Legal, Social, and Moral Problems
For the Corps' first two years, its policy problems had been chiefly those of survival-the provision of clothes to wear, places to train, officers and cadre, a recruiting campaign to beat down public disfavor. For the last eighteen months, its leaders were able to turn to the more complex and less tangible problems of successful integration of womanpower into an Army. These problems, although existing from the beginning, became increasingly important as the exciting days of establishment gave way to the long haul of endurance.
A common error among both WAC and Army authorities was the optimistic assumption that the number of special rules and regulations for women had decreased toward the end of the war. Thus, ranking Wacs could be found stating, "As men have become more and more familiar with the WAC program, there has been less and less need for special directives."1 As a matter of fact, this was an optical illusion. By the end of the war the number of amendments to Army rules had grown from zero to well over two hundred, ranging from Athletic Activities through Barber and Beauty Shops and Physical Profile down to Use of Weapons or Arms.2 The apparent simplification of women's administration that prevailed at the end of the war could be traced to the fact that differences had been catalogued so well that field agencies were no longer at a loss on how to deal with them, and therefore were scarcely conscious of them.
From the conversion period to the end of the war, the enlistment standards for women remained relatively unchanged except for minor modifications and the polishing of the screening process.3 On the other hand, standards for discharge were almost totally undeveloped. Women were placed under the discharge rules of the Army with only one hasty addition, apparently in the belief that the dischargeability of women would not differ from that of men except in the matter of pregnancy. This proved a considerable oversimplification, and in the following months
a number of other changes in Army Regulations were requested by the Director.
A male minor who misrepresented his age in order to enter the Army was, according to Army Regulations, not discharged if discovered, provided that his parents did not request his discharge. Many stations thereupon decided that a woman discovered to be under age could also remain in the Army if her parents concurred. However, the WAC age limit of 20 had been set by act of Congress and not by the War Department; it was therefore necessary to publish a change making mandatory the discharge of a woman found to be under age.4
Army Regulations provided that men concealing any fact, except minority, that would have made them ineligible for enlistment would be given a discharge other than honorable (blue). Minority was excepted, since it was felt that the excess of patriotism that prompted this concealment should not be stigmatized as was concealment of previous conviction or other major offenses. Women, unlike men, were ineligible for enlistment if they had children in certain age groups. The Director argued, for a time unsuccessfully, that concealment of children was in the same category with concealment of minority, and did not merit the blue discharge given those who concealed criminal records. It was near the end of the war when she finally secured partial acceptance of this theory; authority was then written into Army Regulations for the discharging authority to give either a white or a blue discharge for this offense, at his discretion. The Secretary of War's Discharge Review Board was then asked to review all previously issued blue discharges in this category. 5
Discharge for National Health, Safety, and Interest
Discharges to accept essential employment were given to men who could bring proof of an offer of such employment plus certification from a Selective Service board that the holder of the job was exempt from draft. There was at first some difficulty in deciding how to get, for a woman, certification equivalent to that of a man's Selective Service board. Moreover, it was impossible to ensure that a woman would take or keep an essential job after discharge. A man who failed to do so was at once drafted again, but there was no way to get the woman back in the Army; women could accept such a discharge and then enjoy perfect idleness or a more lucrative nonessential job.
The War Department's first solution was to forbid any women at all to be discharged for this reason. This, however, was manifestly unfair to a few scientific technicians and farm managers who had enlisted from patriotic motives and now found themselves less useful to the nation in the Army. Finally, a new procedure was worked out; for both men and women, which eliminated reference to Selective
Service boards. Nothing could of course solve the problem of the absence of a selective service law for women: in any future legislation it appeared desirable to provide in some way for this contingency, possibly by reserve specifications if selective service was not applicable. 6
As soon as the first WAC applications began to ask discharge because. of the dependency of relatives, it became apparent that there was one fundamental difference in the social responsibilities of men and women, which speedily caused difficulty in the application of the men's rules of discharge. This difference, as expressed briefly by Deputy Director Rice, was, "Dependency I of relatives I on a man is ordinarily financial; dependency on a woman is more often dependency for care.7
Thus, it was necessary for a man desiring discharge for dependency to submit documents showing that his presence was required for the "care or support" of a dependent, "to prevent or relieve destitution." Evidence from the field indicated that post judge advocates ordinarily interpreted "destitution''' strictly to mean only financial destitution. Case after case quickly accumulated in which dependency discharge requests from enlisted women were disapproved because financial destitution was not a factor. Many of these concerned sick or aged parents. A parent might have a dozen sons and one daughter in the Army, yet when a lengthy illness set in it was the daughter and not the sons whose release from the Army was demanded. If the head of a family died. it was the daughter and not the sons who must come home to care for the younger children. Community pressure generally enforced these duties on a daughter. From one small town the mayor, minister, and other prominent citizens wired Director Hobby asking release of a woman to care for her aged parents. In most of these cases, Army discharge authorities in the field refused to allow discharge of the women concerned, since the dependency was not financial. Many other such cases concerned children who, although of independent age or legally adopted by others, encountered changed conditions through the death or disability of a guardian or through other misfortunes.8
Even more trouble than the parents and children, as the war progressed, were husbands. One veteran wrote to the Director: "I am asking information concerning a discharge for her due to the seriousness of my condition. As you know, it is imperative that I remain on a special diet." 9 In such cases, whether the husband was still in an Army hospital or retired on a pension, he could not be said to be financially dependent on his wife.
