CHAPTER XXII

The Southwest Pacific Area

The last of the major overseas commands to employ considerable numbers of WAC personnel was the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA). Here, although the first shipment did not arrive until the middle of 1944, some 5,500 women eventually served-the second largest number to be employed by any overseas area.1

The delay in employing Wacs was readily explained: there was no shortage of female clerical workers in Australia, where some 20,000 civilians were employed by the American forces. Therefore, when Army-wide surveys were made at the time of the Auxiliary's formation, and again at the time of its contemplated expansion, the theater rejected the idea of using Waacs, stating that all available shipping was needed to bring combat personnel to its authorized level.2

Until late in 1943, several of the headquarters in Australia had entertained the hope that civilian employees would be permitted to move with them when the northward attack was launched through New Guinea and the Philippines. At this time, a personnel crisis was precipitated by the immediacy of the offensive combined with the final refusal of the Australian government to let its women move from the continent, in view of existing labor shortages. The theater therefore began a series of requests to Operations Division of the War Department General Staff, seeking to raise its Troop Basis to permit the shipment of general service men to replace the civilians. Limited service men were not wanted, in view of the unpromising nature of available material.3

These requests met with consistent refusal from the War Department. The theater was already authorized to have 3.2 percent of its military strength in overhead, as against only 1.5 percent for the

[410]


European theater, and stations in the United States were by this time almost stripped of general service personnel. Instead, it was suggested that the theater render its headquarters mobile by screening the half-million troops it already had, among whom there were believed to be numbers of clerically skilled men.

This move was considered impracticable by the theater. Instead, there was some discussion within the several headquarters of the possibility of employing Wacs, under the misapprehension that they could be requisitioned to fill civilian job vacancies. The move was generally favored by Headquarters, Fifth Air Force, and by the Services of Supply, but rejected by the higher echelon, U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).4

In the early days of 1944, Operations Division of the War Department received a personal visit from Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, Commanding General, Allied Air Forces and Fifth Air Force, who expressed a desire to get WAC personnel for his command. However, a call to ASF Military Personnel Division revealed that, of the Wacs who were expected to be available for overseas shipment during the entire year, only about 800 enlisted women and 200 officers remained unallotted. OPD at once acted to freeze this number until the Pacific's needs could be considered. Director Hobby was then overseas, but a call to her office revealed that, at the current rate of recruiting, a "reasonable number" of this 800 women could probably be obtained within a few months. At this, OPD radioed the theater asking whether General Kenney's request represented theater opinion. If so, it was promised that the theater's Troop Basis would be increased by 1,000 in order to accommodate the shipment.5

SWPA protested by radio:
Proposed allotment totally inadequate for minimum theater requirements . . . . Can use 10,000 or more Wacs . . . . Theater Chief of Staff who should reach Washington today has data on theater overhead requirements and on positions which Wacs may advantageously fill.6

Director Hobby first learned of the new development on 11 February 1944, soon after her return from Europe, when Lt. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, General MacArthur's chief of staff, came to her office and informed her -that at least 10,000 Wacs would be immediately required by the theater. "He appeared," she stated later, "to be under the impression that Wacs were still Auxiliaries and would not count against the Troop Basis." 7

The Director informed General Sutherland that in her opinion the shipment could not be made for two reasons: first, Wacs were military personnel and would require a military allotment just as men would; and second, the WAC had not yet recovered from its conversion losses and from heavy shipments to Europe, and could not provide women in any such numbers in the clerical skills requested.

[411]


General Sutherland refused to accept this rejection as final. A few days later the Director learned that, in a conference with General Somervell, a plan had been devised whereby 4,000 of the theater's civilian allotment would be given to the ASF in the United States in exchange for 4,000 of the ASF's military allotment. General Somervell also agreed to supply 4,000 Wacs from those under his control, to fill the allotment. This arrangement was approved by the War Department, and the theater was advised by radio that its Troop Basis had been increased by 4,000.8

This transaction naturally differed from those concerning initial shipments to Africa and England, in that plans were no longer made by the Director WAC, in accordance with the system adopted at the end of Auxiliary status. Thus, matters concerning the Troop Basis and overseas shipment were now properly planned by OPD and were carried out by the various ASF operating agencies. 9  The staff studies and directives concerning the 4,000 allotment bore only the concurrence of agencies that normally concurred in such matters for men: G-1, G-3, Military Personnel Division of the Army Service Forces, and the War Manpower Commission.

At a later date the question was to be raised as to whether the General Staff should have requested the Director WAC to make a study of the area from the standpoint of the well-being of women. However, her new small staff no longer contained inspectors, and in any case the original destination, Australia, appeared considerably more safe and stable than had North Africa at the time of initial shipments. As of this date, small groups of Wacs were also successfully serving in India, Egypt, and New Caledonia. To assist the theater in planning for any contemplated forward movement of Wacs, comparable to those into Italy and Normandy, it was determined that a WAC staff director would be sent in advance of the enlisted women, and the Director was allowed to nominate this officer. As OPD began to order shipments to the port, the Director was generally furnished with an information copy of their composition.

In three matters the Director attempted to secure retention of Auxiliary procedures different from those for shipment of men. In December of 1943, and again in the following March, the Office of the Director asked ASF's Mobilization Division to provide any Wacs going to the Pacific with the same tropical clothing and equipment already authorized for the China-Burma-India theater, since no maintenance stocks for women yet existed in Australia.10  This was not done; Wacs being ordered to the port were authorized only winter clothing, in line with the custom for the shipment of men to Australia in its winter season. The Office of the Director also requested that WAC company commanders continue to have a voice in the approval of the stability and character of Wacs sent overseas. This request was disapproved upon the recommendation of ASF's Director of Personnel. Finally, Director Hobby requested The Surgeon General to continue giving Wacs a com-

[412]


plete overseas physical examination, as had been previously done in Auxiliary days to detect gynecological disorders or pregnancy, but this was also refused as too time-consuming, since men going overseas had no such examination, only a briefer physical inspection.11

The assembly of shipments proceeded with unusual speed, because of the immediacy of the move from Australia. On the basis of informal lists of needed personnel furnished by General Sutherland, orders for the first shipment of 1,000 women were issued by OPD on 15 February even before the request for 4,000 was formally approved. A formal requisition for 270 WAC officers and 4,730 enlisted women was forwarded from the theater on 11 March 1944. The majority of the requests were for clerical and stenographic skills such as had already been requested by other theaters. This requisition was approved by the General Staff, plus other later requests from the Far East Air Forces in the theater, to a total of 7,500-a quota that was never to be entirely filled.12

Direct Commissions

The first three Wacs in the theater were appointed by local action before any shipments were made from the United States. General Kenney during his visit had requested WAC status for his Australian secretary; General Sutherland during his stay sought the same for his receptionist and for the secretary of Maj. Gen. Richard J. Marshall, Deputy Chief of Staff, SWPA. It was stated that key officers would suffer a serious lapse in efficiency if obliged to part with their experienced Australian and British personnel. Although the act of Congress limited WAC enlistments to American citizens, appointment to officer status was not mentioned; since all WAC officers were derived from the ranks, the possibility of appointing noncitizens had never been considered. Previous requests from the European theater had, up to this time, been withdrawn when the WAC policy was explained to General Eisenhower. However, General Sutherland refused to withdraw his requests, and, over Director Hobby's nonconcurrence, direct commissions were immediately given to the three Australian and British employees. Although all WAC officers to date had been initially commissioned second lieutenants, two of the women were commissioned as first lieutenants and one in the grade of captain.

This action was taken over the adverse recommendation of General White, G-1 of the War Department General Staff, who felt so strongly on the matter that, after being unable to dissuade theater representatives, he personally walked with them to the Chief of Staffs office to register his protest. General White was finally overridden when General McNarney, Deputy Chief of Staff, was informed 13  that the commissions were personally desired by General MacArthur as essential to headquarters operation.

When Director Hobby also called to register her protest, she was informed that it was the Chief of Staffs policy never to refuse any urgent personal request of a theater commander if it was possible to grant it.14  She nevertheless placed in writing her request that the three commissions be revoked, stating:

[413]


I believe that the policy of appointment cited above will cause the personnel of the WAC to feel that the War Department has broken faith with them, and that the continuance of such a policy will be a great blow to the morale of the entire Corps . . . . The policy of selecting officers only from graduates of officer candidate school, and of selecting officer candidates only from the ranks, has been presented to the American public throughout the history of the Corps as a soundly democratic one.15

This apparently minor event received widespread and generally unfavorable publicity in Australia, which had it own women's services for qualified women, as well as British women's services. An even worse reaction came from Army men, particularly young combat officers who had not yet been promoted to equal ranks. Soldier mail, in the month before the first American Wacs arrived, showed that 90 percent of the comments about all Wacs were unfavorable, many obscene, alleging that all Wacs would be used only for "morale purposes" for officers.16  This situation was to cause a serious morale problem among arriving Wacs.

In the United States, General White's office was at once swamped with renewed demand from Congressional and military sources for direct commissions for American civilian women with prominent sponsors.17  The War Department held that the three commissions were irrevocable, but public reaction continued to be so adverse that G-1 Division succeeded in blocking any further appointments, except the one in Europe which was requested again in view of the exceptions made for SWPA. However, the Director secured a ruling against further such action in the future.18

In the theater, commanders noted continuing bad effects for months after the event, especially upon the morale of highly qualified enlisted men and women. Some commanders were obliged to forbid the women to talk or write of the subject, on threat of disciplinary action. The women's reaction was generally surprising to those not informed of the Corps' previous history and basic problems. 19

Arrival of WAC Staff

Director Hobby released for assignment as staff director an experienced officer from her own staff, Lt. Col. Mary-Agnes Brown. Since the Southwest Pacific Area was known to be headed by ranking Regular Army officers with World War I experience, Colonel Brown was believed especially qualified by virtue of twenty-five years' acquaintance with Army channels. She had been employed in Army finance in World War I, had ten years' experience as executive secretary to ranking Army medical officers, and was thereafter an attorney for the Veterans' Administration, holding the degrees of A.B., LL.B., and S J.D. In the Army she had been the first staff director for the Eighth Service Command and later executive officer in the Office of the Director WAC. With four officer assistants, Colonel Brown flew to the theater, arriving on 15 March 1944, to

[414]


help prepare for the arrival of the enlisted women two months later.

Upon her arrival, the staff director was assigned to the senior American administrative headquarters, USAFFE. No WAC personnel was assigned to General Headquarters, an operational Allied headquarters, except for two of the directly commissioned officers. The staff director was not delegated the customary responsibility 20  for the WAC program. This was instead placed upon G-1 Division, USAFFE, headed by Col. Harry H. Baird. Subsequently, G-1 Division noted:

The G-1 Section originally was charged with the handling of WAC personnel due to: (a) Their newness in the theater; (b) The fact that they were covered by a special allotment of overhead grades and ratings by the War Department; (c) The fact that it was necessary to keep in complete touch with the strength of the WAC Corps and the utilization of members during the period of arrival in the theater.21

Most of the duties assumed by G-1 were merely the normal staff duties now commonly performed by similar commands in the United States; however, it also held responsibility for policy matters. It believed that, so far as possible, enlisted men's policies should be applicable to the WAC. Colonel Baird recalled later that, "As far as the theater was concerned, there was no "WAC program' except for an evident required publicity program.22  There existed some belief that WAC advisers' experience and training were not always adequate to cope with the conditions that existed in the area. Colonel Baird later noted:

Almost every one in top positions in GHQ, USAFFE, and SOS had served a generation in the Regular Army, as well as having seen service in World War I. For them to have formed very definite ideas on staff procedure, command, and military custom-which was the situation-was natural and logical. The Wacs lacked the background of military custom and they had little understanding of the possible far-reaching and serious effects of an action or decision.

The staff director's office was set up as the WAC Section of the Special Staff and, in the months before the Wacs' arrival, was called on chiefly to attend conferences and for public and social duties. In the matter of public relations, Colonel Brown was given a free hand and was encouraged by USAFFE to take all necessary steps to establish good will prior to WAC arrival. In the following weeks the staff director received calls from heads of the Australian Women's Auxiliary Service, YWCA, and Red Cross, and other officials. She attended theatrical performances, the Australian Arts and Crafts exhibit, a memorial mass, a WAAF ceremony. She went to receptions, gave luncheons, made formal calls at Admiralty House, Government House, and the American consulate. She broadcast radio programs, met visiting celebrities, and was photographed with koala bears. As a result, before the arrival of the first shipment in May, public attitude was believed to be definitely more favorable.23

[415]


The only serious deficiency in planning at this date appeared to be in the matter of clothing. During a visit to the United States in March, Colonel Baird urgently recommended that two skilled WAC supply officers be sent by air to the theater. Queried for confirmation of this request, the theater authorized air shipment of one supply officer and one public relations officer. The supply officer, Capt. Lavern Bartholomew, was first ordered to OPD for indoctrination on supply needs of the area, and arrived in the theater in mid-April. Since at the same moment the first large group of enlisted women was boarding ship on the U.S. west coast, and the second was under orders, her supply planning was limited to later shipments. Planning was further delayed by the fact that Captain Bartholomew was not at once assigned to the office of the theater chief quartermaster, although Colonel Brown recommended this action on the grounds that supply planning was not a function either of the WAC Section or of G-1, which lacked the necessary data and authority.24

On 4 May 1944, a week before the landing of the first ship bringing Wacs, Colonel Brown and her assistant, Capt. Charlee L. Kelly, were sent to New Guinea to inspect the first advanced location, Port Moresby, to which some of the women would be sent two weeks after arrival. No unusual difficulties were expected in the area, since Port Moresby had long been regarded as a rear echelon, at which American nurses and Red Cross women had been stationed for about two years.

