the promise of being able to live at home; the only solution in such cases was to offer immediate honorable discharge, which a number of newly trained women accepted. 17 Enlistment regulations were amended to prevent the acceptance of any more women with dependent children.
Since many of these centers were located in the poorer areas of large cities, the
leased hotels sometimes proved to be, in the best phrasing of the matter, third-rate. Women living in such quarters were not only frequently insulted and accosted, but were at times endangered by drunken invaders who pounded on hotel doors or crawled up fire escapes and into windows. At several stations the surrounding slum areas were so dangerous that women were advised not to leave their quarters except in groups. The effect of such housing upon the women themselves was not serious, since they proved far from helpless to meet their own problems. One commander later recalled with pleasure, "'When a man climbed the fire escape at the ---hotel, he was bopped by a Waac at the top."
The effect upon civilian opinion was a different matter; combined with the appearance of the women's clothing, it appeared sufficient to bring the whole WAAC recruiting program to a halt in the cities concerned. Director Hobby eventually besought the Engineers to avoid acquiring WAAC housing previously used for "questionable purposes." 18 In a few cities, hotel accommodations were excellent. In Philadelphia, one of the best hotels was secured for WAAC housing, but was lost at once to the WAVES, since the Navy was able to pay more per enlisted person.19
At all stations proper food for the women was frequently lacking. since members had been expected to eat at home and units contained no mess personnel. On moving to government quarters, women were therefore given the Army ration allowance of about $1.25 a day-a sum that might have been adequate in some localities, but was found by those stationed in large cities to be scarcely enough to purchase one nutritious meal in city restaurants. 20
The impact of enlisted men's opinion was another problem that had not been
fully anticipated. One company commander reported:
My women came of good local families, and as civilian volunteers had all been respectfully treated . . . now every man assumed that their uniform gave him the right to insult them. They were actually afraid to ride up in the elevators with the enlisted men because of the language they heard . . . . I went to the commanding officer but he didn't do anything; I heard that the men's actions were only reflections of his private remarks to his staff. 21
Also, because of the Air Forces' inability to recruit women to staff the stations completely, it was necessary temporarily to retain part of the volunteer civilian workers. Many of these, although for various reasons not desiring to enlist, wished to take part in some form of patriotic activity, and were not pleased at the prospect of being eventually ousted by Waacs. Prominent women in several communities caused Congressional pressure to be placed upon the Air Forces to withdraw the Waacs. Where working groups were mixed, it quickly became clear that Waacs were in no position to compete with "free" labor which could quit at any time. Waacs were almost invariably given the
graveyard shift, or the least desirable hours, while supervisory positions usually went to civilians and the least interesting work to the Waacs. A few civilian women were as insulting in their remarks as had been the enlisted men.
Under the circumstances, it was considered remarkable that few applications for discharge were received. The women remained in generally high spirits, although expressing considerable indignation against a vague WAAC Headquarters, which they regarded as all-powerful, because of the absence of published regulations, regional directors; necessary supplies, and attention to other obvious needs.
Appeals for Publication of Command Channels
The same months of September and October had seen a final struggle waged in WAAC Headquarters to get WAAC command channels published and WAAC regional directors sent out. In the months since the passage of the WAAC bill in May, the Services of Supply had repeatedly refused to take any such action. Its reasons for this stand were never to be made entirely clear. Only what staff members called "mysterious silence" had met their repeated attempts, throughout the summer, to clarify the power and responsibilities of WAAC Headquarters.
The Director's appeals had begun in July, even before the first Waacs had reached Des Moines. At this time she first began to be apprehensive about the forthcoming winter clothing shortage, as a result of the action of Requirements Division, Services of Supply, in refusing to approve signing of contracts for winter clothing. Although General Marshall himself had personally approved every item on the list, the Services of Supply took issue with some of his decisions. Appeals from both the Director and The Quartermaster General failed to get approval of contracts until winter was at hand and the September supply scandal unavoidable.