Continued reports from the field indicated that, whether parent, child, or husband was concerned, there was little uniformity in the interpretation of "care or support" by Army discharge authorities. Some were endeavoring to interpret "care or support" according to the American
social concept of a woman's duties to her husband, parents, or child, but others were applying the men's "care or support" rule concerning financial destitution.10 The Office of the Director, after study of the problem, believed that the Army should not attempt to ignore the different social responsibilities of men and women in American civil life, but should accept and acknowledge the difference in an amendment to the Army Regulations. This proposed amendment would have allowed a woman to be discharged:
. . . when, by reason of death or disability of a member of her family, she becomes the person primarily responsible for the care of a child or disabled or ill adult who is a member of her family . . . . In such case the evidence required need not include evidence that discharge is necessary to prevent or relieve financial destitution, but . . . that [it is] necessary to provide that type of care which is normally the responsibility of a woman to provide.11
Such a rule would have been quite similar to that used for the WAVES, who although making no changes in published regulations-required such cases to be routed to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, which treated them more liberally on the grounds that "it was felt that an ill parent would typically depend more on a daughter in the house than on a son." 12
This concept was not acceptable to G-1 Division, except as it applied to the wives of "dependent" veterans. For all other types of dependency-parents, children, relatives-the rules on destitution remained unchanged. For discharged husbands the reaction was sympathetic, and the Army Regulation on dependency was amended to allow the wife of a disabled veteran, or of a soldier awaiting disability discharge, to be discharged to care for him, provided that medical authorities certified that her presence would aid in his recovery. This provoked some dispute between husbands and medical authorities; shortly before the end of the war, an amendment provided that the wife of any veteran, disabled or not, could be discharged upon presenting proof of her husband's discharge from the armed forces or :Merchant Marine. This policy was announced jointly by both military and naval women's services.13
Discharge for Misconduct
The delicate problem of prescribing WAC standards of conduct and morals had not fully taken shape until the end of the WAAC. In general the Auxiliary's discharge rules had been far more strict than comparable Army Regulations. The original WAAC Code of Conduct, in addition to the usual enjoinders against mutiny, riot, fray, desertion, and disrespect, also made it an offense to be found drunk in uniform or otherwise to bring discredit upon the Corps, either being grounds for various punishments including discharge.14
Director Hobby later directed that "drinking unwisely or without moderation" be considered such a violation,
whether or not actual drunkenness could be proved.15 It was in general considered undesirable to drink at all while in uniform, or to buy packaged liquor, or to be found all evening in bars even if sober.16 Other "conduct bringing discredit upon the Corps" was not specified, but gave discharging authorities considerable latitude. Director Hobby noted:
Particularly, we want to emphasize what it means to be a gentlewoman and . . . interpret the Corps to the public. I want you to impress each one that she is not one person being judged by the public, but the Corps is being judged by the things she does.17
When the Corps came under Army status and discharge regulations, it quickly became apparent that many Army discharge boards did not consider it just to discharge a woman except for misconduct and "habits and traits" for which they would discharge a man. Some Army commanders favored the recognition of the ``single standard." One judge advocate wrote to the Director:
For goodness' sakes treat these girls like the enlisted men of the Army and do not try to chaperon and shelter them in too exacting a fashion . . . their private lives should be more or less left to their own guiding.18
On the other hand, regardless of such abstract arguments, one concrete fact was soon clear-the majority of American citizens condemned misconduct in a woman, and the majority of Wacs also condemned it. Statistics showed that the WAC average still remained high as to character, ability, and morality, and it was found that women in the average WAC barracks could be brought almost to open rebellion when forced to share their "home" with even one woman who was a prostitute, or diseased, or given to frequent carousing and drunken nausea, cursing, and fighting, although none of these private activities was usually considered grounds for discharge of an Army man, provided that the individual fulfilled military duties in a reasonably efficient manner.