At the camp site, it was discovered that the quarters were entirely adequate but not prepared for troop occupancy; the staff director secured from the local quartermaster an agreement to prepare the quarters as soon as possible. Colonel Brown also discovered a fact not previously considered by supply officers-that malarial control regulations required all women in New Guinea to wear trousers both at work and off duty. The regular issue for men assigned to headquarters duty was six pairs of summer khaki. As officers, nurses had been able to purchase the trousers through commercial civilian channels in Australia, and were now required to have six mosquito-proof khaki shirts and six pairs of slacks apiece, which the chief surgeon described as "the minimum number which would take care of requirements." 25

Returning immediately to Australia, Colonel Brown informed Brig. Gen. William F. Campbell, Chief Quartermaster, U.S. Army Services of Supply, Southwest Pacific Area (USASOS), that there was no such item as slacks in the WAC wardrobe, and that the nearest approach was the heavy herringbone twill coverall, of which arriving Wacs would have only one pair apiece. On the same day, the WAC supply officer was assigned to General Campbell's office, and a radiogram was sent to Washington requesting that the issue of two-piece coveralls to Wacs not already en route be increased to five pairs per individual, pending study of the problem.26

On the following day, Colonel Brown and her staff were received by General MacArthur, who, according to historical reports,

[416]


ARRIVING IN SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, on 12 May 1944, above. Two days later members of the first contingent board buses for their new camp at Yeronga Park.

ARRIVING IN SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, on 12 May 1944, above. Two days later members of the first contingent board buses for their new camp at Yeronga Park.

ARRIVING IN SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, on 12 May 1944, above. Two days later members of the first contingent board buses for their new camp at Yeronga Park.

[417]


. . welcomed the WAC; spoke of the magnificent contribution of Australia to the war effort; praised the nurses and Red Cross women; spoke of how horrible war is; the two enemies our men have to fight Japs and nature; and the morale factor of the presence of the WAC besides their contribution to their jobs . . . that he had asked the War Department for 10,000 Wacs and that he was getting less than half that number.27

This was the last official conference with General MacArthur until just before the Wacs departed at the end of the war.

First WAC Contingent in Australia

A few days later, after all preparations had been made for the reception of the first Wacs at Brisbane, it was discovered that the ship was about to put in at Sydney. Colonel Brown and other welcoming officers flew to Sydney, where it was found that USASOS personnel, long desirous of obtaining Wacs, had planned a cordial reception. On the morning of 12 May, an impressive number of general officers, heads of Australian services, and curious soldiers and sailors were on the pier to watch the first 640 Wacs disembark from the transport West Point. 28  The Wacs made a good military appearance in their winter uniforms, according to a public relations officer:

With every eye trained on them, the Wacs marched off in their best military formation to pile into trucks. They were dressed in Class A uniform plus utility coat, field shoes, helmet, full field pack strapped on the back, and they carried in their hands everything from Red Cross ditty-bags to pillows, candy, radios, typewriters, and other cherished treasures. One Wac even carried a guitar. "Gee, they're real American girls," remarked one GI unbelievingly.29

The Wacs proceeded at once to Brisbane, which was only a two-week stopover for the first group destined for New Guinea, but where others were to stay for several months while civilian employees were replaced and the various headquarters rendered mobile. The 526 enlisted women and 114 officers were divided between USAFFE and USASOS. ,Most of the officers, and one company of the enlisted women, were assigned to operate the Central Postal Directory at Port Moresby, New Guinea. USAFFE's remaining 198 enlisted women were assigned to various headquarters offices, including 55 to the adjutant general, and from one to ten each to G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, the chaplain, inspector general, headquarters commandant, judge advocate, provost marshal, special services, information and education, and finance. USASOS assignments were not recorded, but were presumably similar.30

Army officers responsible for the women's placement reported strong initial resistance on the part of many section chiefs, who were not enthusiastic about releasing civilian employees, but such objections were usually short-lived in view of the prospective departure from Australia .31  An additional difficulty in replacement was presented by the fact that the first to arrive were in many cases not clerical workers, the higher clerical skills in the United States having been already well combed over by the European thea-

[418]


ter. Also, theater requisitions had included drivers, mechanics, radio operators, and other specialists who, it was now decided, could not safely be used in New Guinea. As a result, a headquarters in the urgent days of preparing for movement was faced with the necessity for retraining chauffeurs and other workers as clerks and typists-a problem which occasionally left the impression that untrained Wacs had been shipped.32  In August the theater requested deletion from future shipments of fifty-four drivers, as well as some draftsmen, cashiers, bookkeepers, and other specialists, but the War Department reply was, "Impossible to delete . . . as personnel already en route to theater or under shipment orders.33

Under the circumstances, it was surprising to staff officers that the replacement was none the less accomplished speedily and successfully. General Campbell noted later:

I was assigned 39 Wacs to replace 78 Australian girls. The Wacs didn't know one Quartermaster report from another but they quickly caught on: even those who had been rivers showed aptitude for it, and did more and better work than civilians. I never saw a bunch more willing to do a job.34

In one other respect, that of selection, several of the Wacs were inferior to the initial shipments to other theaters. A few days after the arrival of the first group, one member went AWOL and was finally apprehended only after conspicuous misconduct in the city of Brisbane, which came to the attention of the American consul and of some of the citizenry. Inspection of her records showed that she had been shipped overseas after a series of disciplinary offenses and courts-martial. Further investigation uncovered several more records of the same character. The women were promptly shipped back to the United States, accompanied by a report pointing out that Wacs should not be selected on the same basis as combat troops, and that as the first ambassadors and representatives of American womanhood in a foreign country, such women left something to be desired.

Using this evidence, Colonel Hobby finally secured re-establishment of the requirement -a considerable deviation from men's rules- that WAC company commanders must certify the suitability of any enlisted woman sent overseas, and that WAC staff directors must certify any officer.35  Later selection was reported as much improved. Theater medical authorities felt that many physical and mental breakdowns could have been avoided had women with known records of instability not been sent. A subsequent report commented:

It appears that the selection of WAC personnel sent to this theater was not made carefully enough, especially in the case of commissioned personnel. The "unloading'" of less than "excellent" type personnel on an overseas requisition was a practice which flourished to the detriment of the WAC in this theater. WD Circular 362, 6 Dec 44, put a check on this practice, but a great deal of damage had already been done. Conditions of this theater put the greatest demands on women commanding other women as regards stability and judgment, and the caliber of many company officers sent here leaves much to be desired.36

As expected, the Australian stopover presented no important difficulties in housing or supply. Wacs were housed at

[419]


Yeronga Park, generally riding to work on city trams; USASOS Wacs later transferred to Victoria Park. The lack of heat in some offices and part of the quarters, customary as it was to Australians, caused a, high incidence of minor pulmonary disorders, seldom disabling in character. Barracks were somewhat more primitive than those in the United States, with bucket latrines, outside showers, and limited laundry facilities, but were in general superior to those of male troops in the area. Wacs enjoyed city recreational facilities, and stated that they had plenty of Australian fruit and green vegetables and more than plenty of Australian mutton.

Arrival in New Guinea

Beginning on 28 May, only two weeks after the landing in Australia, 100 WAC censorship officers and 88 enlisted women left by air for Port Moresby.37  As perspiring Wacs stepped from the first plane, clad in coveralls and wool-lined field coats, and carrying full field pack, they were met by an advance party with cameras and flashbulbs, intent on preserving the moment for recruiting purposes. Driving along the 14-mile road from Port Moresby to their camp site at John's Gulley, they found much of the way lined with fuzzy-haired natives, and with soldiers who shouted, waved whistled, and called out such questions as "What State are you from?" or "How's San Francisco?"

The WAC quarters, inside a hot and dusty barbed-wired enclosure, were among the best enlisted housing in New Guinea-tong wooden barracks with iron roofs, cement floors, and screened walls, with outside showers and toilets, but boasting a water-borne sewage system. The barracks were not yet fully prepared for troop occupancy, and the women, fresh from the United States, were at first baffled by the lack of furniture except Army cots, which thwarted their attempts to unpack clothing or set up the orderly room typewriter. They were also worried about prospects of doing their laundry without laundry facilities or hot water, or of eating, since the WAC mess was choked with debris and there was no drinking water.

However, a friendly men's unit nearby loaned the women a Lyster bag for drinking water, and fed them bread and jam, after which they borrowed trucks and set out to scavenge supply dumps for boxes, crates, tin cans, nails, and broken furniture. "The Quartermaster salvage dump proved a fascinating place," wrote one woman. They also borrowed a tool kit from the men, and improvised shelves and hangers for clothing and stands for the orderly room typewriter and files. By nightfall they considered themselves theater veterans. An enlisted woman wrote, "Now that we have our boxes, we are different people. We have found our sense of humor, and a sort of objectivity."

The work at Port Moresby proved heavy but routine, the operation of the Central Postal Directory in general offering nothing unfamiliar. The enlisted women sorted, checked, readdressed and forwarded soldier mail in what inspectors pronounced a highly competent manner. The WAC officers were employed as censors to replace male officers, and were also

[420]


complimented by their supervisor, who observed:

I don't know what there is about women that makes them so sharp-eyed in reading letters, but the ones I have here possess an uncanny knack for picking up hidden security breaches, such as tricky codes a soldier may devise to tell his wife where he Is .... They are turning out more and better work than the male officers they released to the combat area.38

The only immediate difficulty in the area was that of the uniform. The skirted winter uniforms had necessarily been left behind for storage in Australia, leaving each woman, for her entire supply of outer garments, only the one pair of herringbone twill coveralls that had been issued for shipboard wear. Since there were no WAC maintenance stocks in the theater, each woman was provided with two more pairs of coveralls by the expedient of withdrawing them from other Wacs still in Australia. The heavy coveralls proved too hot for the climate and irritating to women's skin, as well as being so unsightly that nurses and other female personnel in the area were not permitted to wear them. Heat and skin diseases soon made it necessary for the headquarters to authorize the wearing of the WAC cotton shirt with the trousers of the two-piece coveralls, a practice that eventually became theater-wide, although officially forbidden by the theater surgeon, since the WAC shirt was lighter than the men's khaki, and below the weight believed safely mosquito-proof. The unit historian noted also that a few lucky women "had adopted suntan pants." Gifts of flowers and candy were scorned, and the successful applicant for a date was one who came carrying, as well as wearing, khaki trousers.

An additional problem that soon became evident was the unexpectedly restricted life of the enlisted women. WAC advisers, having been informed of the safe and civilized nature of the Port Moresby area, had believed that, as in Italy and Normandy, the ordinary camp security system would afford women sufficient protection, since there was little danger at this date from either the enemy or the natives. Instead, the headquarters directed that, in view of the large number of male troops in the area, some of whom allegedly had not seen a nurse or other white woman in eighteen months, Wacs would be locked within their barbed-wire compound at all times except when escorted by armed guards to work or to approved group recreation. No leaves or passes, or one-couple dates, were allowed at any time. The women's reaction was unfavorable; inspectors reported that they believed that higher commanders thought them "children or criminals," and therefore confined them in "a concentration camp." On the other hand, those restrictions that also applied to men were accepted by the women without comment.39

Within a few months the WAC area had been rendered more comfortable than most of those that were later to be found at more advanced bases. For labor beyond their strength, the women gave the natives cigarettes, candy, and even the otherwise useless WAC hats. Visitors reported considerable shock at beholding the natives dressed in WAC hats and very little else.

There were soon shelves, a graveled walk through the mud, a dayroom set up by the Red Cross, and even improvised dressing tables. The women learned from the men to wash their clothing in cold

[421]


water and to press it by sleeping on it or by hanging it up very wet. WAC cooks eventually cleared the debris from the WAC mess hall, overhauled the stoves, and soon had a mess which, their historian reported, "had a steady stream of daily business calls from officers who usually arrived just before dinner."

The women later obtained two washing machines, electric lights, and electric irons. In a few more months the Wacs had such luxuries as a recreation hall, a softball team, and a jukebox. They also persuaded the nurses to move their hairdressing shop so that Wacs could share it, since they could not use the men's barbershop. A Wac was put into the post exchange to order items women needed.

In spite of initial adjustments, only one woman in the detachment showed complete "inability to adjust to a tropical environment," and had to be returned to Australia. The unit grew in size, and was soon bypassed by Wacs moving north.

Headquarters Rendered Mobile

Meanwhile, with the aid of two more large shipments of WAC personnel, the various headquarters in Australia had succeeded in making themselves mobile. On 26 June 1944, the second WAC contingent landed in Brisbane-357 enlisted women and 28 officers-which was again divided, with USAFFE headquarters receiving about 99, the Port Moresby detachment 68, and the remainder going to Headquarters, USASOS. Included among the various skills were 75 clerks, 65 stenographers, and 52 typists. On 10 July a third contingent landed at Brisbane-8 officers and 371 enlisted women-again in chiefly clerical skills, and again divided among USAFFE in Australia, USAFFE in Port Moresby, and USASOS in Australia. In addition, 84 women of this last group were given to the newly formed Headquarters, Far East Air Forces (FEAF), which had not filed its own formal requisitions until July and thus had not received any on the scheduled date for movement in August.40

A matter which unit organization did not reveal was that not only USAFFE, USASOS, and FEAF, but also GHQ, were employing Wacs. By August of 1944, shortly before the jump-off from Australia, GHQ, had borrowed 74 Wacs from USAFFE and 31 from USASOS-a total of 105, with 150 more on requisition. Colonel Brown recommended that these women be organized into their own detachment when numbers warranted, and assigned to GHQ,, as were enlisted men, and Dutch, Australian, and British women. This request was refused, since it was the Supreme Allied Commander's desire that American women not be assigned to GHQ, but attached for duty from some lower administrative echelon. Of these 105 women, 56 worked in GHQ:'s Signal Intelligence Division, 28 as telephone operators, 10 with the Chief Regulating Officer, and lesser numbers in other offices.41

Scarcely any one policy, supply situation, or personnel practice was common to all of these groups-GHQ,, USAFFE, USASOS, and FEAF-even when they shared one camp. Because of the poor communications and local differences in climate and facilities, it was USAFFE's practice to promulgate only broad instructions and to leave the subordinate com-

[422]


mands free to meet the changing situation. For this reason, Colonel Baird noted that "the theater was most reluctant to publish a fixed policy or general rule to establish uniformity in WAC control and administration. This was true for the men also." Exceptions could therefore be found to almost any general statement which could later be made concerning theater Wacs as a group. A theater housing policy for Wacs was almost the only published over-all policy, and even this was found impracticable outside of Australia.42

A source of some later comment was the fact that Wacs were assigned to the advanced echelons of all of these headquarters. For nurses, the theater had formerly adopted a contrary policy of "using them only in rear areas," causing them to be replaced by male corpsmen in evacuation hospitals and in field hospitals during active phases of service-a practice which, inspectors reported, had caused low morale and psychiatric casualties among the women.43

Theater historians later expressed some doubt as to the necessity for the opposite policy concerning Wacs, since Australia was, to the end, a great supply base at which some noncombat men remained, and certain other headquarters, such as Air Transport Command, winnowed the necessary male clerical personnel for more advanced bases from among ordinary troops.

