The Army Air Forces
Among the various Army commands, the Army Air Forces had been the first to employ Waacs and was now the first in field strength of WAC units. The history of the Air Forces Wacs was the story of almost one half of the Women's Army Corps-some 40,000 of the eventual 100,000 women.1 In spite of its enthusiasm for the use of womanpower, the Air Forces faced greater initial handicaps in employing Wacs than did other domestic commands. Subordinate air commands did not cover definite geographical areas as did service commands, but were strictly functional in nature, each having control of air bases scattered throughout the United States. Staff directors thus found the problem of supervision and supply more complex, and were obliged to take to the air to cover the distances between units assigned to their commands. The AAF's great Training Command had flying schools and technical schools from Florida to California; its Troop Carrier Command stations were less numerous but as widely separated; Air Service Command depots were scattered from coast to coast. The First, Second, Third, and Fourth Air Forces together covered the United States in their mission of forming men into combat groups for the numbered Air Forces overseas. The AAF's Materiel Command had one large WAC unit at Wright Field; the School of Applied Tactics had an even larger unit at Orlando, Florida; and the Proving Ground Command had one isolated group at Eglin Field, Florida.
Although air bases were generally prepared to receive the women, they were caught without advance warning when the War Department ended the T/O system for the WAC some months before the Air Forces did the same for its men-a move that suited the Service Forces but left the AAF without means of accounting for the women. The new Air WAC Officer, Major Bandel, upon her arrival in 1943, found headquarters agencies shuttling the War Department directive back and forth from A-4 to A-1 and again to A-4. She noted later:
To a headquarters wrestling with the problem of throwing thousands of fighting men and aircraft around the world, the entire WAAC program must have seemed at that moment a troublesome gnat buzzing around the head of a giant.
Promptly snaring the gnat on its return trip through A-4, the Air WAC Officer worked out a series of directives and accounting procedures which allowed the program to continue without interruption and which eventually led to full integration.
Acceptance of Wacs on Airfields
Wacs arriving on air bases ordinarily reported an enthusiastic reception. One company commander noted:
The friendly atmosphere and co-operative spirit prevalent throughout this post have made the Wacs feel that they are a definite part of the military life here. Everything is being done to further the comfort of the group.2
By mid-1944, Wacs became even more popular when, the supply of infantry replacements having proved insufficient, the War Department required the transfer of thousands of combat-fit men from the Air Forces to the Ground Forces. Airfields thus lost many of the specialized medical and technical personnel upon whom they had depended for normal operations, and Wacs became increasingly sought after as replacements.
Receptivity was also greatly increased by the official action of General Arnold and his staff, whose policy from the beginning was to neglect no measure that might impress upon the public the AAF's real need for Wacs and its cordiality toward them. When the Air-WAC recruiting campaign was launched in October of 1943, General Arnold issued a public statement that "members of the WAC have made an enviable record through their work at Air Force installations." 3 In November the Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Brig. Gen. William E. Hall, journeyed to Philadelphia to see the first all-Air-WAC company sworn in. In December Maj. Gen. Barney McK. Giles, the Deputy Chief of Air Staff, wrote to all Air Wacs that "it is the record you have made which has convinced the AAF of the great value of Wacs." 4 In the same month the AAF declared a national "Air WAC Week" in which airfields everywhere honored their Wacs at retreat parades and other ceremonies. Upon receipt of evidence that military personnel were involved in the slander campaign, General Arnold denounced such undercutting of his policy in an angry letter to the field.5 With such constant and public declaration of policy, the Army Air Forces came to have the reputation in the eyes of the public and of the Wacs themselves of being friendly toward the employment of Wacs, and appreciative of their services.
The Air WAC Division
This attitude showed itself in AAF headquarters by a willingness to consider favorably the recommendations of the Air WAC Officer. A working WAC staff organization was set up which, in Lt. Col. Betty Bandel's opinion, was near-perfect under existing conditions. The Air WAC Division was granted a strength of six officers plus clerical help, and was eventually placed in the office of the Assistant
Chief of Air Staff for Personnel (A-1). Although in Colonel Bandel's opinion a location in the Special Staff would have insured easier co-ordination with other offices, in actual practice the policies and personal assistance of Maj. Gen. James M. Bevans and his staff in A-1 made for almost equal freedom and efficiency of operation.6
The generally co-operative spirit emboldened the Air WAC Division to divest itself at once of all operating powers, confining its activities to study of field conditions, formulation of policy recommendations, and co-ordination of the WAC program. It was able to take this action chiefly because each major operating division of AAF headquarters early accepted the assignment of a WAC specialist to perform the operating duties, either full-time or in addition to other duties. These offices included AAF's Military Personnel Division, both Officer Branch and Enlisted Branch; the Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Training; headquarters and regional offices of the Air Inspector; the Air Surgeon; and the Air Provost Marshal.