It soon became plain from experience that the presence in a WAC unit of one such individual would inevitably wreck first the morale and then the efficiency of the majority of the women who, through the fact of enlisted status, were forced against their will not only to share barracks life with her, but also to face the jokes and innuendoes of other military and civilian personnel at the station, who assumed that all N7acs' morals must be the same. To keep one such woman was to inspire requests for transfer or discharge from the others. Whatever the merits of a theoretical single standard, the practical fact was that at the current moment in society, and in recruiting, the habits and traits that rendered a woman undesirable as an associate of enlisted women were somewhat different from those that made a man an undesirable associate of enlisted men.
It came to be Director Hobby's opinion, after study of reports from the field and on the basis of her legal training, that the clue to a solution lay in the Army's well recognized duty to protect the rights of all individuals. The female moral offender, in strict justice, could not be punished more severely than a male soldier for
identical offenses. On the other hand, the 149 other members of a WAC unit also were entitled to protection from damage to physical or mental health or well-being, and the Corps, as a volunteer group, had the right to choose its members and give honorable discharges to the unfit. Whether or not the standards of conduct of twentieth-century American women were overstrict or illogical, the fact was that they existed and could not be converted to those of men by an Army Regulation. The Director therefore recommended that discharge boards be informed that it lay within their authority to define "habits and traits'" in line with the right of unit members to decent surroundings as defined by American religious and social usage.
Unfortunately for its promulgation, this policy would have deviated from Army Regulations for men, and the Director was never able to secure its formulation in writing. She did succeed in including counsel to company officers, in their refresher training, that they present such cases to Army boards in terms of the effect upon the company as a whole and upon members' efficiency, rather than the relative seriousness of a moral offense for a man.19
Discharge for Inadaptability
For the type of discharge given men for "inadaptability," or hopeless ineptitude on Army jobs, there was a similar difficulty for women. A man was not considered eligible for discharge under this authority so long as he could perform the work of a laborer; a woman was actually useless to the Army if she could not do one of the more limited duties open to women-clerical, technical, food preparation, or other work within her physical capacity. She could not be assigned to work such as ditch-digging, lifting boxes and cartons, battlefield salvage, or similar service duties. Nevertheless, reports from the field indicated that Army boards, in a commendable effort at strict justice, were applying to men and women the same standards of intelligence and training in this respect, and frequently refused to discharge any woman who, had she been a man, would have been able to dig a ditch.20
It was Director Hobby's opinion that, as in other cases, some modification of the Army Regulations was necessary for women, to assure discharge boards of their authority to apply the "inadaptability" provision to such women and to give them an honorable discharge. Such discharge appeared desirable both to free Army manpower allotments from the burden of unassignables, and to permit the individual to find happier employment in farm or factory. Again, the Director was not able to secure War Department approval of any published deviation from men's rules. She was able only to mention the problem in officer refresher training. Officers were counseled to present the case to Army boards in terms of the military duties within a woman's strength, and not in those of the woman's relative intelligence and training as compared to an inadaptable man's.21
The Auxiliary Corps upon its establishment encountered a situation in which, for Army nurses, a sharp distinction had always been made between the types of
discharge for married and unmarried pregnancy: unmarried nurses found to be pregnant were given a dishonorable discharge, elsewhere reserved for convicted criminals. The whole subject was in fact of such abhorrence to the Nurse Corps that no attrition rates were officially collected, and the word pregnancy itself was replaced by cyesis.22 In conformity with this tradition, the earliest WAAC Regulations, written before Director Hobby's appointment, contained the provision that only married women would get an honorable discharge for pregnancy, others receiving the worst type within the Auxiliary's power to bestow, a summary discharge.23
It was immediately evident to the Director upon her appointment that the distinction was untenable, from a legal standpoint. A military discharge "other than honorable" was never decreed except for definite violations of military or civil law, and there generally was no legal charge that could be brought against a pregnant unmarried woman in either civilian or military courts if her public. conduct was not disorderly. The Army's only legal grounds for discharging such a woman was that she was no longer physically capable of military service. Therefore, in December of 1942, Director Hobby secured a change in the regulation to permit an honorable discharge by reason of "unsuitability for the service."24 Certain officers who still felt that only married women should get honorable discharges were forced into hasty retreat when the Director inquired if they were also going to require legal proof that the married woman's husband was the father of the child. Where a couple had not met for several years a wife's claim to a better type of discharge appeared slim, yet had the Army investigated every time lapse, it would manifestly have been placed in a somewhat ridiculous situation.