Maj. Gen. William O. Ryan of the ATC, upon inspecting the New Guinea bases, declared the area unsuitable for women and canceled the orders of ATC Wacs about to fly in from Hawaii. Nevertheless, responsible Army officers were unanimous that the theater could not have taken similar action. Col. A. Robert Ginsburgh, who was both G-1 and G-3 of USASOS, stated later:

USASOS could not possibly have moved from Australia without the Wacs . . . . Except for the Wacs, I had only the few clerically skilled men which higher headquarters let trickle through to USASOS, plus a few malarials and other men sent back from combat, naturally not very useful at exacting office work.44

Colonel Baird of USAFFE likewise indicated that the decision was a military necessity. General MacArthur himself, when later questioned as to the advisability of this course, replied:
I moved my Wacs forward early after occupation of recaptured territory because they were needed and they were soldiers in the same manner that my men were soldiers. Furthermore, if I had not moved my Wacs when I did. I would have had mutiny . . . as they were so eager to carry on where needed.45

The Wacs themselves were eager to get forward, and the staff director later expressed "complete accord" with the decision.46

Oro Bay

Wacs began to move out of Australia early in August of 1944; by October only

[423]


COMMANDING OFFICER OF THIRD CONTINGENT OF WACS to arrive in Australia is greeted at the pier on 10 July 1944. In the group greeting Capt. Ida M. Ross from left to right are Brig. Gen. Homer C. Brown, Lt. Col. Mary-Agnes Brown, Capt. Charlee L. Kelly and Lt. Vera Mankinen.

COMMANDING OFFICER OF THIRD CONTINGENT OF WACS to arrive in Australia is greeted at the pier on 10 July 1944. In the group greeting Capt. Ida M. Ross from left to right are Brig. Gen. Homer C. Brown, Lt. Col. Mary-Agnes Brown, Capt. Charlee L. Kelly and Lt. Vera Mankinen.

a negligible number remained on the continent.47  First to move was USASOS, which on 9 August 1944 sent an advance unit to Oro Bay for service with its Intermediate Section (Intersec). These were shortly reinforced by the arrival at Oro Bay on 6 September, direct from the United States, of the largest WAC shipment yet received -47 officers and 1,253 enlisted women. These were divided between Intersec headquarters at Cape Sudest and USASOS Base B at Oro Bay proper. On 30 October another large shipment of 21 officers and 571 enlisted women for USASOS also landed at Oro Bay, followed later by a final smaller one in January of 1945. A WAC staff director for USASOS was designated, the position being held successively in the next twelve months by Capt. Natalie Reebel, Maj. Ellen Bailey, and Maj. Annie V. Gardiner.48

The supply situation of the Oro Bay Wacs was not improved, for the first few months, by the fact that the entire September shipment arrived completely equipped with arctic clothing, including ski pants and ear muffs. No explanation

[424]


or comment on this phenomenon was ever advanced by supply agencies in the theater or in the United States; no arctic shipment of Wacs had ever been directed by the War Department during World War II.49

The Oro Bay area proved generally suitable for women, with WAC camps, carved from the jungle, lying along the seashore, with beaches for front yards and palm trees for shade. Swimming was permissible under certain conditions. Barracks were made of wood and screens, with a large recreation hall and mess hall already built nearby. The staff director, Colonel Brown, accompanied by Captain Reebel, had visited and slept in these barracks before the arrival of the women, and had checked with the Base B staff on other necessary preparations.

Since Oro Bay was principally a major supply base, much of the Wacs' duties concerned the stock record reports and other paper work necessary to get materiel forwarded to combat troops. The Distribution Office was almost entirely staffed by Wacs, who kept track of the ships and supplies in New Guinea, whether mobile or at bases or consigned to the area from Australia or San Francisco. Army service command units to enter Leyte with the next wave of combat troops included men pulled out of offices at Oro Bay and replaced by Wacs.50

As at Port Moresby, the only unexpected difficulty in the employment of women in the area was that of restrictions not applied to men at the same base. Colonel Brown noted that before her departure the base commander, Brig. Gen. Clarence L. Sturdevant, had agreed to treat the women like other troops. General Sturdevant, one of the few members of the Pacific staff who had observed WAC administration in the United States prior to his assignment to the Pacific, believed that "overly protective measures such as barbed wire fences and armed guards were unnecessary and undesirable." 51  However, before the troops' arrival this decision was reversed. Thereafter, all USASOS bases used a system of protective custody for women. Barbed wire was put up around the Oro Bay WAC area, and the women were forbidden to leave "any area at any time" without armed guards, even being marched to approved movies in formation under guard. A list of further restrictions was published in order to prevent "regrettable incidents and unwholesome impressions of any nature." 52

Off-duty activities were limited to approved unit parties and other mass entertainment to which women could be taken under guard, and even for these a woman's date had to be named twenty-four hours in advance, subject to disapproval by the senior WAC officer. Outside the WAC area, vehicles carrying women could not stop en route to the approved destination, or any woman leave the vehicle, or the vehicle leave the main road. Women were forbidden to board boats, ships, or craft of any sort, or to ride in aircraft. "Informal social gatherings of males

[425]


and females" were forbidden unless the commanding officer designated the spot for them. All women were required to be in quarters by 2300 unless authorized to stay out until midnight, which was the absolute deadline.

Because of the growing effect of these provisions upon discipline and mental health, Colonel Brown later appealed again to USASOS headquarters to revert to the system first approved by the base commander. Although Maj. Gen. James L. Frink later agreed to authorize his base commanders to grant Wacs "the greatest possible freedom consistent with their personal safety," very few actual modifications ever resulted.53

Hollandia

On 31 August 1944, three weeks after the first Oro Bay shipment, a group of Far East Air Forces Wacs took off from Brisbane for the next stop, Hollandia, some eight hundred miles beyond Oro Bay. Here the environment was far less favorable and, while combat troops had landed four months before, the last Japanese raiding parties had still not been driven from the hills. The prudent FEAF Wacs, having heard that wild country lay ahead, climbed from their air transport laden with sixty baby chicks and twenty-five laying hens-which, incidentally, never laid thereafter. USAFFE and USASOS Wacs followed, until there were shortly more than a thousand in the Hollandia area.54

Climate and living conditions in Hollandia, except for GHQs elevated camp site, were in general the least favorable yet encountered by the advancing headquarters. Rain was continual in some seasons, clothing was generally wet from perspiration, and heat prevented more than a few hours sleep at night. The red New Guinea clay apparently had the ability simultaneously to blow into the hair as dust and stick to the clothing as mud. During the first weeks there were no laundry facilities for men or women, and the slow-drying coveralls proved difficult to keep clean. For some time women had no hairdressing facilities, of which a medical officer noted, "They have as much need of them as men do of barbershops.55

Also, everyone shortly turned yellow from the required atabrine. One officer reported, "Frankly, women who had looked very well in Australia looked like hell in Hollandia." Men and women alike began to get skin diseases: some had to be sent back, including one competent WAC commander whose loss, USASOS authorities stated, "we could very ill afford." Weather conditions often prevented active recreation, while attempts at approved social entertainments bogged down under the weight of heavy coveralls and field shoes in 100-degree temperatures.

These conditions were particularly felt by USASOS personnel, both men and women, in their hot and humid camp site on low ground near the harbor. Here Wacs shared, with assorted insects, wooden-floored tents and a converted warehouse. The FEAF camp site was scarcely more healthful, with tents pitched on ground subject to flash floods of mud

[426]


and water, and at the foot of a hill a strenuous hike from the offices on top. For a time the FEAF unit also housed the USAFFE Wacs, most of whom worked for GHQ but within a few weeks this arrangement became so unsatisfactory to FEAF that, without warning, it bodily ejected the GHQ, Wacs and their belongings, without a company officer.

Emergency housing was hastily worked out, and the GHQ Wacs eventually benefited by a move to tents in the GHQ, area on a cool mountain top. To prevent such misunderstandings in the future, the staff director recommended in September and again in January that the unit be formally organized and assigned to GHQ, as were enlisted men, but she was again informed by USAFFE that "The Commander-in Chief did not want Wacs assigned to GHQ and under the circumstances no attempt would be made to do so.56  Because of its ambiguous status, the GHQ unit suffered chronic supply difficulties, and eventually departed from Hollandia without ever receiving its organizational equipment.57

The GHQ unit, upon Colonel Brown's recommendation, attempted the experiment of housing Wacs, nurses, and Red Cross women in one camp without barbed wire, and with a minimum of restrictions. No particular difficulties were experienced, and there were only two instances of prowlers, of whom it was reported, "The Wacs took care of them.58  The success of this experiment did not, as the staff director had hoped, persuade other commands to try it. USASOS units at all stations, employing some 60 percent of all Wacs, continued to use varieties of the unpopular "concentration camp" system. Air Forces units ordinarily relaxed the system to abolish locked compounds, requiring only armed escorts and traveling in minimum groups of four. The FEAF staff director noted that "No serious incidents were reported as a result of the wider degree of freedom exercised by Air Force units.59

A fourth WAC unit was eventually organized in Hollandia by the Far East Air Service Command (FEASC). Although handicapped when the departing FEAF transferred to it more than sixty WAC drivers and other unassignables needing retraining, the FEASC detachment requisitioned more Wacs and reached an eventual strength of approximately seven hundred.60

At this time premature optimism was general when, toward the end of 1944, the WAC medical evacuation rate for the first six months in the theater was computed and proved to be not too much higher than the men's, the loss rate being 62 per 1,000 per year for men (nonbattle causes only) and 98 per 1,000 for Wacs. This rate appeared especially good in view of the current rate of 202 per 1,000 for Army nurses, a rate that had generally prevailed since their arrival. Theater reports stated that the WAC rate compared "very favorably" with the men's, and that the difference was due to gynecological disorders, other disabilities incurred by the Wacs being generally of the same nature and degree of severity as those incurred by men.61

[427]


HOLLANDIA, NETHERLANDS NEW GUINEA. Wooden-floored tents occupied by the women.

HOLLANDIA, NETHERLANDS NEW GUINEA. Wooden-floored tents occupied by the women.

Other evidence tended to support even more optimistic conclusions. For one period, during which the average length of nonbattle hospitalization was computed separately, the average stay for Wacs was only 10.5 days as compared to 18 days for men. There was a slight suspicion among the Wacs themselves that they could withstand the hot weather better than the men. On the other hand, while many Wacs had gained weight in Australia, they, like many men, now began to lose; some suffered a "gradual and continuous"' loss from the time of their arrival. Authorities blamed this on "loss of appetite after long periods of diet composed principally of canned and dehydrated foods.62

The Philippines

Wacs arrived in the Philippines on 26 November 1944, some thirty-six days behind the first wave of combat troops. The Wacs' presence was again required by USASOS' personnel plan, a repetition of its previous maneuver. To man the immediate northward push from Leyte, it was again necessary to pull men out of the organizations that had landed on Leyte and to send them forward in the island hopping toward Manila. The mechanics of this exchange was handled by a WAC enlisted woman, later a warrant officer, Margaret Sterling, who received high commendation from USASOS authorities

[428]


HOLLANDIA, NETHERLANDS NEW GUINEA. Women at work in the finance office.

HOLLANDIA, NETHERLANDS NEW GUINEA. Women at work in the finance office.

for her management of the selection and training of WAC replacements in this and previous moves. GHQ and FEAF also made the decision to move their women to Leyte.63

Colonel Brown attempted to move the staff director's office forward from Hollandia ahead of the enlisted women, and succeeded in getting orders for a permanent change of station to Leyte. However, these orders were shortly revoked by G-1 Division, over her protest, and no representative of the WAC Section was permitted to visit the Leyte area until some weeks after the enlisted women's arrival.64

The first enlisted women, the GHQ unit, took off for Leyte accompanied by "Tokyo Rose's" prediction. "Of course they won't get there." As promised, trouble was encountered when the first planes were obliged to circle for some time before they could land, and were immediately strafed when they started to unload. Arriving Wacs, accustomed to being a sensation, were nevertheless surprised to see hundreds of men fleeing the airstrip and plunging into brush and foxholes. The women soon grasped the maneuver, and hit the foxholes as promptly as did the combat veterans on the same planes; from this vantage point they cheered as two

[429]


Japanese planes were shot down in flames.65

Conditions during the rainy season nevertheless proved so unexpectedly bad as to raise the issue of whether or not the Wacs should be sent back, even over their objections. Proceeding through hub-deep mud to Tacloban, the GHQ Wacs were housed in a deserted mission school where Japanese soldiers had been recently garrisoned. Fortunately, the yards were already honeycombed with Japanese foxholes; the entire day and night were described as "a series of enemy air-raids and ducking for shelter."66  USASOS men and women, arriving soon after, shared an area in a sea of mud, in which frameless tents were pitched so closely that they had to be tied together. FEAF Wacs were slightly better off. On the day after their arrival General Kenney himself inspected the area, and in the next month drainage ditching was performed by "shovel equipped Colonels, Majors, Lieutenants, and non-coms from the A-2 Section.67  However, the chief WAC problem on Leyte was not housing, which was the same for men and women, but rather the lack of suitable equipment. There were no overshoes for women, and only four of the GHQ Wacs had more than one pair of field shoes, which never dried out but had, the commander reported, to be "cleaned and put back on while still wet." The supply of coveralls was still so poor that, she noted, "there is no way of keeping in dry clothes."68  A search was made for men's overshoes or field shoes in small sizes, but even after calling upon the Navy it was impossible to find enough to equip the women.

Nevertheless, the women were averse to leaving Leyte, and no move was made to return them. The History of USAFFE reported:
They kept communications open at Leyte between arts that sent them into foxholes, only to return to take more messages all through the night.69

The deputy chief ordnance officer noted:
The Advance Section, USASOS, which went into Leyte, worked long night hours in the lantern-lighted tents when we were getting ready for an operation. We were interrupted frequently by air-raids, but they didn't panic.70

After a rough three months on Leyte, conditions improved as they had at previous stations; food and supply were better, laundry and hairdressing facilities were obtained, and emergency housing was improved. Troops of both sexes had more time for swimming, sight-seeing, and shopping at the local market. The chief interest was the battle for Manila; as usual, the Wacs again wished to move forward. As released prisoners, wounded, and sick began to be evacuated, some Wacs took up clothing collections among their own scarce stores for the women and children from internment camps, and volunteered off-duty help in hospitals.