Together, representatives in these offices formed a good example of what was known to Wacs as the Tel-a-Wac system, reputedly faster than telephone or telegraph. The Air WAC Division was seldom left in ignorance of developments in the larger AAF program, and in return the various division chiefs, to whom the other WAC officers concerned owed primary allegiance, were seldom caught short by higher authorities concerning knowledge of WAC matters for which they were responsible. Policy papers were originated either by the Air WAC Division or by the division that discovered the need for them, and were mutually co-ordinated before publication. A headquarters regulation required all publications mentioning the
WAC to be co-ordinated with the Air WAC Division. Offices were also reminded in writing that, in drafting all publications, they should remember that AAF Regulations were equally applicable to Wacs, unless specifically excepted, and that if any explanatory passages were needed they should be added.7
Under this system, a notable series of AAF "firsts"' resulted, to which that organization was not backward about calling attention. The Air Forces was first in full integration and abolition of WAC grades; first to attempt branch recruiting; first to require WAC inspectors at all command levels employing Wacs. It was the first to make a woman a lieutenant colonel, and was stopped from going further only by Congressional limitations; first to request the employment of WAC officers in non-WAC or "operational" jobs; first and only domestic command to propose extensive improvements in the WAC uniform, and its recommendations in this field were the ammunition with which Colonel Hobby finally won many arguments. It was the first major command to allow its own insignia to be worn by Wacs and to recommend that they be detailed in the Air Corps or the appropriate arm or service, a move that did much to make the women feel an accepted part of the Air Forces.
The AAF was the first to admit enlisted women to all men's noncombat schools, including some previously deemed unusual for women; first to propose, even if unsuccessfully, that women officers be
allowed to go to men's noncombat officer candidate schools if they were not intended as WAC administrators; the first major command to support a school for the advanced training of WAC troop officers. It unsuccessfully recommended that Wacs be sent to the Army's School of Military Government as a preparation for duty in occupied areas. It was the first to bring to the War Department's attention the need for interpretation of certain discharge regulations, and for establishment of a system of maternity care for discharged women. It was the first major command to supervise the overseas placement of its own women by studying the needs of its components overseas and guaranteeing to fill them at its own expense. As a result, the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces in England, and to a lesser degree the air forces in Italy, the Pacific, and India, received well-selected, Air Forces-trained Wacs in numbers greater than the War Department had proposed to supply them.8
The AAF did not share other commands' distaste for specialized explanatory publications in any matter in which Colonel Bandel reported widespread misunderstanding in the field. The Air Forces was first to publish a circular defining the WAC company commander's job, and thus to end the friction and misunderstanding prevalent over that point in other commands where section chiefs claimed the commander's normal powers. 9 Another directive cautioned local commanders against placing enlisted women on commutation of quarters and rations or ordering them to stations where no housing existed. In six separate publications the Air Forces discussed all phases of successful selection of women for overseas shipment.
After a series of poor selections of WAC officer candidates, AAF headquarters amplified the War Department regulation and spelled out a precise procedure, including the often-neglected provision that selection boards would contain one WAC officer-the AAF made it two-and that rating lists based on merit alone would be maintained at Air Command level, not lower. Likewise, the AAF published a WAC inspection manual, listing standards which should be expected in such matters as women's medical care, uniform and appearance, leadership, and the commander's handling of marital and social problems. Similarly, the AAF included in its personnel officers' handbook a chapter on WAC administration.10
AAF headquarters also permitted the
Air WAC Division to send an informal monthly mimeographed letter to its staff directors, explaining the reasons behind current actions by headquarters. The recipients of these letters were responsible for passing on this information to their WAC company commanders. This service was so popular with Wacs in the field that non-Air Forces staff directors overseas asked to be included on the mailing list, stating that they otherwise did not see even War Department regulations for months, if ever; and non-AAF company commanders set up regular correspondence with AAF WAC squadron commanders to learn what they could, stating that War Department circulars were seldom otherwise available to company commanders.