All subsequent WAC and Army Regulations therefore required an honorable discharge for all pregnant women, with the eventual entry on the discharge certificate; being merely "By reason of Sec. III AR 615-361," or other appropriate regulation, without reference to marital status.25 The Army Nurse Corps, after its later entry into full Army status, likewise authorized an honorable discharge.26 In the Navy women's services, pregnant enlisted women were also discharged honorably, "For the Convenience of the Government.'' 27 The War Department's official policy on the matter was formally stated early in 1945 in a letter to Congress concerning the Army Nurse Corps, which applied equally to the WAC:
Pregnancy in the case of an unmarried woman is not cognizable by the criminal law . . . . Thus, the manner in which the Army disposes of such cases is consistent with the manner in which such cases are handled in civilian society. This office is aware of no justification for considering pregnancy of a militarized single woman as a crime, when civilian society does not thus consider it.28
In the United States, those cases in which a child was born before a woman could be discharged were ordinarily handled, for lack of any other authority,
by dependency discharge. If this did not apply, either because the child died or the mother announced her intent to give it away, authority for discharge was, for the duration of the war, solved only by emergency requests to headquarters, which obligingly furnished authority to discharge the woman "by authority of the Secretary of War." It was not until 1947 that authority was published for "pregnancy" discharge if a child had already been delivered, living or stillborn.29
Delay in discharge was particularly conspicuous in overseas theaters. Director Hobby was eventually obliged to obtain a directive stating that, if discharge had been delayed until pregnancy was so advanced that the mother's or unborn child's life would be endangered by travel, the mother might be retained in service overseas until the infant was born, and both returned to the United States. Authority was provided for getting the baby past immigration officials and into Army hospitals as a "patient," and for discharging the mother when she was no longer pregnant. The Navy Department very shortly published an identical circular.30
A related problem was the type of discharge, if any, that should be given for abortion. The problem occurred very rarely, but in early 1944 there came to Director Hobby's attention four or five recent cases in which Army commands had given the offender a blue or "other than honorable" discharge. It was the Director's reaction that a woman guilty of deliberate abortion, married or unmarried, should be promptly discharged, both for the sake of the other women in the Corps and for the good of the individual herself, who would ordinarily be emotionally and physically unfitted for exacting military duty for some months. However, a check by legal officers revealed that abortion was ordinarily not a civil or criminal offense for a woman, but only for the practitioner who performed it. Furthermore, legal and medical authorities agreed that it was ordinarily impossible, after the event, to certify to a court whether abortion or miscarriage had actually taken place and, if so, whether it was illegal or accidental.31
The Army courts that had given blue discharges to enlisted women for this action had therefore been guilty of applying legal penalties to women who had violated no law. In accordance with her previous policy concerning pregnancy, Director Hobby sought some means of honorable discharge, which would protect the individual's rights while preserving the right of the Corps to choose the type of members it desired. She found the WAVES in an identical dilemma. That organization could find no legal basis for discharge but had hesitated to publish this fact, fearing to appear to condone abortion, and so had done nothing, the decision being left to field commands. The SPARS had an ingenious system: a woman was required by regulation to report her possible pregnancy as soon as she suspected it, and was
then given an honorable discharge upon medical confirmation; but if she failed to report, and termination of pregnancy occurred, she was discharged for violation of the regulation that she report her pregnancy.32
Director Hobby seriously considered adopting the SPARS plan, but consultation with the Office of The Surgeon General brought forth many objections. Female medical officers maintained that, since spontaneous abortion often occurred even before a woman suspected pregnancy, an other-than-honorable dismissal would be an injustice to many. Also, medical officers believed that the threat of a blue discharge would not prevent abortion, since an estimated 700,000 were performed yearly on civilian women. Medical officers also feared that a system like that of the SPARS would lead to concealment from medical officers of after-abortion hemorrhage or infection, with possible death of the victim resulting.33
The Director was therefore forced to drop all attempts to make induced abortion a cause for discharge. The only published reference to the problem was a line in Army discharge regulations which provided that pregnancy "and the direct complications and sequelae thereof " would be considered as incurred "not in line of duty" but with no misconduct involved. However, if the medical officer was able to prove illegality, "illegal abortions complete or incomplete will be regarded as misconduct." 34
The conversion to Army status presented an equally serious policy problem to the Army commanders now charged with WAC discipline. Evidence from the field soon indicated that the punishments given Wacs by Army board procedures varied widely for identical offenses. At one extreme were found those commanders who dealt out a double standard of justice, with the result that female military personnel received heavier fines and penalties for identical moral offenses than did male personnel.
At the other extreme, there was evidence that more courts were too lenient with women than too strict; many found great difficulty in punishing a woman for anything. A woman might be a habitual troublemaker and insubordinate to her commander, but if she was at all attractive and articulate, or able to shed a tear, she could frequently convince a court that she was the injured party and her company commander an old sourpuss. A comparable situation could have been imagined only had it been necessary for Army company commanders to attempt to secure discipline of handsome young men before an all-female court.