Other Bases

Meanwhile, during and after the move to Leyte, Wacs had been sent to other bases.71  The decision was made by USASOS headquarters that Wacs must go out to all of Intersec's lettered bases

[430]


WAC AREA, TACLOBAN, LEYTE ISLAND, 27 December 1944. Vote regulation dress shoes worn by woman.

WAC AREA, TACLOBAN, LEYTE ISLAND, 27 December 1944. Vote regulation dress shoes worn by woman.

[431]


except those already to the rear, even where somewhat primitive conditions existed. As a result, USASOS Wacs were moved from Oro Bay not only to Hollandia but, on 24 November, to Base E at Lae and, on 6 December 1944, to Base F at Finschhafen. The USASOS staff director visited these bases in advance of troops, to help select WAC areas, and no particular difficulty was reported. Wacs at Lae lived in a hospital area, and those at Finschhafen in quarters of native construction, which were considered superior to tents. Both groups were later to be the last to leave as other bases moved forward. Jobs remained the familiar USASOS routine of cargo tonnage, troops movements, vessel routing reports, and other service paper work.

On 13 February 1945, the USAFFE mail and censorship unit likewise moved forward from Port Moresby to the coral island of Biak. Although the location presented problems of heat and glare, it eventually offered many conveniences. Except for an air raid in which no WAC casualties were suffered, the Biak Wacs' closest approach to war came with their visits to hospital ships and general hospitals.

Manila

On 7 March 1945, four days after organized resistance ended in Manila, the GHQ Wacs left Leyte and reached the area by air, across a bay still clogged with sunken ships. A WAC officer described their arrival:

The plane landed on a black-top highway 72  that served as an air-strip. Wacs climbed out and sat cross-legged on the ground taking in the scene. Down this modern roadway passed an array of assorted vehicles . . . people and their belongings coming back to the city . . . . Heavy artillery fire could be heard in the distance routing the Japs out of the hills only a few miles away. The route into the city led past . . . a once thriving business section, now a pile of crushed buildings, twisted iron gratings. debris. . . Dead Japs still lay along the streets awaiting burial. GHQ and USAFFE Wacs were housed in De La Salle College . . . called "atrocity college" because of the atrocities committed there by the Japanese. Bodies had been removed a day previously and floors and walls creosoted and fumigated.73

Fighting was still going on in the outskirts of the city, snipers were being routed out, and guards were heavy. One Japanese prowler was later caught in the WAC mess hall, and two others were shot down and died at WAC onlookers' feet, but there was, an observer reported, "no hysterics" among the women.

The disturbed conditions continued for some weeks. Water was scarce and had to be hauled. The GHQ Wacs bathed in helmets, lived by candlelight at night. Latrines were erected in the courtyard, with half a dozen shower heads. Men's mess halls lacked space to serve the women, and Wacs lived on K rations until they could get their own mess hall into operation. Dehydrated food was the chief sustenance for all troops; some women lost their appetites, preferred to sleep at mealtimes, and often ate only one meal a day. Until blood and filth could be removed, flies were so numerous that a severe epidemic of dysentery afflicted the GHQ Wacs. Their commander's greatest fear was that some of the violently ill women, groping their way in the blackout to the outdoor latrines, would fall and detonate the remaining Japanese booby traps believed to be on either side

[432]


of the board walks. Nevertheless, there was soon set up what was described as "an orderly efficiently operating headquarters in the midst of chaos, confusion, and destruction." In buildings full of bullet and shell holes, GHQ Wacs for the first weeks propped up broken desks and chairs, used crates for file cases, chunks of twisted metal for paperweights, and fragments of exploded shells for ash trays.

The USASOS Wacs delayed their arrival until, in the opinion of their battalion commander and later staff director, Major Gardiner, the worst of the dirt with the resulting dysentery was eliminated. They were housed in the Far Eastern University and in overflow tents on adjacent areas. Buildings were in relatively good condition, and the headquarters was quickly established.

As various New Guinea stations were closed, Wacs were moved into the Manila area until eventually most of the entire five thousand were concentrated there. Army Forces, Western Pacific (AFWESPAC), the successor to USASOS, used over a thousand women who were housed in frame-and-burlap barracks on Ascarraga Street. A small general depot group at Quezon City lived in floored tents in an area which the Wacs soon neatly landscaped. At the demolished Fort McKinley, FEAF Wacs lived in an attractive breezy camp with partitioned buildings, neat dayrooms, and their own club for dancing. At Nichols Field, FEASC Wacs had hot and dusty tin barracks. The Philippine Base Section WAC detachment drew comfortable but crowded nurses' quarters, where they lived six and eight to a two-woman compartment, and enjoyed that novelty, clothes closets. Wacs at Santa Ana Racetrack, working for the Allied Translator and Intelligence Service, lived for a time in muddy unfloored tents, later moving to thatch-roofed huts of 20-Wac capacity. Wacs with the signal intelligence section were housed at San Miguel Plantation in frame and tin barracks, and lived a very quiet country life.74

For some time restrictions in Manila were even tighter than elsewhere, since the city's remaining recreation facilities were generally off-limits, and a seven o'clock curfew was imposed for security. Also, the move to Manila did little to improve the supply situation. One company commander was obliged to ask that Wacs not be arrested by military police for not being dressed in the khaki uniform now required of all men and nurses, since "WAC personnel are not out of uniform when wearing coverall trousers with cotton shirts, because of the necessity for such wear as Class A uniform due to lack of supplies. Some members have only one pair of [men's] khaki slacks.75 Just after the first Wacs' move to Manila, the WAC Section sent a memorandum to G-1 of USAFFE pointing out that while the supply difficulties for male troops in the area were great, those for Wacs had been even greater: "No supply has been available for Wacs where I have been stationed since our departure from Australia." 76

Job Assignments

In Manila, and in the outlying bases, final records of WAC job assignment were scanty. The theater estimated that, as of the spring of 1945, 70 percent of the Wacs were engaged in administrative and office

[433]


work. The most common WAC jobs were, in order: clerk-typist, clerk (general), stenographer, typist, message center clerk, chauffeur, cook, and file clerk.77  The estimated percentages in each type of job were, toward the end of the war: 78

Duties    Percent
Technical and Professional    2.52
Radio and Electrical    .08
Communications    2.04
Mechanical and Trade    .81
Administrative and Office    69.33
Motor Transport    6.45
Food    4.52
Supply and Stock    8.7 7
Miscellaneous    5.48

By comparison with world-wide employment, the Pacific had used notably fewer women in communications, and more in routine office and supply jobs.

The approximate peak distribution of WAC troops among the several commands was estimated as: 79

Command    Percent
USAFFE (including (GHQ)    23
USASOS    60
Air Forces: FEAF    6
FEASC    11

Concerning the work done by the 23 percent assigned to USAFFE and GHQ, the History of USAFFE noted:

The WAC were typists, switchboard operators, administrative officers in signal centers and message centers, chief clerks, mess Sergeants, translators, historians, Personnel and Transportation Officers, Top Secret Officers, Executive Officers, and Assistants to Adjutants General. They drove heavy vehicles; handled stock reports, censored the mail of the whole theater.80

In addition to such duties, Wacs were by 1945 also assigned to the Joint Supply and Survey Board, the Radio and Radar Unit, the Psychological Warfare Board, the USAFFE Board, the fiscal director, the Civil and Military Censorship detachments, the A-D Board, and Section 22 of GHQ.81

Within USASOS, its 60 percent of Wacs were assigned not only to the headquarters but to ten base depot companies including quartermaster, ordnance, signal, engineer, chemical warfare, and medical.82  For example, the ordnance office of USASOS employed several hundred Wacs, of whom its chief noted:

Ordnance had more than 100,000 line items on which it maintained stock control in the theater, first by cards and later by IBM. Most men do not like this type of work, and even so the women are more painstaking. Each enlisted Wac would handle one small group of items, and each WAC officer would supervise several such groups. Our tendency was to leave them on the group they had learned, but they did not show signs of weariness. Many of the women were outstanding in morale.83

Percentages of Wacs in the various USASOS offices were not recorded, with two exceptions: the finance office at Intersec, serving approximately 2,800 personnel, was staffed entirely by Wacs; the editorial section of USASOS headquarters was composed of one WAC officer, eight enlisted women, and two enlisted men, who reviewed all publications.84

The 17 percent of Air Forces Wacs did, in general, the same type of work as that in the Service Forces. No record of FEAF jobs was preserved, but as of June 1945, FEASC employed 574 Wacs.85  Of them,

[434]


Maj. Gen. Clements McMullen of the Far East Air Service Command stated:

The FEASC WAC Detachment rendered superior service to this command. Our Wacs typed letters, ran mimeo machines. almost entirely manned an International Business Machine Statistical Unit, filed papers, drove automobiles, worked in dispensaries, and maintained their own homes, in a wonderful manner . . . .86

Signal Corps duties were common to GHQ,, USAFFE, USASOS, and the Air Forces. In the Intersec Signal Center, Wacs at teletype machines handled an average of 100,000 coded groups a day. During the Leyte campaign, 130,000 words a day were handled, including coding and decoding. One four-position telephone switchboard averaged 6,500 calls daily. GHQ's Signal Operations Group commended the Wacs handling the Bataan exchange, saying:

Many favorable comments have been received by this office recently on the operation of the Bataan Switchboard. The speed, efficiency, and courtesy with which calls are now being handled have been highly commended by representatives of the Chief Signal Office. GHQ.87

FEASC reported that during the move of its advanced headquarters to Manila, six WAC telephone operators "without assistance, for two consecutive weeks ran the FEASC switchboard at its new headquarters on a 24-hour 7-day week." 88

Several hundred women were employed on skilled work of a classified nature. The Allied Translator and Intelligence Service had 150 Wacs, including nisei, who did what was described as "important secret work" as interrogators and translators. This unit maintained a high morale, and was regarded as outstanding. Equally secret although more monotonous was the work of the 120 Wacs with the Signal Intelligence Service. The women were described as "highly skilled technicians," but it was admitted that "the secret nature of their work, regardless of how interesting and stimulating it was, in time became tiring due to the fact that it was confining and restricted the individual." 89

The work of the censorship unit and the Central Postal Directory, successively at Port Moresby and Biak, continued almost unchanged. Approximately a million wrongly addressed pieces of mail were processed monthly by the Wacs, who received reports of all changes of status or location of theater personnel and worked seven days a week checking cards in huge locator files. The censorship group received the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque for having censored not only ordinary mail but "practically all the foreign-language mail written in the theater, involving a knowledge of 31 languages."90

Nevertheless, inspectors found that censorship work, which at first had appeared highly suitable for women, offered a definite mental hazard. One reported:

Much of what the men wrote was so obscene that the women became demoralized from having to read it all day . . . . The WAC censors became nervous, temperamental, and complaining; first they thought they would lose their eyesight, then their minds. All came to complaint hour. By the end of the war . . . many of them had become definitely neurotic if not actually psychotic.91

An inspector general report in April 1945

[435]


stated that an extremely low state of morale existed and that the health record was poor: 20 percent were on sick call daily, 50 percent suffered from eye strain, and approximately 8 percent had already been evacuated due to tropical diseases and psychoneurosis. 92 After the unit was returned to the United States, the postwar theater staff director wrote, "In any future planning, I definitely oppose the use of women in censoring male correspondence." 93

A few other defects marred the WAC job-assignment program, of a type which in less active theaters had caused more serious difficulty than was reported in the Pacific. In some units, women, especially stenographers, were not always kept busy enough to suit them. Inspectors reported of the FEASC detachment that "the largest percentage of complaints from this group involved job utilization . . . complaints were registered in regard to the limited amount of work actually being performed." 94

Nevertheless, women were apparently more fortunate than men in this respect, for a FEASC management control survey reported the job utilization of enlisted women to be better than that of enlisted men in the same offices.95 On the other hand, highly skilled women technicians were more subject to malassignment than men, for the environment greatly limited the extent to which women could be scattered about, and WAC radio operators, photographic technicians, drivers and mechanics usually had to be retrained to other skills.

In almost all commands, job promotion was slow and skilled workers did not receive the ratings that the War Department, in allotting Wacs to the theater, had provided. This spread of grades and ratings would have been generally appropriate for the MOS numbers held by the women, but after a few months these were not reserved for the Wacs but made available to the men, according to the system of integration favored by WAC advisers in the United States. Any other course, according to Colonel Ginsburgh, "would have caused much ill-feeling among the men. 96  Grades received by Wacs were below the theater average for men in skilled jobs; they were also somewhat lower than those received by Wacs in Europe and Italy. On the other hand, they were higher than those of male labor battalions and unskilled service troops in the theater, and even a single stripe on a woman's sleeve provoked so much caustic comment from unrated men that Colonel Ginsburgh recommended that, in the future, women in the Army be given no grades. WAC officers' promotions were likewise slower than in other theaters, about half never being promoted in the theater.97

Because theater policies differed, awards and decorations were given less frequently than in other theaters. Although Pacific Wacs had moved more rapidly and lived longer under field conditions than those in Europe, they received only about one fourth as many Bronze Stars. In some cases there existed some feeling that

[436]


Bronze Stars and similar awards were inappropriate for women. One WAC sergeant noted that identical recommendations were forwarded by her section chief for herself and for the men under her supervision, but that only the men's were approved.98  There was only one award of the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque, elsewhere quite common among WAC units.99

The Question of Expense

There existed from the beginning the question of whether the expense of maintaining women in such an area was not so prohibitive as to nullify any possible gain from even the most superlative efficiency. Theater authorities discounted this view almost completely, and were unable to understand how it had become so widely circulated. To some extent its spread seemed due to hundreds of statements in soldier mail, such as "As far as replacing men, that is purely a myth; it takes more poor GI's to work for them, and more to guard them, than they come anywhere near replacing'"; or, from an officer, "The lady GI's haven't freed any men for the fighting fronts. They require special quarters, special handling, and so damned many MP's to guard them that it more than eats up the manpower relieved." Some thought that it took "three or four GI's" for every Wac, or even, "For every Wac that is sent overseas it required approximately eight soldiers to take care of her." 100

Actual employers of Wacs could find little basis for such charges. "Wacs needed some extra care and help in setting up their housing," the USASOS G-I stated, "but a headquarters has to have administrative troops, and where will you find male stenographers? 101  A section chief noted, "When we moved, we had to provide areas for women, but we would have had to set them up for the nurses anyway; it was only a few days' work, and didn't have to be done again for months.102  The general view was that it was not an uneconomical procedure to employ service troops to set up facilities for key office workers, regardless of sex, although the service battalions concerned could not lx expected to concur in the opinion.