Flying Jobs for Women
In the field, the Air Forces' progressive attitude was demonstrated chiefly by an equal lack of inhibitions in the assignment of women to new and unconventional jobs. No AAF schools were barred to women except combat schools, and no AAF jobs for which they could qualify, however unusual for women. It was not even the Air Forces' intention to exclude women from the most extreme masculine province: its flying schools and assignment as pilot.
Women quite early had been hired as ferry pilots, on a Civil Service status. Air Forces headquarters had planned that this group, first called the WAAF and later the WASP (Women Air Service Pilots), would be placed in the Army as part of the WAC as soon as Congress had made the WAAC a part of the Army. Such an addition was agreeable to WAC authorities, including both Colonel Hobby and the Air WAC Officer, since the number of women pilots was relatively tiny-some 800 as against Colonel Bandel's 40.000 Air Wacs-and could have been administered without additional expense. However, the proposed merger was blocked by the Director WASP, Mrs. Jacqueline Cochran Odlum, who recommended that women pilots not be grouped with other Air Corps officers, but given a separate military corps on equal status with the WAC, with a director equal in rank to Colonel Hobby. Legislation to this effect was attempted, but failed; and Congressional sentiment against the use of women as pilots was so strongly stirred up that the Air Forces was forced to disband the WASP without ever giving its members military status and benefits. Some WAC officers and enlisted women were also found to be qualified pilots, but it was deemed unwise ever to assign them as such in view of the emphatic nature of the Congressional decision. 11
Enlisted flying jobs for Wacs, other than that of pilot, were never forbidden, although no such jobs had been considered by early planners because of the greater need for women elsewhere. As soon as assignment was turned over to local authorities, it proved impossible to keep a few women out of certain flying duties for which they had peculiar qualifications. Within two months Mitchel Field reported that it possessed the first two "flying Wacs," radio operators who were participating in B-17 training flights. This
precipitated scores of requests from other Wacs for flying duty. A few more WAC radio operators, mechanics, and photographers were soon assigned to regular runs. Several such Wacs actually received Air Medals, including one in India for her work in mapping the Hump, and one posthumously after the crash of an aerial broadcasting plane.
Both the women and the airfields concerned were ordinarily so pleased with themselves for accomplishing flying duty assignments that Air Forces headquarters, when it discovered them, published a directive authorizing such duty provided that the flights concerned were not for purposes of combat training, and that Wacs did not replace any man who might be receiving combat training on these flights.
The Air WAC Officer, while not discouraging such duty for women well suited for it, did not encourage any extension of it, or widespread training of women for it. Her opposition was due partly to the difficulty of housing a female crew member when nonscheduled landings were necessary, and partly to the danger of public outcry if any Wac was assigned to a position that even remotely involved combat training. Later in the war the Air Transport Command repeatedly proposed to use Wacs to replace male flight clerks on scheduled passenger runs. This was at first discouraged because of the irregular housing arrangements involved, but was eventually approved on a small scale and proved successful in flights such as those from Paris to London.12
Even including these flight clerks, the number of Wacs on flying duty, wearing wings and drawing flying pay, was never great. Only twenty Wacs held the Specification Serial Number of Air Crew Member, and flying radio operators and other technicians were equally scarce.
This comparative absence of a relatively exciting and popular type of Air Forces duty was one factor with which commanders of female troops had to reckon in maintaining morale. Many air-base commanders, recognizing the difficulty, directed that Wacs be allowed to go on local flights as passengers where space permitted, or for at least one orientation flight upon arrival at a station. Nevertheless, most AAF Wacs seldom saw the inside of a plane, and many were in the unfortunate position of Air Transport Command Wacs in Scotland and Wales, who were shipped overseas by boat and complained that they knew there was an outside world only by remarks dropped by transient men. Because of the value of occasional flights to women's morale, the Air WAC Officer secured a directive making clear that women were to have the same privileges as other military personnel in "hopping rides" or flying on military orders.13
AAF headquarters from the beginning showed enthusiasm for training Waacs in other technical and mechanical jobs which were not ordinarily considered a woman's field. An elaborate training system was originally planned, with 8,000 women a month to be fed into AAF schools for training as everything from
TRAINING AT LOWRY FIELD, COLORADO, in February 1943. Waacs learning camera operation, above, and making photographic mosaics, below.