It was Director Hobby's opinion that more uniformity might be obtained, without interference with command prerogative, by including WAC officers on boards or courts trying WAC offenders. A provision was therefore included in the first WAC Regulations to the effect that at least one member of every such group would be a Wac. Reports from the field soon indicated that the provision was not
uniformly effective. At times the one WAC member was a very junior officer. Frequently the requirement was entirely circumvented when the defendant's counsel used his right of peremptory challenge to remove the one woman board member, particularly if he planned to base his client's defense on emotional grounds. Such practices became so common that some Army commanders recommended all-WAC boards for women. The commandant of the Command and General Staff School pointed out in connection with a local case that such boards should not include any male officers "since men do not seem to be able to mete out punishment to women."
Director Hobby did not incline to such an extreme, believing that Army officers' greater length of service lent valuable knowledge, that they would in time achieve the necessary objectivity, and that one WAAC member would suffice. She therefore requested publication of a letter or circular inviting the attention of field commanders, and of the Judge Advocate General's Department, to the requirement for a qualified WAC officer on every board, which would necessitate provision of alternates in the event one was Challenged. However, such a publication met with the objection of the Judge Advocate General, and was never promulgated. The Army Air Forces nevertheless invited the attention of inspectors to the requirement, and also informed them that it was considered "sound administration" to appoint a WAC officer as the summary court to hear charges against Wacs.35
The Navy experienced an identical problem. The Bureau of Naval Personnel stated:
The administration of discipline was one respect in which it was definitely felt that the "woman's point of view" should be represented, though this worked out somewhat differently than the men had anticipated . . . The Women's Reserve representative who had been provided for to guard against injustice . . . more often than not provided the saving clement of objectivity to hold the line. It was often the experience that commanding officers began by manifesting a paternal tolerance of minor infractions of discipline and then felt somewhat helpless when they discovered that women would take advantage of this as readily as men. The sex difference introduces a certain amount of misplaced chivalry to upset the objectivity with which one man would view the inadequacies of another . . . . the best that could be done was to introduce the detached appraisal of Women's Reserve representatives . . . .36
Since the same problem occurred in higher courts, the Director sent to the judge Advocate General a list of forty-four Wacs who were lawyers, with the suggestion that he might wish them to attend his school at Ann Arbor so that some might be qualified to sit on the Army's highest Boards of Review. The judge Advocate General refused the offer, stating:
The Boards of Review constituted by the judge Advocate General, pursuant to AW 501/2, are statutory boards composed of members of the judge Advocate General's Department . . . I do not deem it practicable or desirable to change the membership of such a board merely for the consideration of a particular class of cases . . . to appoint members of the Women's Army Corps to such boards is not now contemplated.
He also refused to send WAC lawyers to Ann Arbor, saying:
The legal fields in which a member of the
Women's Army Corps may be used are so limited . . . it appears to me to be neither practical nor, from the standpoint of training, advantageous.37
The problem of WAC representation on boards and courts was thus never completely solved, although the requirement for one WAC representative remained in effect where not locally circumvented. The Director advised staff directors to attempt, at every station, to make arrangements for providing WAC officers of sufficient number and experience to serve on courts and boards if the local commander saw fit.
The question of WAC confinement was difficult to discuss without any number of puns, but insofar as it was defined as imprisonment, it presented an immediate problem which eventually required a published directive to the field. The problem of where to put delinquent women had first arisen in WAAC days, in connection with the detention of AWOL women who were found to congregate in large cities.
A typical field protest from Los Angeles revealed that the local provost marshal did not know where to house them. He put one in the city jail and newspapers got the story; he dumped others on a nearby WAC company which; after four in one week, objected vigorously. It was ordinarily necessary to house an AWOL several days or even weeks until return to her station could be arranged. The protesting local officers asked Director Hobby for some place of detention for women, saying:
Here is one of the particular cases where it seems to us the War Department must recognize that the fundamental difference in sex, so often referred to in regulations, demands that in big cities where Wacs will congregate there must be adequate arrangements set up to take care of them.38
Accordingly, Director Hobby asked for an experiment in one city of the Western Defense Command, which would require one WAC officer and two enlisted women as military police, plus some small quarters for detention. The Provost Marshal General concurred in the proposal. For a time it appeared that General Somervell would approve the plan. However, it was eventually disapproved after Military Personnel Division, ASF, pointed out that the plan would not permit reduction in the number of male military police, and that extra allotments to take care of the WAC were not justified since Wacs formed less than 2 percent of the Army.39
The matter of the housing of WAC AWOL's was thus left to local arrangements -a WAC detachment if it would take them, the city jail if it would not- until just before the end of the war, when Director Hobby, with the backing of the Air Forces, succeeded in getting a directive requiring local WAC companies to accept custody when requested to do so. This was never particularly acceptable to the companies concerned, since it had an undesirable effect upon their personnel as well as requiring expensive guards and separate facilities. Nevertheless, it seemed the best compromise in the absence of female military police stations.40