Some guards had also undoubtedly been required, much against the women's wishes, but in daylight hours only one or two were employed to march the whole unit to work, which took a very few minutes. At night, for attendance at unit parties, the duty was a purely voluntary one. As for gate guards, the comment of Colonel Boyce, the second WAC Director, after a visit late in 1945, was:

It was noted that guards were considered necessary and were therefore assigned to all the other groups in the forward area, i.e., nursing personnel, medical groups, and general headquarters areas. It was established that no more guards were required for WAC personnel than for other types of noncombat personnel assigned to duty in these forward areas.103

Apart from the labor involved, there remained the question of whether WAC housing, messing, and other accommodations had not been prohibitively expensive, or cost much more than the men's. There was little evidence that they had, although

[437]


Wacs were often allotted the best of the enlisted accommodations already available to a headquarters.104

The choice of camp site went according to the priority rating of each organization. Thus, USASOS usually rated housing, on a priority basis, after GHQ, USAFFE, FEAF, and the Sixth and Eighth Armies. The housing of USASOS Wacs was therefore ordinarily less desirable than that of the men of those groups, although possibly superior to that of USASOS men. The History of USAFFE noted briefly, "The WAC were not accorded special quarters and special transportation or special supplies. In New Guinea, their quarters, mess, and recreation were comparable to those of male troops.105

The general impression that Wacs had more expensive quarters seemed due largely to the fact that visitors and historians arriving several months after the advanced echelons found some comforts present. Reliable sources ascribed these only to the persistent scavenging of the women themselves, abetted by the ever willing labor of the endless supply of GI suitors. In a typical camp on Leyte, Wacs were assigned the usual dirt-floored tents, but the women's dates brought them floors for the tents, a piece at a time. Wacs also traded with the natives for heavy labor and useful or decorative items.

A far more useful source than either Army men or natives was the Navy, particularly the Seabees, who were no less willing to assist and far better supplied with the wherewithal. A settled WAC unit with reasonable access to land, sea, and air forces was therefore likely to have a landscaped camp site, graveled paths, floors in the tents, dressing tables, and, overhead, forming a heat-resisting space below the iron or canvas roof, the billowing nylon of a discarded parachute. Recreation halls were likewise decorated with native thatch, palms, trophies, and bright colored supply parachutes.106

WAC messes, equipment, and rations were identical with those of male units. The Southwest Pacific Area was the only overseas theater that could not ordinarily relieve skilled office workers of kitchen police duty, since civilian labor in New Guinea was limited, although some was available in Manila. Wacs staffed their own messes or, if eating at the consolidated mess, generally furnished their proportionate share of kitchen police, as they did in the United States. Two men were usually assigned to large WAC messes to service the field ranges and do heavy lifting.107  Again, it appeared that any appearance of superiority was due only to improvised decorations or well-prepared food, which often ranked a WAC mess with higher headquarters messes. The Biak historical report stated, "The WAC Mess Hall soon became the envy of the post . . . the rumor flew that Wacs had better rations, but the Wacs refuted this.108

As for the matter of clothing, there would have been no question of unusual expense even had the Wacs received any. WAC staff members estimated that, even if the Army's usual policy of issuing all needed items had been followed, the cost of a Wac's clothing in malarious areas would have been only $124, in nonmalarious areas $143, as against $233 for comparable items for Wacs in the United States.109

[438]


Medical Evacuation Rate

The greatest question concerning the efficiency of WAC employment in the theater did not concern expense of maintenance. It began to come to light only after the move to Manila: this was the increasing rate of loss for medical reasons. The earlier favorable rate had continued through the first months of 1945, even during the emergency period in Leyte. The change in health was at first not startling; in April the GHQ detachment noted a high percentage on sick call, but no serious diseases, and concluded, "Apparently many are in a somewhat run-down condition." In May the trend continued, again without serious disorders but with '*the usual complaint [of] boils and other skin ailments, colds, or other manifestations of fatigue.110

When the evacuation rate was computed theater-wide, it was obvious that in these few months it had suddenly jumped from 98 per thousand per year to 267 per thousand. The chief surgeon's office informed Colonel Brown in February of 1945 that "At this rate, almost 20 percent of the command will be lost per year by evacuation.111  By April, it was clear that the figure was more like 25 or 30 percent, and as much as 60 percent per year in some units, such as FEASC. The significant fact in this connection was that the 6 percent rate for men had not increased to any comparable degree. The rate was even more startling when compared to that of the Wacs in Europe and to those in India and China, whose losses were the same as the men's in those areas. The Pacific WAC rate was now virtually the same as that which Army nurses had experienced since their arrival, and four or five times that of the men.112

The onset of this loss rate had come too late to damage the efficiency record of the WAC's first year, but at this time commanders believed that this efficiency would have to be sustained for still another year of war in the Pacific. It therefore appeared urgent to discover, and if possible remove, the cause of the increased loss rate before it began to affect WAC strength more seriously. Brig. Gen. Guy B. Denit, Chief Surgeon, USASOS, stated emphatically that the increase had no medical or geographic cause: "Under the sanitary system we had by that time, a white woman could live in the area for any length of time as easily as a white man.113

Neither did the chief surgeon agree with some medical officers who believed that the Pacific theater, unlike the European, had no facilities for treating disorders peculiar to women, which thus required evacuation, whereas a man could be treated and returned to duty. One doctor alleged that he and other medical officers were

. . . unable to do anything for Wacs reporting to the hospital with such diseases, as there are no instruments or medications furnished to Army hospitals overseas for their treatment. It seemed a waste of space and manpower to send Wacs overseas and then not have medical instruments and medications available to treat them.114

[439]


No women medical officers were employed in the Pacific as they had been by the European and Mediterranean theaters.

This explanation of the loss rate was contradicted by General Denit, who stated that he had available every supply and facility, could get any needed gynecological instrument by air, and had deep X-ray machines, radium, and other equipment. General Denit's view was for the most part supported by the statistics, which showed that less than one fifth of the total loss was due to disorders peculiar to women. The War Department's medical consultant, Major Craighill, after a visit, noted, "Gynecological conditions are usually mild in character and transitory in occurrence.115

Neither could the high rate be attributed to undue medical lenience in the return of women to the United States. Major Craighill indicated that "an even more lenient policy in regard to return . . . would seem indicated for the good of the group and to salvage individuals for continued service in the States.

The only notable medical deficiency which was cited by theater authorities was that of poor initial medical screening in the United States. Major Craighill reported:

Medical officers in all overseas theaters commented on the inadequacy of screening of women for overseas duty. It was thought to be the primary cause of medical evacuation rates for women, especially in the Southwest Pacific, where they were far higher than for other personnel.116

A survey in the FEASC WAC detachment indicated that as many as 50 percent of the medical returns were attributed to poor medical screening in the United States, with a few evacuees having been in the theater less than a month.117  On the other hand, the screening of women for service in the Pacific had been as good as that of men, with identical selection procedures. Also, four fifths of the European theater's Wacs, and most of those for India and other areas, had been selected, like the Pacific's, after the end of the Auxiliary requirements for physical examinations.

With no medical deficiency thus entirely sufficing to explain more than a part of the loss, General Denit stated instead that in his opinion the primary cause of the higher loss rate was to be sought among theater policies other than medical. Independently, WAC inspectors also arrived at the conclusion that the cause of the higher WAC rate of loss did not lie in the environment but in theater policies toward women that did not apply to men. Colonel Boyce, the second WAC Director, stated after an inspection visit, "It is believed that the experiences of Wacs in the Pacific which adversely affected their effective utilization were not inherent in the geographical location.118  The same view was expressed by Major Craighill after an inspection trip in 1945. Major Craighill felt that there was nothing necessarily dangerous about the area for women, and made recommendations for improvement that were all in the fields of supply and administration.

Deficiencies in Uniform and Supply

Among nonmedical deficiencies which had possibly contributed to the medical loss rate, the most conspicuous was that of

[440]


the clothing supply.119  Women had in fact faced a difficult and dangerous environment less well equipped than the men in the same headquarters. It was noted particularly that dermatitis, sometimes popularly called "jungle rot," led all other causes for evacuation of women, even though medical officers had originally believed that women would prove less susceptible because of higher standards of personal cleanliness and more frequent laundering of garments. There appeared to be some obvious connection with the fact that the WAC service uniform had been the heavy herringbone twill, well known to cause skin irritation to women even in the United States. In fact, in the India-Burma theater the chief-surgeon had refused to let Wacs wear this garment at any time, pronouncing it a major health hazard in a tropical climate. On the other hand, some medical officers noted that even had the Wacs possessed summer khaki like the men's, women might possibly still have had a higher dermatitis rate because of their more sensitive skins.

In addition, it appeared possible that the rate of loss for malaria had increased wherever Wacs substituted their cotton shirts for the coverall top, since the shirts were lighter in weight than the men's and not believed mosquito proof by The Quartermaster General. On the other hand, as both General Denit and Colonel Brown pointed out, experimentation had never conclusively indicated what weight of shirt was really mosquito proof, and Navy nurses in the area wore skirts instead of slacks, so that the Wacs' uniforms might possibly have offered as good protection as any other type of garment.

Other minor possibilities were also noted. It appeared that the rate of respiratory disorders might have been increased by lack of protective footwear. The shortage of all garments had apparently increased illness during rainy seasons when not enough dry coveralls were available to permit a change. There was also some evidence that the regular WAC wool socks, heavy rayon underwear, low oxfords, and other issue items were not particularly suitable to the area.

Up to this time, all attempts at remedial action had merely demonstrated that, if women were launched into a campaign improperly equipped, no "'business as usual" would produce the requisite supplies. Theater action to secure mosquito proof slacks for women, and all other needed items, was begun in 1944 in the month of the Wacs' arrival in Australia.120  The months of May and June were consumed in Quartermaster staff studies as to the proper amendments that should be recommended in theater Tables of Equipment. The matter was not as simple as it appeared to nonexperts in supply matters, since there were many items of WAC uniform, undergarments, and footgear to be considered; as well as the opinions of medical and technical specialists on the proper weight and design of slacks and shirts. On 6 July 1944, a large-scale conference on WAC supply was held by representatives of USAFFE and USASOS with visitors from Operations Division of the War Department General Staff. This produced no immediate results, and later in July the assistant staff director appealed by personal letter to Colonel Hobby to expedite matters by securing immediate War Department authorization for ordinary khaki slacks. In reply she was informed that The

[441]


Quartermaster General was already developing specifications for a slacks suit, but could not expend funds to procure or ship any item without requisitions and shipping priorities from the theater. It was not until after the movement of most of the Wacs from Australia had begun in August that the theater requisition for slacks went forward.121

Among women moving out to Hollandia and other bases, only the 6 percent working for FEAF were reported as equipped as well as men, since General Kenney had refused to let them board planes until they had been issued men's khaki trousers from the ample stocks of men's clothing in Australia.122  Issue of men's clothing was considered by some other commanders, but generally rejected because the garments were ill-fitting and required "unsightly" alterations; it was decided to await arrival of women's slacks from the United States.

However, following the theater's requisition in August, there ensued another two months' delay for queries and replies concerning specifications. On 14 October 1944, the War Department gave its final approval to specifications for women's slacks, and informed the theater that the slacks would be available in only ninety days-one fourth the usual procurement time for men's clothing. This schedule was very nearly met, and in only four more months the first shipment of slacks and proper-weight shirts was on the pier in California. Not only was this still a considerable distance from New Guinea, but it was by this time February of 1945, and the Wacs were moving on to Manila.

It was confidently expected that the slacks would reach the women in Manila; some 75,000 pairs were promptly shipped from the United States, 5,000 of them by air. However, upon reaching the theater, they were off-loaded at way stations and never reached the Wacs. When queried by the War Department, the theater explained that it lacked transportation to lift the newly received slacks from various depots, so that assembly in the Manila area was never accomplished.123

A similar difficulty accounted for the lack of normal maintenance stocks of standard items such as field shoes, coveralls, and undergarments. Maintenance stocks had been routinely authorized for shipment even before the first Wacs left the United States for Australia, and numerous shipments had been made, few of which reached the Wacs.124  The difficulty was the same as that already discovered by the Fifth Army in Italy-that the supplies for a tiny group became lost or misplaced when handled in the routine supply channels for men's clothing. In this case the difficulty was a hundred times intensified by the distances and shipping problems in the New Guinea area, which had no highways or railroads and few good docks.

The problem was illustrated by six WAC clothing shipments that were eventually traced.125  Two of these shipments reached the areas before the Wacs, were put on sale in officers' stores, and were "badly depleted" by unidentified custom-

[442]


ers before the Wacs arrived. Two others went to a base where Wacs were never stationed, and remained there. General Campbell noted, "You don't run a Liberty ship up and down the coast to pick up a few WAC shoes.126  One went to a station where about one half the theater's Wacs were then located, and was well utilized. The remaining one also reached a WAC detachment, although months after its arrival. General Campbell added, "Supply for a million men spread over 4,000 miles was difficult, but for 5,000 Wacs in small scattered groups it was desperate.127

Even if supplies were received by the women, it was difficult to keep them, in view of the usual system of movement of Wacs by air. This explained part of the situation of the GHQ detachment on Leyte. As early as September of 1944, Colonel Baird had unsuccessfully recommended to USAFFE's deputy chief of staff that, when a WAC unit moved by air, its equipment accompany it, since "Experience has shown that otherwise it is a long time before such items become available."128  This was not considered practicable, but upon departure from Hollandia the WAC supply officer had personally watched the crating and loading on a ship of whatever clothing and equipment could not be carried by air. When this did not arrive in Leyte, investigation disclosed that the vessel was at another base, towing two barges, and could not be turned around for a few crates of WAC clothing.