armorers to weather forecasters, in addition to 5,000 a month to be received already trained in WAAC schools as clerks. This plan was very similar to the system actually used on a smaller scale by the Naval Air Service, which determined in advance to employ set numbers of Waves as Link trainer instructors, control tower operators, and other specialists, and trained them accordingly. The Army Air Forces carried the plan so far as to set up Wac classes at the AAF Photolaboratory School at Lowry Field, which trained several all-WAC photolaboratory companies. The AAF also earlier encouraged the WAAC to set up its radio training school at Kansas City, and contracted to employ all graduates.14
However, as women began to arrive, the AAF was surprised to discover that the majority of women, unlike the 17- and 18-year-old boys who were being inducted, had a usable job skill before they entered the Army. To employ the average Wac successfully, it proved necessary only to place her, fresh from basic training, on almost any airfield, where, if not immediately snatched into too many pieces by competing section chiefs, she ordinarily soon found useful employment. The number of recruits arriving was never great enough to make placement a problem.
The Air Forces therefore soon dropped all but a few of its formal technical training plans for women, and adopted a system which was believed to be the most natural, speedy, and economical under the circumstances. Most AAF Wacs finishing basic training were shipped immediately to air bases having need of personnel in their civilian skills and were assigned to immediate duty or to on-the-job training, which was believed less wasteful of time than the average technical course. If a station needed a specialist it was unable to train, or if a Wac showed such aptitude that higher specialized training was clearly indicated, the station was authorized to send her to any noncombat AAF school that could arrange to house her. In such cases the station ordinarily had to take the trainee back upon graduation and employ her in the new skill; training was thus seldom employed merely to gratify individual desires for unnecessary training or to get rid of troublesome individuals.
Unfortunately for the compilation of statistics, the attendance of Wacs at AAF technical schools was so well integrated and came to excite so little comment that it was later impossible to determine exactly how many women had attended each course and how their record compared with that of male students. It was known only that approximately 2.000 women successfully completed courses in AAF technical schools, including weather observers, weather forecasters, electrical specialists of several kinds, sheet metal workers, Link trainer instructors, cryptographers, teletype operators. radio mechanics, control tower specialists, parachute riggers, bombsight maintenance specialists, clerks, airplane mechanics, photolaboratory technicians and photointerpreters, chaplains' assistants, and physical and military training specialists. Lt. Gen. Barton K. Yount, commanding general of the AAF Training Command, wrote, "Their record of accomplishment reflects great credit upon the Women's Army Corps and the Army . . . . Their contribution to the Training Command's mission has been invaluable." 15
Conventional Clerical Jobs
At the peak of enrollment, in January of 1945, it was estimated that about 50 percent of AAF Wacs in the United States held administrative or office jobs, being assigned as typists, stenographers, and various sorts of clerks.16 This was a percentage of women in conventional jobs considerably smaller than that in most other commands or overseas theaters, where the numbers in "feminine" work ranged as high as 90 percent in commands such as the Eighth Air Force in England. The work of such Air Wacs did not ordinarily differ from clerical work in other commands, except that it required a knowledge of Air Forces nomenclature, organization, and administrative procedures.
The different air commands differed slightly from each other in certain uses for these clerical workers. The largest, the AAF Training Command, with its hundreds of flying training schools and technical training schools, found Wacs particularly useful in keeping the complicated records of trainees, training courses, and flight hours. The domestic air forces First, Second, Third, and Fourth-likewise used Wacs to keep their personnel and flight records, and also to staff the assembly lines by which crews and equipment were processed for overseas shipment. The Air Technical Service Command used WAC clerks at its large depots to keep stock records of the thousands of items of Air Forces technical equipment. The Air Transport Command, running the Army equivalent of a commercial airline system, used numbers of Wacs at its information desks, in its dispatching offices, and to process passengers and supplies through aerial ports of embarkation. Toward the end of the war, the new AAF Personnel Distribution Command used Wacs to process personnel in replacement depots, redistribution centers, and convalescent centers.