The Director believed this problem to be only one facet of the larger issue: the need for publication of some directive on the powers of her office and its relation to other Services of Supply staff sections. A parallel problem that she cited was the action of The Surgeon General in calling a meeting of civilian doctors, at which the WAAC was not represented, which formulated and came close to announcing to the public a plan for issuance of prophylactics and contraceptives to the women to be enlisted. This plan was suppressed only when Mrs. Hobby went directly to the Deputy Chief of Staff, General McNarney.
In August, after a series of such incidents, the Director appealed in writing to General Marshall to clarify her responsibility in relation to Services of Supply offices, alleging that the current lack of co-ordination was resulting in "serious jeopardy of the military and civilian acceptance of the whole idea of the Corps." 22 She recommended that:
(a) all papers dealing directly and specifically with WAAC matters be routed
through the Director WAAC for comment or concurrence.
(b) . . . clarification [be made as to final authority for decision in cases of non-concurrence . . .
(c) no meeting of civilian agencies or individuals be called . . . without prior approval of the Director.23
General Marshall did not receive the appeal addressed to him. The Services of
Supply returned it to Director Hobby in August with the statement that there would be no change in "established practice." 24
The same reception was given to the Director's request that the Services of Supply approve publication of the WAAC command system with its authorization for regional directors. The necessary circular was prepared by WAAC Headquarters and forwarded for approval in midsummer, but no publication resulted. It was rumored that the Services of Supply was not in accord with either the circular or the WAAC Regulations on which it was based; although previously these had been approved by General Marshall. In August, without notice to WAAC Headquarters, the Services of Supply published a directive that contradicted these regulations. In a section of its new Organization Manual, it gave the commanding generals of service commands the authority, vested in the Director by WAAC Regulations, to transfer and assign WAAC personnel; this action could be taken without reference to WAAC Headquarters. The Manual also, without advance notice, removed the training center at Des Moines from under the Director's command and placed it under the Seventh Service Command.
This publication thoroughly puzzled the Director's staff, since by removing command from the Director it contradicted, but did not rescind; Circular 169 and WAAC Regulations. It came as a surprise to the Air Forces and Signal Corps, who liked SOS control even less than the system of command by WAAC regional directors. The Director's staff appealed to General Grunert for clarification, but was informed only that the Manual meant what it said.25
Director Hobby therefore requested her Army staff officers to explain the situation to her and to formulate some plan of operation that would comply with all directives. The senior staff member, Colonel William Pearson, had just been removed from the office after a dispute with The Adjutant General over the custody of WAAC files, which were also removed from the office, over its protests.26 The new Executive, Colonel Tasker, stated that he was unable to devise any military method of reconciling the directives, since it appeared impossible for the Director to exercise those remaining portions of her command responsibility concerning discipline, discharge, and promotion while lacking that portion concerning assignment and transfer. Even to locate the women, if they were transferred by other agencies, it would be necessary to go through some four echelons to reach post headquarters companies and possibly seven to reach certain Air Forces units. The time factor rendered this system impossible, since evidently more than a month would elapse before any action could be secured through so many echelons. On the other hand, unless the cases were sent to WAAC Headquarters, it would never be possible to expand the Tentative Regulations, as had been intended, on the basis of experience.
The staff therefore informed the Direc-
tor that in coping with current emergencies it was still "violating all the above" by writing and telephoning directly to Colonel Faith. Staff members warned her that she was now in the position, feared since passage of the Rogers bill, of bearing legal responsibility without authority; the Services of Supply had evidently removed not only policy but command powers, while leaving her legally designated as the women's commander.27
New Expansion Plan
The WAAC staffs alarm over the Director's position was increased by the fact that, meanwhile, a series of directives from the General Staff had made the June expansion plans obsolete and posed problems of administration that would have been difficult to solve under even the clearest command system.