Similarly, when the censorship unit moved by air from Port Moresby to Biak, some forty-eight tons of equipment and personal baggage had to be left for shipment by water. Two months later, when this still had not arrived, the detachment commander protested that it was "critically needed . . . especially clothing of personnel," but the regulating officer informed her that there was no prospect of any ship calling at Port Moresby to pick it up.129

As for nonissue items such as girdles, brassieres, and pajamas, purchase of these was not possible in Australia because of rationing restrictions. Wacs got 25 clothing coupons a year, but the purchase of a girdle required 10 coupons, pajamas 12, and a brassiere 5. In New Guinea and the Philippines these were unprocurable. Colonel Brown recommended to USASOS that brassieres be added to allowances:

These items are absolutely necessary and are peculiar to the needs of women. Enlisted men are furnished all necessary items; therefore enlisted women should not be expected to buy items which are necessary for wear. Women are continually requesting families and friends to mail these articles, but with the uncertainty of arrival by mail, they are often without these necessary articles.

The theater therefore four times submitted a request for the issue of such items, but was four times refused; it never achieved the solution, found successful in other overseas theaters, of procuring the items for sale in post exchanges. In fact, post exchange supplies of any sort for women were extremely scarce. Several large groups had never to this date been able to purchase any sanitary napkins-these also being considered "nonessential" items which were not issued to women, but in other theaters usually purchased at post exchanges.130

In the final analysis, most observers concluded that the factor of supply had been a major one in the WAC loss rate,

[443]


particularly in the rate of loss for dermatitis, malaria, and respiratory disorders. Had it been possible to retain the women in Australia until they were fully equipped for field conditions, as had been possible in England, the educated guess was that the rate in excess of men's losses might have been lowered.

Morale

There was every indication that the women's morale had held up excellently at most stations. All observers agreed that, as in Italy, the one factor which had done most to sustain morale was the nearness to actual combat. Units in the most forward areas were consistently found to have the highest morale. The race to get forward had become a matter of competition, and WAC officers reported that the panacea for supply shortages and primitive living conditions consisted in "excitement and pride in being the first Wacs. 131  A typical group upon disbandment wrote sentimentally of the Leyte experiences-tents, candles, no supply, mud, foxholes, air alerts, rain-and added, with no apparent sense of incongruity, "We'll never have a detachment so ideal and so perfect again.132

Even when Wacs were not actually near the combat area, the constant presence of combat-wounded and released prisoners gave a sense of immediacy to their efforts. Wherever possible-as for example at the 51st General Hospital-women were allowed to visit hospital wards. They saved their beer and cigarette rations, cookies from home, and flowers grown around their tents to share with the patients, with resulting good effect not only on the wounded, but on the women themselves.133

Units everywhere had adopted monkeys, dogs, chickens; smuggled a duck on shipboard; cherished unidentifiable native animals. Songs were invented for all subjects ("If you meet a looie with big blue eyes, you can look but you can't fraternize''.) 134  The women took pride in improvising: a Christmas tree was made of native thatch tied to a bamboo trunk, decorated with scrap metal from enemy planes. When most Christmas packages failed to get through, inspectors noted that "they opened the few that came and shared them like sisters." while one supply sergeant filled their shoes with "gifts" of pistol belts and towels. Desiring a green-and-gold WAC guidon for the funeral of a member of the FEASC WAC detachment, the women improvised one from parachute lining, dyed with atabrine and green ink.135

By comparison with problems of morale among noncombat men, the V1'acs' good morale appeared even more striking, for women seldom complained about, or were depressed by, factors that were high on the men's list-mail service, rotation, officers' superior privileges, and the lack of good movies and other entertainment. The only common complaint factor was that of food. Particularly noteworthy was the mildness of WAC complaints about their company officers' deficiencies as compared to the complaints by noncombat men about their officers.136

[444]


However, there appeared to be a possibility that the generally high morale had accounted for the moderate loss rate of the first year. Company commanders voiced the opinion that there was a general "end of the line" feeling in Manila, at which time women who had actually been ailing for months suddenly gave up to their illness. Medical officers noted that, with women, illness was more likely to mark the breaking point in tension, rather than the spree of some sort in which men might seek escape from prolonged strain.

In addition, there was some evidence that the factor of social pressure, which had helped to sustain morale, had simultaneously damaged health. At all stations not under actual attack, there continued to be more unit dances and approved group parties than the women had energy to attend. The enlisted Wacs were the chief source of American dates for the enlisted men, who vied for invitations to the WAC recreation halls and in providing unit entertainments approved for WAC attendance, with bands, decorations, refreshments, and other inducements. WAC bulletin boards in Manila were filled with bright-colored posters carrying mass invitations. Some listed the menu, promising ice cream or some other rare delicacy, for the Wacs soon became blasť about masculine company and refused to stir without the guarantee of food.

On one occasion fraternal bloodshed was narrowly averted when one unit's trucks appeared, flying false colors, and carried off the 41Wacs destined for another unit's dance. No Wac was so old or unattractive as to be neglected, although commanders feared that this would some day cause a painful readjustment to the facts of life in the United States. While such attention was of great assistance to morale, the constant social pressure increased the ever-present problem of fatigue. Group or mass entertainment had always proved tiring to WAC units, but in most Pacific bases there was often no alternative recreation. Colonel Brown early recommended that, at well-established camps, service clubs for joint use be provided, but this was seldom considered practicable. 137

Length of Working Day

In accordance with tropical custom, working hours generally began at seven or eight in the morning and ended at nine or ten at night, in order to permit time off in the heat of the day for leisurely meals. Thus, at Intersec headquarters the working day covered fifteen hours, from seven in the morning to ten at night, with three-hour breaks for meals.

While the relative merits of the system on a six-day week were not primarily of WAC concern, since all personnel was affected, inspectors noted adverse results in certain organizations staffed almost completely by Wacs and which, because of the pressure of work, were obliged to work these hours for seven days a week. The all-Wac Central Mail Directory was reported as working such hours for seven days a week, with no day off for five months; the same was true of the all-Wac Casualty Section and the Machine Records Unit.138  In some cases it appeared that women did not avail themselves of the full time off for meals when work was heavy or an operation being launched. An FEASC management control survey noted, "In general the enlisted women were working longer

[445]


hours than enlisted men performing similar skilled duties.139  Also, women's time-consuming chores such as laundry were usually not done during the mealtime breaks but after hours, by their own preference.140

Inspectors were unable to determine whether adverse effects were due to lesser endurance than men in the same offices, or to the women's tendency to put in overtime. In any case, even without overtime, the hours of work were longer than those used successfully with civilian women in either the United States or Britain.

Among reported instances, the greatest damage to health occurred among the Hollandia Wacs in General McMullen's Far East Air Service Command. These stood reveille every morning at 0530, walked back and forth some distance to work three times a day in all weather, worked an official minimum of ten hours a day, until ten o'clock at night, seven days a week, with only Sunday afternoons off, these being reportedly spent standing in line to get to laundry facilities. After less than a year of this schedule, the medical loss rate in the FEASC WAC detachment jumped alarmingly, from 3 per month in January of 1945 to 30 per month in June.

The Air Surgeon reported that "an increasing number of cases are on record for nervousness and exhaustion," and recommended that personnel be given one full day off per week to relieve "'nervous tension." The June rate, if continued, would total more than 62 percent medical evacuation per year, an unprecedented loss even for combat troops. The staff director for FEAF supported the Air Surgeon's recommendation, noting that offices were not really busy; it was believed that the day off could profitably be applied to all personnel to avoid discrimination in favor of women. However, General McMullen rejected the request for Sunday mornings off, and informed the surgeon, "Medical records do not indicate any situation . . . to cause me serious concern." 141

Discipline and Morals

In the minds of some observers a question arose as to whether the medical loss rate could have been affected by the type of moral disintegration popularly supposed to afflict men and women in the tropics. However, if such disintegration took place, it was more subtle than could be measured statistically, and did not consist of the gross sexual immorality about which most rumors centered. On the contrary, the pregnancy rate for the Wacs' chief period of service in the Pacific was, like that of other overseas theaters, less than one half the world-wide WAC rate, which was itself low by civilian standards. During the period after the arrival in Manila, with the relaxation of previous restrictions on marriage, the WAC pregnancy rate rose considerably, but was still less than the world-wide rate, and about the same as that for nurses in the Pacific. Of the theater's 5,500 Wacs, only 111 were reported returned home pregnant, with an estimated half of these being married women. However, in spite of the frequent restriction to compounds, the Pacific Wacs' rate was considerably higher than that of the European theater, which placed no special restrictions on women.142

[446]


Venereal disease rates were likewise so low as to be negligible. One commander of a unit of over 700 women stated that she did not, in the entire time, have any new cases.143

Further evidence that no gross moral breakdown occurred was offered by the fact that the Wacs were gradually able to convince the enlisted men that their mission in the area was a military one. Statistics on the trend of enlisted men's comments showed that a remarkable decline in the number of derogatory comments took place as soon as the men actually met the Wacs. From a high of 90 percent unfavorable comments in the month before the Wacs arrived, the number fell slowly until, in the month in which demobilization began, only 28 percent of comments were still unfavorable, many of these being from units that had never seen Wacs.144

WAC detachment commanders frequently expressed an uneasy belief that the discipline or perhaps merely the esprit of their detachments was not as high as that which they had known outside the theater. Some felt that the women's habitual evasion of petty restrictions had undermined respect for more important rules and for those in authority. Others noted a lessened sense of conventionality, decorum, or discreet behavior; the WAC inspector general added, "Dress them like tramps and they may act like tramps.145  However, detachment disciplinary records seldom revealed other than exceedingly minor offenses attributed chiefly to tension, exhaustion, or loss of respect for authority. One detachment's worst case was a woman who was AWOL from midnight until three in the morning. Another detachment's worst was a woman who, after fifteen months on a particularly exhausting job, was "on the verge of a complete physical and mental breakdown," went AWOL, and "spent her entire absence in a native but sleeping." 146

A number of minor offenses concerned violation of the ban on officer-enlisted dating, although the theater experienced fewer problems in this respect than the European, since most Wacs were already restricted to approved group entertainment. Restrictions on officer-enlisted association were frequently severe; at some USASOS bases in New Guinea, even husbands and blood relatives were for a time riot permitted to see Wacs of a different status. WAC staff officers stated, "It is believed that this has resulted in resentment of persons concerned and in flagrant violations." 147

The prohibition was originally adopted only over the nonconcurrence of the staff director, in line with a previous ruling that nurses would not be allowed to date corpsmen. WAC company officers noted that they were obliged to punish their enlisted women while officer dates were not punished; officers sometimes removed their insignia to attend unit dances, and at other times flagrantly violated the rule. Combat units in the area merely tore up such notices; while in one case the officer concerned was the head of the local military police who were charged with enforcement. Air Forces and USAFFE headquarters ordinarily enforced nonassociation rules less strictly than USASOS, thus fur-

[447]


FAVORABLE COMMENT ON WOMEN'S SERVICES

FAVORABLE COMMENT ON WOME'S SERVICES

[448]


ther complicating the problem of unequal punishment.

After Wacs reached Manila, the problem began to assume added importance, and the WAC staff director again requested permission for the social association of "relatives and friends of long standing" carrying passes from their WAC commanding officers. The theater again refused to set an over-all policy. WAC company officers, when asked to make suggestions for the improvement of discipline, included "a definite policy for officer-enlisted relationships"; "fewer rules and more rigid enforcement of same.'' 148

An additional restriction, more severe than any in the European or Mediterranean theaters, was FEASC's customary prohibition against marriage of its members; as applied to women, it allowed them to marry only if they became pregnant. In this command, women engaged to men about to leave for combat often quite frankly consulted the NVAC staff director and the chaplain to ask why they should not take that course. To prevent this, the staff director repeatedly attempted to secure more lenient terms for both men and women of American citizenship; this was eventually granted by General McMullen only after the headquarters reached Manila.149  Only 121 of the theater's 5,500 Wacs married in the theater during the war.150

Restrictions on Daily Life

In the opinion of many observers, one of the most serious handicaps to the health of women in the area had been the restriction to locked compounds in the majority of stations in New Guinea, a factor which did not affect male troops. It was noted that, among medical causes of evacuation for women, psychoses and neuro-psychiatric disorders were second only to dermatitis. It was always to remain a matter for debate whether the unusual restrictions placed upon women were necessary and inherent in the dangers of the Pacific area, or were an unnecessary creation of arbitrary theater policies. Colonel Brown continued throughout the stay in New Guinea to recommend the abolition of the system, but few modifications were ever reported with the exception of the GHQ unit in Hollandia, the smaller Air Forces group, and minor adjustments elsewhere.151

Three resulting unfavorable factors were noted. The most obvious was the noise, crowding, and lack of privacy which, in the opinion of medical officers, fostered mental disorders. Even if the area was not noisy, women experienced a "sense of confinement" which made them unable to relax after strenuous office hours or tiring mass entertainment. Major Craighill reported that women appeared to value privacy more than men, and that even among nurses, who as officers were less crowded in tents than enlisted women, the rate of loss for psychiatric reasons was increased by lack of privacy.

More important, in medical officers' opinions, were the physical disorders fostered by simple lack of physical exercise, recreation, and rest. Major Craighill wrote, "Facilities for exercise are lacking in most places . . . . In the tropics, more

[449]


than elsewhere, proper exercise is important." According to one WAC adviser,

The greatest deficiency in recreational facilities since the Wacs left Australia has been that at no time has there been a place to which they could go for a three-day pass and get away from the mental strain of group living. 152

The Pacific area obviously offered few advantages in this respect. Leave areas for men existed in Australia, operated by the Red Cross, but in spite of Colonel Brown's repeated recommendations, the handful of Wacs remaining in Australia were refused permission to use them until near the end of the war, when the Red Cross replaced one of its workers who had blocked admission of women.153  The Air Transport Command also operated a regular "leave shuttle" to Australia, carrying men from New Guinea on 3-day passes. Although this shuttle was organized in Hollandia by the date of the Wacs' arrival, and although ATC historians noted that it often operated half empty, it appeared to be seldom employed by most headquarters, and in any case Wacs were not given a quota.154

Army nurses were originally allowed leaves from forward areas every six months, and were transported by special planes to leave areas,155  but as the headquarters advanced, this privilege was also considerably restricted, and it never applied to Wacs. During the entire stay in New Guinea, no leaves or passes were reported as given to enlisted women at most installations, because of the absence of any approved place to spend them. Major Craighill noted that, for both Wacs and nurses:

Recent restrictions against nurses' leave to Australia completely deprive personnel of all rest areas. None are provided in the islands for women for even short periods. Such facilities are especially needed because of the unusual restrictions on women's activities and the lack of outside places for recreation.