Army Air Forces headquarters itself lagged behind its commands only because of the War Department ban on bringing Wacs into Washington. After repeated efforts to circumvent this policy, an opening was found in December of 1943 by the authorization to bring in twenty WAC messengers to handle secret and confidential mail, which had been repeatedly going astray under civilian operation. These were soon followed by weather observers, statistical machine operators, and others to a total of several hundred, housed at Bolling Field and working in the Pentagon.17
Technical jobs tended to increase in number toward the end of the war, as it became increasingly difficult for the AAF to get enlisted men in the top AGCT brackets necessary for some of the work. An especial competition for women of high ability developed between Air Forces agencies, which were frequently hard put to find men of suitable qualifications for technical work who were not immediately lost to officer candidate school or needed for overseas stations.
AAF's Weather Wing, which sought Wacs long before it ever saw one, finally obtained a quota of 500. A few were sent
to the regular Weather School, but most were trained on the job, five or six Wacs taking over the weather station at air bases where they could be housed with a WAC company. The majority of such Wacs were weather observers; only a few were ever trained for the more complicated job of weather forecaster, for which there was no shortage of men. The quota of 500 was never entirely filled in spite of all efforts.18
Radio and Cryptographic Work
The Army Airways Communications System (AACS), which had a quota of 1,450 and which competed for high-type personnel, chiefly sought radio operators. At the height of a shortage of this personnel, AACS discovered that several hundred WAAC radio operators and mechanics had been shipped under the old T/O system to airfields that did not need them. An individual search by name was instituted to unearth them. Some women were found suitably assigned to air-base radio stations, or as code instructors in schools such as the AAF Navigation School at Hondo, Texas, but others who were doing clerical work were carried off by AACS. These were assigned in groups of six or eight to operate AACS radio stations at airfields where a WAC unit was located. Most female radio operators recruited by the AAF were also given to AACS; when its needs still remained unfilled, AACS was also assigned Wacs without radio skills but of high intelligence and promising background. At a special AACS screening center, these women were tested and those with any radio abilities were sent to intensive training courses. Those with college or research backgrounds were trained as cryptographers, for which women proved especially suitable because of the exacting and monotonous nature of the work.19
Control Tower Operators
Those with good diction and good nerves, such as former teachers and telephone operators, were trained by AACS as control tower operators, after a brief dispute concerning whether females should be given a position of such responsibility. Even the advanced British services did not at this time use women in this work .20 Some objectors feared that a woman's voice would not be audible, that women would become hysterical in emergencies and be unable to give the necessary landing directions, or that women's training as control tower operators would interfere with men's training. One AACS region, in fact, put out a directive that "under no circumstances will WAAC personnel be permitted to operate the microphone in an airways station or airdrome control tower, or to operate on the net in an airways station." AACS headquarters quickly overruled the regional headquarters, stating that its need for personnel would require all qualified women as well as men.
From the end of 1943 onward, Wacs served successfully in these positions. Pilots seemed to experience no difficulty in following women's voices, and while no major emergencies occurred to test WAC operators' self-control, in several minor
crashes they rerouted aircraft and directed rescue apparatus in a manner that received praise. Colonel Bandel later reported, "Wacs love the work and have been highly commended. There seems to be no difference between men and women in adaptability to this work." 21
The only difficulty experienced by AACS and Weather Wing in any of these technical assignments was a purely administrative one: they considered their Wacs, like their men, to be high-grade specialists who should perform no kitchen police or other duties for the unit with which they lived, whereas the WAC units, being smaller than men's units, seldom appreciated such exalted boarders, and demanded that these women share company rules and company duties. When differences threatened to result in eviction, both AACS and Weather Wing acquired WAC staff directors, whose chief duties were to travel continuously, persuading AACS supervisors that specialists could without damage be housekeepers, and convincing WAC commanders that some shift workers on exacting technical work might properly be given a few concessions.22
Business Machine Operators
In 1944 another shortage developed, that of skilled operators of business machines for AAF's statistical control units throughout the United States. Available trained men were required for mobile overseas units, and the need eventually became such that priority of assignment was given for 1,000 Wacs for statistical control work. Since few women skilled in this work could be recruited, women with suitable intelligence and aptitude were chosen and sent to a six-week intensive training course at the AAF School at Orlando. Florida. Women proved especially apt at the work, although many complaints were received concerning its monotony and the refusal of statistical control units to vary the duties or permit transfer or rotation between stations.23
Link Trainer Instructors
Another popular technical job for Wacs was that of Link trainer instructor. As early as November of 1942, AAF headquarters had proposed the use of Waacs in this work, since "Men suitable to act as such instructors are rapidly disappearing into officer candidate schools." Men qualified to do the work often were pilots or potential pilots themselves, and were not content to remain as enlisted instructors, once trained. A number of Wacs selected by local authorities were therefore trained in the men's training school for Link trainer instructors, and others learned the work on the job; the duties proved both successful and satisfying to the women.24
Had hundreds of thousands of Wacs been available, the AAF had planned to train many women as mechanics, but since all recruits obtainable were needed for other jobs, and since the work was less suitable because of women's lesser physical strength, no particular attempt was made to train large numbers of them. Nevertheless, several hundred women
with civilian skills, requiring no further training, were assigned to the work. One station, by way of experiment, successfully set up an entire flight line staffed by some sixty WAC mechanics.