A still more serious problem after the integration in the Army was that of finding a place to confine Wacs who were sentenced to long terms by Army court-martial. Director Hobby had always advocated that, for minor offenses, some punishment more suitable than confinement or restriction to quarters be found, since, she said, "no military purpose is served by taking a woman off the job in wartime." 41
Since serious offenses meriting such punishment were rare among WAC members, an entire service command covering several states ordinarily had only one or two women to be confined. One inspector found a station with its one WAC offender installed in a separate guardhouse with a necessarily private bath, with a detail of three able-bodied military police to guard the door night and day. From her window she received a stream of sympathetic military and civilian visitors, bearing gifts, so that her sufferings seemed to be slight. In another case the Eighth Service Command hopefully requested that a woman just sentenced to two years confinement be transferred to the "WAC Stockade, Fort Des Moines"-unfortunately, a nonexistent institution.42
A WAC disciplinary barracks at one of the training centers was actually under consideration at the time, since one such centralized institution would have been adequate to care for the few WAC prisoners from all over the nation. The Commandant, Fort Des Moines, advised Colonel Hobby in response to her inquiry:
I believe that one place under competent administration could restore many of the women as good Wacs . . . . With the increase in the size of the Corps we must recognize that a few undesirables will slip in, and make provisions for their welfare.43
Accordingly, the Director recommended that suitable training center facilities be provided for the confinement of women serving short-term sentences. For those with longer sentences, she suggested that arrangements be made to transfer them to the Federal Industrial Reformatory for Women at Alderson, West Virginia, which she believed to be a recognized institution with long experience in the scientific rehabilitation of female prisoners. This was in line with existing policy, which provided that federal facilities might be used for male military prisoners.44
The portion of her recommendation concerning transfer to Alderson was approved and put into effect. Cases accepted, however, were only those in which the individual had committed a felony or violated a civil law. Still undisposed of were sentences, like the two-year sentence in the Eighth Service Command, that were imposed for violation of military regulations only. The War Department never approved Colonel Hobby's recommendation for disciplinary barracks at WAC training centers for these women. High-level negotiations were involved. The Navy Department could never be persuaded to set up a similar institution for convicted WAVES and SPARS, whom it preferred to discharge, and the War Department felt that extremely unfavorable publicity and loss of recruits might result if it was known that the WAC was
the only women's service maintaining such an institution.
As the only alternative, a confidential letter was sent to all commands stating that, while courts would adjudge sentences as usual, the reviewing authority would direct discharge instead of confinement for Wacs who could not be transferred to Alderson and who did not appear to be useful members of the Corps. Under this policy, the Corps operated for the duration. Although confidential, this policy came gradually to be known and occasioned some unfavorable comment from men who felt that "nothing could be done to Wacs who break rules." Such an impression was entirely erroneous, as all penalties remained identical with the sole exception of confinement over thirty days for offenses that did not violate civilian law. Director Hobby felt that the discrimination was in fact in the other direction that male offenders had an opportunity for rehabilitation and return to service where they could earn an eventual honorable discharge. A paragraph was inserted in the directive admonishing reviewing authorities against the natural tendency to give a woman, in lieu of confinement, a more severe type of discharge than the case merited.45
All women's services in the United States adopted an identical policy in this respect. The officially approved explanation stated:
The laws creating the Women's Services set up voluntary organizations .... Women volunteering for these services are riot subject to the draft law. It is presumed that if volunteers are no longer in a position to fill a military mission, they should be returned to civilian life. It is not believed that there was any intent to place them in confinement for such offenses as would not be punishable by civil law.46
It was also felt that there was little economic value to the armed forces in attempting to rehabilitate women offenders, since a man who spent most of his time in the guardhouse might eventually make a good combat soldier, but a female habitual offender would seldom settle down to be a good clerk.
Another of Director Hobby's first projects after her arrival in G-1 Division was a hitherto unsuccessful plan to provide some form of maternity and postnatal care for Wacs discharged from the service for pregnancy. Soldiers' wives were entitled to maternity care in Army hospitals,47 but a Wac was not eligible to receive it on the basis of her own service, since upon discharge she was not a soldier but a veteran. As for the chances of care in veterans' hospitals, the Veterans' Administration from the beginning had refused to provide care for women discharged for pregnancy, maintaining that it might legally provide only for "defect, disease, or disability cases," and that pregnancy was not a disability but a normal condition.48
The War Department's reluctance to take any action apparently stemmed from the fear that attention to the problem might lead the public to exaggerate the numbers involved, which actually continued to be less than comparable civilian rates. However, the infrequency of occurrence did not, in the Director's opinion,
warrant neglect of the individuals concerned.