In those areas where men also had no rest areas or were not allowed to use the leave shuttle, the situation appeared unavoidable, although some WAC advisers questioned whether a local commander's action in restricting women to compounds did not obligate him to find some means of equalizing the resulting mental tension and physical sluggishness.

Also increased, in company officers' opinion, was the women's resentment, disobedience, and immature conduct. As the women were well aware, "restriction to quarters" was ordinarily employed by the Army only for punishment. When restriction to quarters was imposed by court-martial, Army Regulations contained the caution that it "will not be imposed in excess of three months.156 Even though the Wacs' custody was protective and not punitive, it was difficult to find a previous occasion in Army history in which a soldier had been kept in protective custody for a year or eighteen months. If the system was indeed required, as theater authorities insisted, to prevent rape of Wacs by Negro troops in New Guinea, the War Department was not in a position to protest command policies. However, to WAC leaders in the United States, viewing the problem from a distance, it appeared that, if an area was so dangerous as to require the long-term confinement of soldiers of one sex, such soldiers should not be considered for employment in that area.

[450]


In her final report to the War Department. Major Craighill stated that in her opinion the rate of WAC loss was definitely increased by the lack of healthful recreation, the undue restriction in compounds, and the failure to treat women as responsible adults. This opinion coincided closely with that reached by The Surgeon General's Office in Washington concerning the rate of loss for men in the area:

The health of troops is directly affected by command policies and procedures governing rotation, discipline, recreation, and the provision of incentive and motivation. It seems probable that these are influential factors. 157

Inferior WAC Commanders

Inspectors' reports indicated that in certain detachments the sick rate had possibly been aggravated by inferior WAC command practices. It was known that some company officers with low efficiency ratings had been unloaded on early shipments by commands in the United States. However, these were not unduly numerous, and a number of excellent company officers were also in the theater. Unfortunately, by a combination of circumstances, quite often the inferior officers were placed initially in company work from which staff directors were later unable to get them removed, while trained company officers were assigned to office work.

Thus, the first shipment of Wacs had contained a number of trained company officers, intended to staff future companies. Instead, since USAFFE headquarters desired to set up its censorship detachment immediately, these officers were included, with the promise of reassignment to company work when more enlisted women arrived. However, in spite of the efforts of the staff director, their later release was never concurred in by the central directory.158

In several cases, officers were assigned to company work who had already failed at it in the United States. Possibly the worst example cited in inspection reports was that of the FEAF WAC detachment. Soon after its establishment, the USAFFE inspector general discovered improper assignments, low morale, irregularities in detachment records, undue delay of mail, partiality and lack of interest in enlisted women's needs, and profane language on the part of the WAC commander, as well as threats to enlisted women in detachment meetings.159  Unsatisfactory conditions were attributed by the inspector general chiefly to the WAC unit commander, who had been sent overseas by the Fourth Service Command after being relieved of two different WAC commands in the United States, one with an efficiency rating of Unsatisfactory. The situation also reflected the initial lack of a staff director. Because of the unit's unexpectedly sudden beginnings with borrowed personnel, the FEAF WAC staff director, Maj. Mary L. Kersey, did not arrive from the United States until the unit was already in Hollandia, and was then unable to correct the already-established situation.

At this time Brig. Gen. Harry H. Baird informed the USAFFE chief of staff:

A recent inspection of the FEAF WAC Detachment by the Inspector General of this headquarters makes it clearly evident that adequate supervision of the WAC Company Commander and administration of the WAC Detachment has not been exercised . . . . It

[451]


is apparent that full use had not been made either of Major Kersey's abilities or her prescribed duties as WAC Staff Director. It is the opinion of G-1 that Headquarters FEAF should either be required to conform to War Department and eater policy or that the Women's Army Corps should be withdrawn from that command.160

As a result, in January of 1945 FEAF headquarters belatedly required its various sections to co-ordinate with the staff director when setting WAC policy. Although the inspector general also recommended removal of the WAC detachment commander, General Kenney refused to effect a replacement, since he had personally selected the officer. Instead, she remained with the detachment until its inactivation, was promoted to the rank of major, and received the Bronze Star.161

In another case, the WAC commander of a USASOS detachment had been removed from a "large"' command of 500 in the United States in the belief that she would be "all right in a small command overseas." Instead, she was assigned to command almost 1,000 women at one of the most difficult stations. As in the previous case, difficulties developed and the inspector general recommended her removal, but she was retained and promoted.162  In one instance, in which a commander was sent direct from a WAC training center, she was found to know little of field life, and inspectors discovered her women to be near collapse from keeping the floors polished, barracks shining, shoes and clothing in basic-training spotlessness, while working long hours in hot weather.163  In still another case, an officer without previous company experience was assigned as commander of a large detachment, over Colonel Brown's protests. Inspectors noted; "Many problems, which would have been routine for an experienced company commander, arose and had an adverse effect upon the detachment." 164

Not all WAC units were so afflicted; in many cases WAC commanders were outstanding. Colonel Boyce, on a visit to the area, particularly cited the commanders of the FEASC detachment, which, after the end of the war, she found still suffering from illness and a long working day. Colonel Boyce found the unit living in tin barracks in an area without shade or trees, very muddy or very dusty by turns, with the women drenched by torrential rains as they attempted to get to mess or to the outside latrines. Dead Japanese were buried so close to the surface that women had to scatter lime around the mess hall daily to control the stench. Nevertheless, since the unit's establishment it had had WAC commanders who were sincerely interested in the women's welfare, and Colonel Boyce reported the unit's state of morale and discipline at that time far better than that of more healthfully situated units.165

However, even where good company officers were assigned, they were frequently found under a strain caused by overwork and shortage of assistants. The FEASC WAC detachment had 714 en-

[452]


listed women and only three officers, the number commonly assigned to a unit one fourth that size in the United States. Inspectors recommended more, since work was heavy, but more were not assigned, although ten other WAC officers at the same base were assigned operational duties. The GHQ detachment for a time had only one officer for 386 women; eventually one more was added. The huge AFWESPAC battalion of some 3.000 women never had more than seven officers, even when it was scattered over three widely separated stations with the commanding officer alone in Manila attempting to prepare for reception of the women. In all, only 15 percent of the WAC officers in the Pacific were assigned to WAC administration, as against 32 percent in the European theater. There was only one troop or staff officer for approximately 100 women, as against the one per 20 believed suitable in the United States.166

Command of Enlisted Women by Male Officers

In several detachments, although WAC officers of proven ability were in charge, they were considered to have no powers other than those of providing food and housing, command and discipline being the prerogative of male commanders to whose units or offices the women were assigned. The situation was parallel to that of enlisted men assigned to one command and merely attached for quarters and rations to another. Even the ordinary Army unit, formally activated and with its own grades, encountered some friction between commander and section chief over such matters as promotions. Most WAC units in the area, with a few exceptions such as those in the Air Forces, here even more vulnerable, being gradeless and without "assigned" personnel other than cadre.

Noting that the command of enlisted women by male officers was in her opinion contrary to War Department regulations, Colonel Brown soon after her arrival recommended publication of a clarification such as that used in the European theater and in the Army Air Forces in the United States, to the effect that the WAC commander had full disciplinary powers even though her unit was gradeless or not activated. When this was refused, she attempted to send a letter through channels to the War Department, asking clarification of its ruling under the circumstances, and stating that she considered the current system "dangerous" in view of certain factors involved in the command of enlisted women by male officers. This letter was stopped by USAFFE on the grounds "that it did not pertain to the health, wellbeing, or morale of women," and Colonel Brown was informed by Maj. Gen. Charles P. Stivers, "Matters of assignment of Wacs, determination of this headquarters.167

Discipline in the GHQ USAFFE WAC detachment eventually reached a crisis. The WAC commanding officer, although responsible for almost 400 enlisted women, had no "assigned"' personnel except one assistant, and had in the detachment not only Wacs working for GHQ but personnel assigned to nine other separate detachments as well as to Air Evaluation Board and Philippine Base Section.168  A After women guilty of disciplinary offenses in

[453]


the detachment were promoted by their male commanders, one only a few days after conviction by court-martial, General Baird informed General Stivers:

It has come to our attention that there have been a number of instances where enlisted women have taken up matters concerning WAC detachment internal administration with section chiefs. In several cases, staff officers have suggested that enlisted women follow a course of action directly in opposition to the orders of their company commander. It is obvious that a complete breakdown of internal company command will result if the above situation is allowed to continue within this headquarters.169

USAFFE headquarters therefore published a memorandum, for its own detachment only, stating:

Enlisted women seeking advice or decision as to internal detachment administration will be referred to the Commanding Officer, WAC Detachment, by the section chiefs concerned.170

This directive, published without co-ordination with the staff director, still was not effective, and squabbles ensued, such as one in which the USAFFE board informed a WAC commander:

You, as commander of the detachment serving this, as well as other units, in an administrative capacity, have no discretion in the matter [of WAC discipline in an off-duty offense.] 171

In any case, the ruling was applicable to the USAFFE unit only, and did not solve the problem elsewhere. WAC company commanders, asked to comment on the causes of delinquency, noted, "Most of our troubles arose from a divided command which created and fostered a disregard for authority," and "Many Army Section Chiefs tend to encourage infraction of rules and try to protect the enlisted women working for them." 172

Major Kersey, the FEAF staff director, noted later:

The Air Force WAC Detachments, FEAF, and FEASC, had all personnel assigned to the WAC Squadrons, and consequently the WAC commanders did not encounter the same problem of disciplinary control.173

Some WAC commanders of proven ability eventually asked to be removed from company work because of their ambiguous status. One capable officer quit after eight months because, "I could not do anything about the things that were being done and I could not stay there and see what was happening to [the women]." Another WAC commander developed a mental condition that required a disability discharge. Still another, of previously irreproachable character, had to be relieved of command after she formed the habit of drinking too much and spending the evenings on the beaches in a state of blissful unconsciousness.174

It eventually came to be Colonel Brown's opinion that no mere publication concerning disciplinary authority would correct the situation, and that the enlisted women should be formally assigned to WAC units, the device adopted in the Mediterranean theater and in the Army Ground Forces. In spite of the cumbersome bookkeeping involved, such a command system was considered more nearly foolproof.

[454]


Transfer of Responsibility to WAC Section

In attempting to solve the various WAC problems, Colonel Brown's office came to the opinion that "in all headquarters, full advantage was not taken of the experience and knowledge of WAC staff officers.175  Her own office was, in her opinion, handicapped not only by lack of formal responsibility but also by its inability to secure transfer to the advanced echelon where were located higher commanders and many of the enlisted women. Shortly before the move to Manila Colonel Brown informed a critic:

Until it is possible for me to talk to General Richard Marshall [Deputy Chief of Staff] personally; we shall have to do the best we can. I have every confidence that the General will make it possible for the to carry out the functions of a Staff Director as listed in the War Department Circular 462.176

In the spring of 1941, the WAC Section finally overtook the advanced echelon in Manila, and Colonel Brown was able to confer with General Richard Marshall. She noted later, "General Marshall was more than willing to seek and act upon the Staff Director's recommendations.177  However, no written directive from General Marshall proved necessary, for shortly thereafter G-1 Division of USAFFE recommended of its own accord that "all policy and supervision of the WAC corps in this theater be immediately taken over by the WAC Section." It was stated that G-1 Division had felt it necessary to retain control during the experimental stages of the WAC program, which now, being safely established, could be turned over to WAC officers.178

This transfer was only a part of the general reorganization going forward at the time, during which GHQ and USAFFE were consolidated to form the new Headquarters, Army Forces in the Pacific (AFPAC). At this time the USAFFE WAC Detachment working for GHQ, at last found itself working for the headquarters of assignment, AFPAC.

The powers transferred to the staff director in no case included command. G-1 Division and the adjutant general's office retained all normal operating functions such as promotion and assignment. Even in policy matters it developed that not too many of the WAC Section's recommendations were accepted.179  Nevertheless, it was Colonel Brown's opinion that her office was now in a position to take action against the several probable causes of the medical evacuation rate.180

One immediate action was the publication of a directive concerning the disciplinary power of company commanders:

Where enlisted women are assigned to a unit or organization other than a WAC detachment, the commanding officer of the WAC detachment to which they are attached for rations, quarters, and administration will exercise disciplinary control.181

This directive applied only to the USAFFE GHQ detachment, its promulgation to other units being prevented by the command policy of noninterference. Colonel Brown was never entirely satisfied

[455]


with the resulting situation, and in her final recommendations proposed that, regardless of accounting difficulties, all women be clearly assigned to WAC companies. Otherwise, War Department regulations were ignored and "the placing of enlisted women under the immediate command of male officers . . . had an adverse effect upon their well-being." 182  

A second issue immediately forced by the WAC Section was that of supply. A memorandum to General Richard Marshall asked that the theater take decisive action to get proper clothing, and that a representative be sent to the United States to trace supplies. Much activity resulted in the spring and summer of 1945, when General Richard Marshall personally wrote friends in the War Department to try to expedite shipment. The matter eventually came to be considered important enough to merit air priority, which had to date proved the: only means by which minority supplies had any chance of reaching their goal. In May of 1945, Colonel Brown was ordered to return to the United States and personally check the status of each requisition. By these means, Manila Wacs obtained some supplies before the end of the war with, Japan. With the end of hostilities, it was believed that a reasonably satisfactory supply system would have been perfected had any Wacs remained in the theater.183

War Department Investigation

A few days after transfer of responsibility to the WAC Section, the theater was the object of a War Department "Investigation Concerning the Morale, Health, and Living Conditions of WAC Personnel in the Southwest Pacific Area.184  Disquieting reports on the women's health and well-being had been reaching the War Department since the beginning of the move to New Guinea. While many were obviously exaggerations-particularly those from parents alleging that all Wacs were being eaten up by '`jungle rot"-yet the area in any case was believed to merit a visit from Director Hobby such as the two that she had already made to Europe and Africa.