Some WAC staff directors were extremely doubtful about such work because of what they termed the coarsening effect on women of the average conversation encountered from men on most flight lines. However, the assignment was the only economical one for skilled women from civilian employment in the aircraft industry, and such women usually displayed a keen interest in assignment in their specialty and in the advanced mechanical training open to them, regardless of its effect on their vocabulary.
Some 6 percent of Air Wacs were medical specialists. Medical companies for larger AAF hospitals were requested as early as April and May of 1943, eighteen months before the ASF adopted WAC general hospital companies, but these had to be refused at the time for lack of trained WAAC personnel. As a result, no formally organized WAC hospital companies were ever employed by the AAF, which instead used whatever workers were available clerks, receptionists, orderlies and medical technicians-as part of regular squadrons. These women were trained on the job instead of receiving special courses-a system that proved inferior to school instruction only in that it was necessary for inspectors constantly to prod hospital authorities to continue upgrading Wacs instead of leaving them as untrained orderlies. Nevertheless, twelve different medical Specification Serial Numbers came to be held by AAF Wacs.25
Aircraft Warning Service
Another group of specialists, veterans in length of service, were the approximately 1,000 women, remnants of the Aircraft Warning Service, who continued to perform duties with Fighter Command stations along the eastern seaboard. Theoretically these duties were clerical; actually, until near the end of hostilities the Wacs also continued to help in operations and filter centers when civilian volunteers defaulted. At the AAF School of Applied Tactics at Orlando; Florida, 500 more AWS veterans assisted in the aircraft warning portion of the school's training function. Women proved particularly suitable for this work, which was both monotonous and exacting, but as the danger of aerial invasion became more and more remote, women began to complain of fatigue after two or more years at this work, and to request transfer to other duties, which was seldom forthcoming.
In addition, some 5 percent of Air Wacs were drivers; 4 percent, supply experts; 3 percent, photographic technicians; 2 percent, telephone and teletype operators. Lesser numbers were radar operators, armament specialists, carpenters, dietitians, and interpreters. College women and others with responsible civilian experience were frequently assigned as librarians, classification specialists, instructors, personnel clerks, vocational advisers, occupational therapists, reporters and editors, and historians. The AAF's flexible system of assigning Wacs made it possible to fill special needs or to place un-
usual skills found in only a handful of women: these included topographers, cartographers, sanitary inspectors, geodetic computers, chemists, and many others even more unusual.26 A former watch repairwoman was trained in secret bombsight maintenance; six photographic airbrush artists illustrated technical manuals at Patterson Field; Russian interpreters found employment at ATC's Montana terminal. In California, the WAC's only dog trainer found that the AAF could also provide dogs to train.27
WAC officers assigned to the Army Air Forces were admitted to more than sixty different types of jobs in addition to that of company officer.28 These were all full-fledged officer jobs; as soon as WAC officers arrived in AAF headquarters, a written directive made it clear that they were to replace commissioned officers only, and specifically not warrant officers or civilians.29
The majority were given administrative jobs in the fields of personnel, office management, mess, supply, and finance. Numbers were also found useful in jobs that involved dealing with people-special services, information and education, and public relations. A few WAC officers by the end of the war had worked up to positions of some responsibility: there was one air-base judge advocate, one inspector general, one base executive, and thirteen who held the coveted Specification Serial Number 2260, personnel staff officer.