The first such directive called for overseas shipment. The Director had intended that no units be sent overseas for "the experimental period of a year," since supply and supervision would be proportionately more difficult overseas.28 However, in August word was received from Europe that General Marshall, on tour, had promised an allotment of Waacs to General Eisenhower. The Joint Chiefs of Staff informed the Director briefly that "Eisenhower's headquarters is badly in need of clerical help and Waacs seem to be the best answer." 29 The Director at once dispatched Major Macy to England to discover how WAAC supply and its vague administration could be stretched so far. As the first few classes graduated at Des Moines, the training center was charged with organizing and equipping two overseas units, and much of the scarce winter equipment so far received was held for their use in case the momentarily expected shipment call should come from the General Staff. The Director was informed that dozens more overseas units would be wanted shortly. 30
The problem of expansion overseas paled into insignificance when, on 15 September 1942; G-3 Division dropped a veritable blockbuster on WAAC Headquarters-a directive chat immediate steps be taken to plan for an expansion of the Corps to a strength of well over a million members.
As the Chief of Staff had predicted a year earlier, the nation was now in the grip of a manpower shortage. Industry had already turned to womanpower as a supplement; in one aircraft company the employment of women had increased by 2,575 percent.31 Not to be left behind in the developing competition, G-3 Division stated
1. Tentative mobilization plans projected through 1946 indicate a necessity for a materially increased use of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in the overall structure of the Army.
2. The widespread character of current and projected operations is well known. One major and very serious effect of such a scheme of operations has been to force the design of an Army in which the ratio of personnel in service and overhead installations to personnel in combat units is undesirably high. As the Army further increases in size, it is evident that unless this ratio is reduced, and unless sources other than the able-bodied manpower of this nation are used to provide
a major portion of this service and overhead, we face a situation where we have mobilized a tremendous force which is strong everywhere except on the battlefield.
3. It is requested that your Division [G-1] cause a study to be initiated to determine all the occupations in the Army which can satisfactorily be filled by members of the WAAC. Such study should contemplate their use at home and abroad in practically every field except the actual handling of weapons. They should constitute the bulk of personnel assigned to overhead installations in the Zone of the Interior. Extensive use in defense command installations appears logical.
4. As a basis for an approach to the solution of the problem, it is recommended that an expansion of the Corps from its present authorized strength to an ultimate strength of 1,500,000 be contemplated.32
The earlier June plans for an increase of 500 percent-to an ultimate 63,000 members-were thus obliterated after only three months of existence. Complete new plans were obviously required: new schools, new recruiting quotas, new clothing procurement, and new legislation. Director Hobby was convinced that the new quota could not be filled by voluntary recruiting but would require the drafting of women.33 Such plans, and such an expansion in size, were clearly impossible without immediate agreement upon, and publication of, a system of command for the WAAC.
General Marshall's Intervention
Simultaneously with the arrival of G-3's directive, General Marshall sent his staff officers to confer with the Director's staff, at which time they learned of the contradictory existing instructions on Corps administration and command.34 On 17 September the Chief of Staff intervened to direct General Somervell to restore the Director's command powers. Even had
the WAAC been legally subject to military law, General Marshall was of the opinion that it would be dangerous to assume that no new Army-wide policies would have to be set. He stated:
I find that the WAAC has been fitted into the SOS somewhat on the same basis as the Military Police. For a new organization, particularly one composed entirely of women, I think that this is not an effective arrangement. While units assigned to various localities and theaters must come under the local commanders, yet it would seem to be important for some time to maintain a rather direct relationship between the Director and these highly special organizations. There is too much that is entirely new and that demands a woman's point of view to decentralize to the extent that we do with Infantry. Cavalry, and Field Artillery, as well as other special units.35
For his guidance in publishing necessary instructions, General Marshall sent General Somervell a copy of the regulations that had been prepared earlier by the Director's staff.