A woman discharged for pregnancy, and without other means of support, was frequently obliged to wander from one social institution to another, seeking charity--a situation undesirable not only for humane reasons, but for the prestige of the Army and of the Women's Army Corps, particularly if she did her wandering in uniform. WAC company commanders or staff directors habitually attempted to help such women find care, but were usually unable to do so for lack of familiarity with social agencies in the city or state to which a woman was returning. The situation was admittedly so undesirable that the Chief of Chaplains himself protested that "inadequate provisions are available for the care and rehabilitation of the members of the Corps who become pregnant.'' 49
The Director did not support the extreme view held by some authorities, that pregnant women should remain in the Corps. One command protested the discharge of such women:
The regulation does not give to the members of the WAAC the same consideration and care that is given the men in the Army who become physically disqualified for active duty. In a majority of pregnancy cases the Waac so discharged will have no means of support, no opportunity for securing medical care, so will become an indigent. Discharge is not a proper solution to this problem either from the point of view of the Waac as an individual, the WAAC as a Corps, the Army; or Society.50
This command proposed care in a special confinement sanitarium, with discharge after the child was born unless it died or was adopted. Director Hobby objected to this idea, partly because it seemed to encourage a woman to give away her baby in order to remain in the Corps, and partly because it might appear to the public that the Army was running government-supported baby fauns after the German model. She believed, however, that medical care after discharge, on a veteran's status, should be made available to both married and unmarried women discharged for pregnancy if they had inadequate private means.
After a series of fruitless attempts to convince the Veterans' Administration that childbirth required medical care, Director I-lobby turned to the possibility of care of discharged Wacs in Army hospitals.51 She secured a decision from the judge Advocate General that it was legal to care for such veterans in Army facilities; she also obtained concurrence from The Surgeon General, and a plan whereby certain Army hospitals could accept maternity cases. She then reported to G-1:
Every way I know of providing for the care of this personnel has been explored during the past year. We have been able to develop no other way that is suitable and satisfactory. It is War Department policy to provide maternity care for wives of soldiers. I believe it is therefore in keeping with this policy to provide maternity care for female military personnel whether or not they are married to soldiers.52
This plan was approved by G-1 and sent to the Chief of Staffs office. Here it incubated for approximately nine months
until finally, in late May of 1945, shortly before the end of the war, it came to light in the form of a War Department circular. Whereas the recommendations of Director Hobby and the Chief of Chaplains had not sufficed, the War Department was finally moved to action by the repeated urgings of the prominent civilian women of the National Civilian Advisory Committee. A month later the Navy Department issued an identically worded circular permitting Navy hospitals to extend the same type of care to Waves; SPARS, Women Marines, and the Navy Nurse Corps. This problem; which had existed since the establishment of the women's services, was thus solved only after three years and in the last days of the war.53
Meantime, Director Hobby, while waiting for this directive, had succeeded in getting a second and supplementary plan: the help of the American Red Cross in advising discharged pregnant Wacs. Red Cross representatives were already performing this service for the Army Nurse Corps,54 and were agreeable to aiding enlisted women. Without applying any persuasion to follow a certain plan, the female Red Cross representative at a discharged Wac's station was instructed to talk to the woman, discover her wishes, and within two weeks arrange for a complete plan covering temporary employment, maternity care in the community of her choice, and later employment to enable the mother to keep her baby if she so desired. This was accomplished by direct communication with the Red Cross representative in the community concerned, who was ordinarily familiar with all the possibilities of help from available social agencies, could arrange financial assistance if necessary, and could keep the matter confidential while sparing the pregnant woman the ordeal of applying in person from one agency to the other.
This plan was opposed by Personal Affairs Division, Army Service Forces, which felt that the Army's personal affairs officer at the station concerned should make the arrangements. However, the Director, Army Emergency Relief, as well as Director Hobby, felt that the Red Cross could reach more communities and more specialized service agencies: and the Red Cross plan was eventually adopted. To this was soon added the authorization to use Army hospitals if the woman concerned preferred.55
In general, the combined system worked admirably during the remaining months of demobilization. with the Red Cross planning all needed community services and Army hospitals furnishing care when necessary. To this was added a new decision by Veterans' Administration that pregnant women were entitled to regular unemployment compensation during confinement provided they registered with the United States Employment Service while still employable for light work for a few months.56
Marriage, according to the Army Nurse Corps precedent, had always been classed in the same category as illegitimate pregnancy; married nurses were not allowed in the Corps, and those who married while on active duty were dishonorably discharged.57 The WAAC chose to follow the Army example; marriage was considered neither disqualifying for enlistment nor grounds for discharge. Soon after the WAAC's establishment, the Army Nurse Corps also permitted its members to be married, but not to serve on the same station as their husbands.58 The WAAC never sanctioned any such restriction. Quite early in Auxiliary days, it was discovered that some station commanders and WAAC company commanders were refusing to permit the marriage of WAAC personnel, or were breaking up the association of married couples by transferring either husband or wife if both were stationed at the same installation.