Grades and Ratings
The wide scope of Air Forces jobs open to Wacs, both officer and enlisted, could be attributed chiefly to the AAF policy of full integration and the resulting abolition of all separate WAC grades, allotments, and Tables of Organization. An AAF Regulation stated, "Practices which tend to apportion grades and promotions by sex rather than by actual duty assignment are undesirable, as they serve to impair efficiency and morale."30 Actually, when the total was reckoned, men were found to be far more highly rated than women, for most AAF Wacs had come on the scene in 1943 and 1944 when most high grades had already been distributed. Air Forces men in the United States still had four times the percentage of master sergeants' ratings that women did; twenty times the percentage of technical sergeants; ten times that of staff sergeants, and twice that of sergeants. Among officers, men had five times as great a percentage of field grade officers as did women.31
It was Colonel Bandel's opinion that there was no reason why late-arriving Wacs should have had higher ratings than the men who arrived in the same years, and that Air Forces procedure "resulted in greater freedom in utilizing Wacs and men doing similar jobs," even though in fewer guaranteed ratings for women.32
Toward the end of the war, officers of AAF's Military Personnel Division became concerned about the fact that WAC
officer grades included more first lieutenants and fewer second lieutenants than the men, and wished to forbid promotion of any more female second lieutenants. Air WAC Division killed this idea by pointing out that about 1,700 of the AAF's worldwide total of 1,900 WAC officers had come to it in 1943. After this, the WAC officer candidate school was virtually stopped, and while the supply of newly commissioned male second lieutenants continued, few more female second lieutenants were received. The WAC officers had received no more promotions than men who came to the AAF in 1943. Air WAC Division again pointed out that "separate" grades for women would have led to injustice.
In 1944 several air commands received the hitherto unprecedented authority to move Wacs to overseas stations without reference either to the War Department or to AAF headquarters.33 The AAF's Air Transport Command was the first to win permission to move its Wacs overseas as it moved its men, without reference to usual staging methods. 34 Air Transport Command had soon picked up Wacs from domestic stations, staged them, and set them down in Hawaii, Alaska, Bermuda, Labrador, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Africa, and India. Army Airways Communications System and AAF Weather Wing followed suit, attaching their Wacs to any convenient ATC unit. The several thousand women in these units, which remained under the command of the Army Air Forces, were in addition to some seven thousand Wacs furnished higher headquarters of combat air forces overseas.35
Such freedom of movement did not of course apply to combat units; AAF headquarters was kept busy refusing the requests of fighter and bomber groups trained in the United States who desired to ship out complete with two or three borrowed Wacs to whom they had become accustomed. After the defeat of Germany the U.S. Strategic Air Force was given permission to ship out its Wacs as it pleased, in its program to swing the bulk of its air power to the Pacific. This was the only combat organization to receive such authority and only a few women were ever shipped out in this manner.
Conclusion of Program
The high point of the AAF WAC program was reached in January of 1945, with a peak strength of almost 40,000 women. In Colonel Bandel's opinion there were few remaining difficulties in the employment of womanpower which the AAF had not solved.
Her final report listed only four remaining problems. One of these was the housing situation. As a matter of economy, initial mistakes in design could never be corrected once barracks were built, although both AAF inspectors and surgeons repeatedly objected. It was found that permanent employees like the Wacs suffered greatly in health and efficiency from being housed for two or three years in crowded
and flimsy temporary barracks with their hand-fired coal stoves, designed primarily for transient combat trainees. Another unsolved problem was that of the selection of WAC officers. The AAF felt that the War Department system of sending all candidates to a school for WAC troop officers was outdated, and that women should have been selected and trained as men were, in men's schools, except for those who would actually administer Wacs. Other unsolved problems were that of friction with civilian women workers, and that of disputes over fraternization of officers and enlisted personnel of opposite sexes; these could not be resolved within the limits of Army organization in World War II.36
None of these remaining problems was, in Colonel Bandel's
opinion, a serious threat to the efficiency of the AAF WAC program.
There can be little doubt that women did contribute many critically needed administrative and clerical skills-not generally possessed by men-to the AAF at a time when there was a very great need for such skills .... The WAC program in the Air Forces during World War II was a part of the natural evolution toward the full employment of a nation's manpower during a modern war.37
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