At the same time, General Marshall informed General Somervell that WAAC Headquarters must be furnished with more assistance to carry the new planning load. He noted that Mrs. Hobby looked "rather overworked" and that, while her assistants "are doing a good job," she needed a high-ranking officer with experience and prestige in the War Depart-
ment "to get things going on the most efficient basis and to relieve her of many time-consuming details and also to obviate many delays." Such an officer, he stated, "might make an important contribution as a sort of military secretary during the formative period of the Corps." 36
This second portion of the Chief of Staffs instructions was the first on which General Somervell took action. Directing that "'immediate action be initiated to assist and aid the WAAC in the execution of its duties," 37 he sent inspectors from his Control Division to repeat the inspection they had just made in August, at which time little had been reported out of place except the furniture.38 Control Division now noted that "the WAAC occupies an unusual and peculiar position . . . it is both within and without the military framework." However, they vetoed the Chief of Staffs suggestion for a "'military secretary" and proposed instead an executive, who would be in the chain of command instead of an adviser, for which "a Regular U.S. Army Officer is essential . . . to guide the Director in Army methods." 39
General Marshall had called for an officer "conversant with War Department procedure," but such an officer was not found available and the Director was assigned a retired Regular Army officer; Col. Thomas B. Catron, who had not served in the War Department in twelve years. Colonel Catron had, however, thirty-seven years' experience in the Regular Army, and was personally known to General Grunert's deputy, Brig. Gen. Madison Pearson, WAAC Headquarters'' immediate superior.40 The Services of Supply also regrouped the six major divisions of the Director's office into two-Personnel and Operations-Training. Both divisions were to be headed by newly assigned Regular Army officers since, Control Division noted, "The War Department and the Services of Supply must rely on the data furnished . . . so it should be reliable." 41 WAAC Headquarters' Supply Division was abolished, since "it is apparent that the functions of a supply division are not of sufficient importance to justify a separate division." 42
General Somervell approved the reorganization pattern, saying, "This is splendid . . . . With General Grunert personally assisting, I think you are on the right track for future progress." 43 Colonel Catron replaced Colonel Tasker as Executive; Colonel Tasker and other senior members of the former staff remained for a few more months, while new Regular Army officers gradually arrived. The junior Army members had already begun to depart as new contingents of WAAC officers reported to take over routine duties. 44
Under Colonel Catron's direction, the office adopted the motto: "Simplify, Qualify, Consolidate." Colonel Catron also directed that the staff begin to use
both sides of the stationery, and that they write or wire the training center instead of telephoning.45 The training center was restored, by General Somervell's direction, to WAAC command, under which it had in fact operated all summer.
Some four weeks elapsed before the publication of the system of WAAC command prescribed by General Marshall. Meanwhile, Director Hobby was not informed that the Chief of Staff had already decided the issue, and her staff continued in some confusion, attempting to devise another system which would be acceptable to General Somervell, for the command of the WAAC units, now already in the field. In one paper the Director offered to use a British system of command, in which the Director retained assignment authority only over company officers and cadre, thus allowing Army commanders to transfer other women, yet insuring that transfer would not be made to stations where barracks and cadre were not located. When this suggestion received no response, she proposed an alternate command system wherein she would gradually give up all command power to commanding generals of service commands, provided that they refrained from exercising this power until civilian auxiliary rules could be published on the basis of cases sent directly to WAAC Headquarters.46 This proposal also received no reply. The Director begged General Grunert's office for some published system, stating, "If the War Department and the public are to hold the Director of the WAAC responsible for the proper administration of the Corps, the proper authority to accompany this responsibility is a natural and automatic requirement." 47
By the second week in October, there were already a dozen Aircraft Warning Service companies in the field and some two hundred officers in recruiting stations and Army specialist schools. On 11 October General McNarney, General Marshall's Deputy, sent a second message to General Somervell:
On a recent trip to the West Coast, including a stop at Des Moines; I gained the distinct impression that there exists no basic plan or schedule for the use of the WAAC. At two stations, Randolph Field and Fort Huachuca, they had been informed that they would receive WAAC companies, but they seemed very hazy as to the trades, skills, qualifications to be expected, where they should and could be used, together with a distinct lack of any indication that the use of Waacs should result in a nearly corresponding decrease in the number of men assigned to an activity. Station commanders scheduled to receive Waacs should be furnished, without delay, sufficient information to permit effective utilization, and directives for a corresponding decrease in men assigned . . . .48
It was not until 13 October 1942 that the Services of Supply published an explanatory statement to the field-Circular 344, the second important War Department publication in WAAC history. The circular at last made WAAC command channels clear to the field, although the channels themselves were complicated.