From May of 1944, when the first Wacs went to New Guinea, Director Hobby therefore planned to visit the area, but was prevented by repeated hospitalization. In October of 1944, she placed Deputy Director Rice on orders to go in her place. Again at the last moment the Director's illness intervened to cancel the trip, since during these months the Director had only a deputy and one assistant for her entire staff.

At this time, the Director secured permission for an inspection trip by Major Craighill of The Surgeon General's Office. This visit proved of little immediate assistance to the women, as it became part of a tour of all theaters.

It was not until after the end of the war that the second WAC Director, Colonel Boyce, reached the area. Colonel Hobby's resignation at this time was in fact hastened by the need for the Director to visit the Pacific and her own inability to do so.

Meanwhile, the War Department's concern was spurred by the condition of Wacs who began to trickle back from the Pacific, of whom it was reported, "Not only do these women arrive without adequate clothing and equipment, but their state of

[456]


mind is very low and their health below par.185  Immediate action was precipitated when similar reports reached Congress and resulted in Congressional demands for an explanation. At this, General George Marshall requested of General MacArthur a full confidential report of the condition of Wacs in his command.186

The reply to this inquiry proved unsatisfactory to the War Department; it consisted chiefly of a copy of a press release made by Colonel Brown, who was then in the United States checking supplies, plus the 1944 statistics on evacuation, which indicated that Wacs were in good health. The War Department immediately demanded a second report, stating sharply, "A release for publicity purposes made here in the War Department is not considered adequate as a confidential report to the War Department. . . ,'' and adding that other statements were "very general in content and the code indicates that it was prepared by G-1 and not by the WAC Staff Director's office or the Inspector General.187

A more detailed reply was then prepared in the WAC Section of AFPAC, but was considerably censored by G-1 Division, so that the version which reached the War Department was rather short. The staff director noted:

G-1 here decided to scrap my report . . . . They had some Major who has not long been in the theater do the principal amount of work on the one that was sent. So far, 1 have not been able to get a copy of their finished product.188

The theater-approved version gave only two adverse items: (1) the failure of Christmas presents to arrive on time, and (2) the death of eight of the Wacs in a plane crash.189

As a result, before illness finally forced Colonel Hobby's resignation in the summer of 1945, several decisions were reached by the Army's highest authorities, with her concurrence. One was a general decision to return all Wacs from all overseas theaters as soon after the end of hostilities as they became eligible for discharge, and not to send replacements. This measure would have been required in any event to permit demobilization of the Corps as required by the current legislation. To cover the period before demobilization, a second plan was prepared, which would have permitted voluntary rotation of Wacs after 12 months in the Southwest Pacific, and mandatory rotation after 18 months. These decisions effectively prevented WAC employment in the Army of Occupation in Japan. It was the theater's verdict that it would not be worthwhile to prepare housing and move the units to Japan in view of the few remaining weeks. A computation of point scores for discharge eligibility showed that by the end of 1945 all but 500 of the Pacific's Wacs would be eligible for return under the Army's Adjusted Service Rating System, and that even these 500 would be eligible in a few more months.190

The War Department also refused to allow the Pacific theater to keep dis-

[457]


charge-eligibles who volunteered to remain. These were not many. Surveys before the defeat of Japan showed that 57 percent of WAC eligibles-80 percent of the AFWESPAC (formerly USASOS) group, 82 percent of FEAF-wanted to go home; by comparison, only 5 percent in Italy and 38 percent in England had expressed a desire to go home before the fighting ended.191

Extensions and exceptions were later to be given to the European and China theaters, so that their volunteer Wacs were not forced to return; no such extension was allowed the Pacific theater. Colonel Brown, herself a victim of amoebic dysentery that had already required hospitalization, believed an extension should have been granted, but was not called on to comment in the matter and did not return to the Pacific after demobilization began. She was awarded the Legion of Merit and a high efficiency rating personally signed by General MacArthur.

Lt. Col. Mera Galloway, formerly WAC Staff Director, Transportation Corps, was sent to the theater with the assigned mission "to close WAC History in the Southwest Pacific in an efficient and successful manner.192  Colonel Boyce also arrived in the area as the closing-out began; until her report was received there remained the possibility that an extension of the return date of WAC volunteers would be granted.

Colonel Boyce was accompanied on her visits by the new staff director, by a War Department representative of G-3 Division, and by Dr. Marion Kenworthy, a prominent psychologist and member of the National Civilian Advisory Committee. The team talked individually with hundreds of enlisted women, and visited remaining WAC units on Hollandia, Biak, and Luzon.193

Their impression was not favorable. From Manila, Colonel Boyce cabled to the War Department: "I recommend all enlisted women in this theater be enroute USA for discharge or reassignment not later than 1 January 1946.194  The medical loss rate had declined only slightly and Colonel Boyce, although a veteran of the North African crisis, was disturbed by the apparent poor health of members still on duty. Most were underweight, and all were highly fatigued. When the headquarters attempted to hold a parade formation in her honor, and delay resulted in an hour's wait, eight women fainted. Many were still working seven days a week with additional evening duty. Food was still poor, some quarters still unhealthful with beds standing in an inch of water, while few women yet had adequate clothing and footgear for protection against the daily rainstorms.

Colonel Boyce advised theater commanders that the women's condition required immediate action: less overtime office work, granting of quotas for rest areas, and more suitable clothing, such as that provided enlisted men for protection from the rain. Her advice was not accepted, although a service club and a rest camp were eventually opened to women a few weeks before they left. Colonel Boyce, after her encounter with theater authorities, wrote to Colonel Brown: "I want you to know that my observations in the theater simply confirmed the faith I have always had in your ability to perform

[458]


difficult assignments in a superior manner."195

Many section chiefs, as well as Colonel Brown, felt that the refusal to permit WAC volunteers to be retained was unwarranted and deprived them of needed office help. The Commanding General, AFWESPAC, Maj. Gen. Wilhelm D. Styer, requested that the War Department at least allow a short extension; he proposed to make all Wacs warrant officers if this would allow them to remain. Colonel Boyce replied from Washington that the War Department was extremely sorry not to grant the request but that the January deadline could not be extended. Women were extended the same privilege offered in the European theater, that of remaining as civilian employees if they desired, but only about 200 elected to remain.196

Demobilization

A final problem was presented: the shipment of the women to the United States. Colonel Boyce while still in the theater found the first large group already boarding the ship Evangeline for return. The ship appeared unsuitable-vermin-ridden, ill ventilated, with men obliged to walk to mess through the WAC sleeping quarters. The women's physical condition left much to be desired. They had no woolen clothing, such as was issued to men for a comparable voyage, the original clothing in which they arrived having long since deteriorated in distant warehouses.

Colonel Boyce, however, was unwilling to stop the shipment in view of the crowded state of port housing, the scarcity of ships of any sort, and the women's eagerness to get home. She radioed her office that she was "extremely disturbed" at the condition of the women, and feared that they "will make a very poor impression upon their communities unless their general condition can be improved upon their arrival." Accordingly, the War Department directed that the AAF WAC Officer and the ASF WAC Officer, Colonels Bandel and Goodwin, hurry to a west coast port to meet the shipment. This was accomplished, but obviously little could be done in the few days before the women were discharged, and the precautions did not prevent unfavorable publicity and headlines, such as VERMIN-RIDDEN TROOPSHIP, in both the Associated and the United Presses. WAC authorities feared the Corps' whole hard-won public relations victory might be jeopardized if the entire 5,500 women returned to their forty-eight states in a physical or mental condition alarming to the public.197

The second WAC group was being loaded on another ship, previously used to transport Chinese laborers, when the commanding general of the Hollandia Base saw it and refused to allow his Wacs to join those already on it. Colonel Boyce hurried to the scene and, without authority, ordered the remaining Wacs off, and port commanders thereupon turned the ship back to its owners as unfit for military use.

Before she left the theater in November, Colonel Boyce conferred with the chief of the transportation section and secured the assignment of a WAC officer to the office of the port director, to co-ordinate future shipping arrangements for Wacs and nurses. The WAC staff director or her assistant thereafter personally inspected shipping space assigned to women before

[459]


the date of loading. No further difficulties were noted.198  On 10 January 1946, the last major shipment of returning enlisted women was loaded onto the West Point, the ship that had brought the first group to Australia, and from which the last now waved farewell to Manila.

Conclusion

The Director WAC, when later asked whether she would recommend that women ever again be stationed in such areas, was exceedingly doubtful as to the correct reply. Some of her advisers felt that the greater sacrifices of combat troops in the area made it impertinent even to question whether women should be sent to any area in which men were required to fight. Others commented:

Men had to be there; nurses had to be there so long as the Army had no male nurses; but Wacs didn't have to be there; and it seems important to discover whether a decision to use enlisted women in such an area is wise and economical or not.199

Theater authorities with one exception agreed that the WAC experiment was an unqualified success. General MacArthur stated to WAC leaders that he was satisfied with the results of WAC employment. When Colonel Boyce consulted him in Tokyo, he praised Wacs highly, calling them "my best soldiers," and alleging that they worked harder than men, complained less, and were better disciplined. He informed Colonel Boyce that he would take any number of the Wacs the War Department would give him in any future command he might ever have.200

General Styer, commanding general of the Army Forces in the western Pacific, called the Wacs' service "a matter of everlasting credit to the Women's Army Corps," and said that the Wacs were "courageous soldiers," who from Australia to Manila "more than carried their share of the burden." 201

General Kenney, commander of the Far East Air Forces, stated that his Wacs' work "has been of the highest caliber. Each has better than replaced a soldier." 202  General McMullen of FEASC said, "The detachment in every way upheld the fine traditions of American womanhood and their departure is a distinct loss to the command.203

Colonel Ginsburgh of USASOS added, `'The Wacs did a job. We never had the sense of frustration which a discussion of their problems gives you; we only had a sense of achievement." 204

On the other hand, General Baird, G-1 of USAFFE later wrote:

I cannot truthfully say that their contribution., great as it was; outweighed the difficulties. On the other hand, nothing I could say would quite do justice to the loyal and efficient effort they put forth under all conditions and circumstances; to their courage and fortitude . . . . I do not believe that Wacs should be sent outside the limits of the United States until every general service man has been replaced by a Wac, and until every other available limited service man has been replaced . . . .The hardships, isolation and privation of jungle theaters are jobs for men. Women should be employed there only as a last resort.205

[460]


An opposite view was offered by the first WAC staff director, Colonel Brown, who wrote later:

The fact that the mission was successfully performed is much more important than a hind-sight consideration of whether it was wise to use Wacs in SWPA . . . . In my opinion the service of WAC members was essential to the success of Army operations in New Guinea and the Philippines. I deplore the failure of those immediately over the Staff Director . . . to accept my recommendations on procedures to assure the well being of WAC personnel, but the WAC mission was accomplished in spite of these and other obstacles and at not too great a sacrifice.

Colonel Brown joined with the staff director of the European theater in advocating a permanent WAC in the Regular Army, and pointed out:

Colonel Hobby's recommendation to General Marshall that Wacs be withdrawn from SW PA was made without consulting the Staff Director .... When General Marshall decided to send Colonel Boyce to the theater to "put the lid on," the recommendations or opinions of the Staff Director . . . were not sought.

Colonel Brown also was of the opinion that the heavy loss rate would have slackened eventually with improved supply and other provisions. 206

From the War Department's Army wide viewpoint, the verdict was less positive. Even in the few brief months between the incidence of the loss rate and the recall of the women, heavy casualties had been suffered, while the future usefulness of many of the other women was questionable.207  The War Department inspection team noted, of the entire group:

It was evident that in their forced adaption they had no realization of their physical and mental sacrifices. It is possible that not until they return to the Zone of the Interior will they acknowledge the changes which have taken place within them.208

These were, to the War Department, expensive losses. A skilled Wac was valuable Army property, representing a considerable investment in recruiting and training, and was needed for assignment in four or five jobs for every one that could be filled. Had the same 5,500 women been assigned to any of the other numerous overseas or domestic commands that had unfilled requisitions, few of these losses would have occurred under prevailing loss rates.

It therefore appeared to have been poor economy to employ women in circumstances where the loss among an equal number of men would have been only one fourth as great. If men in the proper skills were unavailable, the loss was obviously required in winning the war. The question of whether the entire Army of 7,700,000 men was not at this stage able to afford 5,500 men in clerical skills was one to be answered by students of the world-wide replacement system, and was a matter beyond the scope of either WAC or theater knowledge. Operations Division's decision to send Wacs had been made in the belief that, in the moment of manpower shortage, there existed no such 5;500 men. Thus, the original decision to send Wacs needed no justification; any future decision concerning the use of women in such an area would require consideration of the existing manpower shortage versus the probable loss rate.

It came to be the final opinion of most WAC leaders that women not only should be sent to such an area under equally desperate circumstances, but that they could

[461]


probably be employed without any comparable loss rate by application of the principles of WAC employment used elsewhere. These included, particularly, advance planning, a definition of the place of WAC advisers, command of women by female company officers, specialist attention to tracing the supplies of the relatively small group of women, and consideration of women's psychological need for treatment as responsible adults. In her final report to General George Marshall, Colonel Boyce summarized the WAC impression:

Women in the Army should be required and permitted to serve wherever the Army serves when their services are needed. However; in . . . New Guinea, Biak, and the Philippines, it is apparent that essential safeguards to the effective utilization of WAC personnel were not applied.209

A clue to an explanation of this lack of safeguards could be found in world-wide WAC experience, which indicated that the fault lay in the time factor as much as in any human element. In both other major theaters, a considerable shakedown period was required after WAC arrival in order to set up a satisfactory administrative system and specialist attention to supply and other needs. The Fifth Army experiment had not been attempted until eleven months after the first Wacs' arrival; the Normandy move, until twelve months after arrival. In the Pacific, the worldwide norm of a WAC administrative system had also been worked out at the end of a year. It was the theater's misfortune that, because of the lateness of its requisitions for Wacs, the achievement of this system had coincided with the end, and not with the beginning, of a risky experiment.

[462]


Page Created August 23 2002


Endnotes

Previous Chapter        Next Chapter

Return to the Table of Contents