Three sets of channels were required in order to maintain the Corps' legal auxiliary status while allowing it to work for, and be supplied by, the Army.
Job performance was rated through the same normal channels of command as for soldiers and civilians at a station, and so offered no problems or causes of complaint from any station-Air Forces, Signal Corps, service command; or other. Supply and routine post administration were also the responsibility of the post commander, just as they were for men. However, above post level only service command stations could follow normal channels of supply, since WAAC clothing was stocked only at a few service command depots. Non-service command stations had to follow unfamiliar channels of requisitioning through the service command to get WAAC supplies. Finally, in personnel matters, the short WAAC command channel would operate, from the WAAC company commander to the WAAC regional director to Director Hobby. Personnel channels were specifically defined as including the disputed right of assignment and transfer, as well as promotion, discipline, and discharge, plus "all policies involving the welfare of members of the WAAC which, by virtue of the fact that they are women, differ from those prescribed for men."
Assignment of Regional Directors
Upon the moment of publication of Circular 344, nine WAAC regional directors departed for their posts in a race to remedy the Corps' field situation. These nine women had been chosen in early October and brought into WAAC Headquarters for assignment to the nine service commands as soon as the Services of Supply published authority for them. Of necessity the choice was made in ignorance of military aptitude although, as Director Hobby later noted, "Every one [service commander] said, 'You must put your very best officer on this.' " 49 The women chosen were all required to be over 35 years of age. They included two former business administration supervisors, a college teacher and a dean of women, a sales director, a government executive, a lawyer, and a housewife. In spite of the haste, the selection proved generally good, and included four women who were later to play a leading part in world-wide WAC administration-Third Officers Katherine R. Goodwin of the First Service Command, Jessie P. Rice of the Third, Westray B. Boyce of the Fourth, and Mary-Agnes Brown of the Eighth.50
The ten-day indoctrination of these women in WAAC Headquarters understandably proved something of a farce. Detailed auxiliary regulations and guides to WAAC needs had not yet been worked out, and could not be until more Waacs reached the field and until the regional directors themselves discovered their needs. Members of the group related that Colonel Catron told them, "No one can tell you what to do, because there's never been a job like this. No one knows what you're going to encounter when you get there." 51
Circular 344 gave the job a difficult dual status: when handling matters pertaining to the "Personnel Channel" the regional director was responsible only to Director Hobby and signed herself "Director's Representative'' (later, "WAAC Service Command Director"); but in all
other matters such as supply she was only a staff adviser to the commanding general of the service command and could take action only through military channels, signing herself "Chief, WAAC Branch." 52 The latter position was roughly comparable to that of service command special staff officers such as the surgeon, finance officer, or quartermaster. However, these officers were chiefly colonels and were expected to be experts in one field only, while the Waac was a second lieutenant and was supposed to be an adviser in all fields-health, supply, housing, personnel, discipline, finance, public relations, and all others. If there were no WAAC Regulations to cover a situation, she must determine whether Army Regulations could legally apply, or whether it would be necessary to recommend new WAAC Regulations. In addition to her work in headquarters; she must visit every service command station where Waacs were assigned or expected; as a traveling trouble shooter to resolve difficulties and promote efficiency. She was also responsible for the command and well-being of Waacs at airfields, ports, Signal Corps stations, and all other exempted activities within the service command, most of which were already bristling at the thought of control through alien channels.
Because of the alarming responsibilities of the positions, some thought was given to the possibility of promoting all service command directors at once to the rank that was allotted to the position: assistant director or lieutenant colonel. After much debate, Director Hobby decided to postpone promotions until each woman's efficiency on the job was proven. However, Acting Director Helen H. Woods some days later secured permission to send an explanatory letter to each commanding general, noting: "We were conscious of the fact that we were sending out second lieutenants to the field to break ground, and to confer with major generals concerning their relative command powers." 53
Only one major policy was fully impressed upon the regional directors before their departure: they must as far as possible act as if the Corps were a part of the Army; they must demonstrate that women needed no extra frills and comforts such as Army commanders might feel a gallant desire to provide.54
The initial reception accorded these women upon their arrival at service commands varied from "all the co-operation a person could ask or need" down through various degrees of lesser warmth to "standoffish." 55 One fact became abundantly clear the moment each staff officer reported, and that was that most of the service commands-in fact, eight of the nine had no intention whatever of complying with War Department Circular 344 insofar as it pertained to a WAAC command channel. Said one director, "When I arrived at this station and was presented to the Commanding General, he informed me, with some emphasis, that he was in charge of the Service Command and did not propose to tolerate any dual channels; that my loyalty was to him and to no one else." Others told much the same story.
LT. COL. HELEN H. WOODS (then Third Officer).
The four service command directors on the Atlantic seaboard plunged at once into the work of aiding the Aircraft Warning Service units to obtain supplies, warm uniforms, three meals a day, and safer quarters, as well as of providing a legal means for the personnel actions that began to be necessary. Particular difficulty was experienced in persuading non-service command stations to permit such efforts. Some measure of success was eventually obtained. For example, after repeated telephone calls and correspondence had failed to convince the Norfolk Air Defense Wing, Third Officer Jessie P. Rice of the Third Service Command paid a personal visit and reported a "long and pleasant" conversation with the commanding officer, during which he alleged that he had never seen War Department Circular 344, but agreed to abide by it and WAAC Regulations in the future.56
In stations at which units had not yet arrived, service command directors set themselves to prevent the hardships and poor publicity that unpreparedness had brought to the Aircraft Warning Service units. One surviving memorandum on "How to Visit the Field" offered strenuous advice:
1. Visit the commanding officer and explain the WAAC's status.
2. Visit the quartermaster and check with him methods of requisitioning WAAC uniforms and other supplies and equipment peculiar to females; where stocked, and so on.
3. Visit the post engineer and verify safety and proper construction of WAAC barracks, including plumbing, fire escapes, shades, and distance from men's barracks.
4. Visit the post surgeon and arrange for separate sick call and separate wards for women, different medical supplies, and the like.
5. Visit the finance officer and explain how the Auxiliary is paid.
6. Visit the post exchange officer and suggest toilet articles, sanitary supplies and other items to be stocked for women purchasers.
7. Visit the athletic and recreation officer and arrange for recreation suitable for women, and for admission to post theater, service club, and other activities.
8. Visit the provost marshal and discuss the Auxiliary disciplinary system and its wide difference from the Army system, the power of military police over Waacs, and related matters.
9. Visit the post chaplain and discuss the special problems of a woman's
adjustment to the Army.
10. Visit the post adjutant and advise that WAAC officers be allowed to use the officers' mess and club, and discuss other matters of administration.
11. Visit any other staff officers who might have special problems caused by the arrival of female personnel, such as the public relations officer, or those who might employ Waacs, such as the signal officer.57
A few days before the regional directors went out, Director Hobby was obliged to entrust their further indoctrination and guidance to her staff, having received orders to accompany Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on an observation tour of the British women's services. Third Officer Helen Woods was left as Acting Director. On 19 October the Director and her aide, Third Officer Bandel, left for the British Isles, not to return until 11 November.58
At this time it appeared that the Corps was in fair condition to meet the strain of the oncoming expansion. As a result of General McNarney's intervention to expedite WAAC supply, every Waac at Fort Des Moines at last had a winter uniform and an overcoat, and supplies had been forwarded to those women who had left the training center without uniforms. As for the Second WAAC Training Center at Daytona Beach, a full conference of Services of Supply agencies assured Director Hobby before her departure that all necessary supplies and uniforms would reach it before the 1 December opening date. Also encouraging was the office's move to the newly completed Pentagon, where co-ordination with other Army offices was greatly simplified. 59
The expansion program that had been mastered was, however, merely that which had originated in June. Still to be reckoned with was G-3's September plan for 1,300,000 Waacs.
Page Created August 23 2002
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Return to the Table of Contents