In answer to a query as to whether a Waac required her commanding officer's permission to marry, the reply was, "The Director WAAC will authorize no action to prevent marriages of WAAC officers or enrolled women, whether to officers, enlisted men, or civilians.59 Director Hobby then secured the War Department's concurrence to a circular which provided:
The marriage of a WAAC officer or enrolled member to a member of the armed forces will not be allowed to effect an advantage or a disadvantage in her assignment of duty, nor will it be allowed to preclude the privileges normally allowed to such personnel. WAAC officers or enrolled members will not be transferred solely because of marriage to persons serving at the same station.60
A provision to this effect was included in all subsequent WAC Regulations, and was generally well enforced in the United States.
Only two other amendments to Army Regulations were required concerning marriage of Wacs. One of these provided authority for change of name, which was discovered to be lacking in the existing provisions by which an enlisted man might change his name. This action-for females only-was made mandatory, not optional.61
The other amendment concerned the burial of husbands. As members of the Army, Wacs were entitled to burial in national cemeteries with the customary Army honors if their relatives so desired. The question eventually arose as to whether or not a Wac's husband might be buried in a national cemetery with her, in accordance with the rule which permitted wives to be buried with Army husbands. The Quartermaster General proposed that such interment be refused to servicewomen's husbands unless they had been soldiers and were entitled to it in their own right. Director Hobby appealed the question to the Under Secretary of War on the grounds that WAC legislation provided for equal rights for servicewomen. The Under Secretary agreed and directed that permission be granted, but asked that no publicity be given to the matter, since it was feared that it would be harmful both to the WAC and to the Army if the public knew that husbands
were being given the rights of wives in this respect.62
The Social Caste System
The WAC never, in the opinion of its members, experienced any problem comparable to that of the Army concerning restrictions on the social association of officer and enlisted personnel of the same sex. Almost all WAC officers had risen from the ranks through officer candidate school, and for this reason WAC leaders noted that the distinction "did not affect the morale and well-being of female enlisted personnel to the extent reported for male personnel." 63
On the other hand, where personnel of opposite sex was concerned, the problem was one of the Corps' most serious. The year of the Auxiliary's existence saw the evolution of Director Hobby's views from an original acceptance of the Army tradition in this matter to a final advocacy of a more liberal policy for personnel of opposite sexes. WAAC Regulations never mentioned the matter, which was in fact never mentioned in Army Regulations, but trainees were informed that the WAAC would abide by all Army traditions. This tradition proved understandably difficult to enforce, particularly as some male instructors proved of little assistance in inculcating in enrolled Waacs a respect for the Army custom. It was, in fact, necessary for a directive to be issued saying that enrolled Waacs in training centers were not bound to obey "orders of a social nature" issued by their male officers. Trainees at General Faith's headquarters at Daytona Beach were permitted to date officers if they desired.64
In addition to being hard to enforce, the caste system was bitterly resented by many women who suddenly found themselves unable to associate with former friends and, on leaves at home, obliged to decline dates and stay away from parties because of their supposed social inferiority. Therefore, toward the end of the WAAC period. Director Hobby placed herself on record as opposed to the Army tradition as between opposite sexes, at least in wartime. She said, "Most of the young people of this country are in uniform. I do not think you can change a social pattern in wartime.65 She stated that she believed there should be no bar on of duty social engagements between officers and enlisted personnel of opposite sexes, with the exception that an officer should not date enrolled personnel under his supervision, by analogy with the civilian custom by which a good supervisor ordinarily did not date one of his employees.
Nothing came of her objections at this time, nor was any reference to the matter placed in WAC Regulations; in reply to inquiries, it was stated that "orders or regulations of local authorities will govern policies." 66
Letters and reports from the field soon after the conversion period indicated that the unpopularity of the caste system as applied to opposite sexes was steadily increasing. Of all the reasons that civilian
women gave for refusing to enlist, this was one of the most frequent and most plausible; of all the objections that enlisted women felt toward military life, this was the most bitter. Enlisted women from a Florida airfield wrote to President Roosevelt:
In civilian life we associated with people of our own choice, and that is one of the many reasons why we are serving in the Army; to preserve our rights for equality .... Many of our fathers, brothers, husbands, and sweethearts are now officers in the armed forces: according to this regulation; it is necessary for us to have permission to be seen even with our nearest relatives. Don't you think this is absurd? 67
Another enlisted woman wrote the Director:
Thousands of the girls in the Corps have friends that are officers, and should they meet on the street, they can't stop and talk without first securing a pass . . . you are sending the girls back to their home towns where all their friends will be returning on furloughs, and how do they feel when we turn them down for a dinner date? The girls in civilian life have officer friends and they do not want anything like this to happen to them, so it is much easier to stay out of the WAC.68
It was a new experience for American women to be told that they were socially inferior to anyone. Colonel Hobby added:
There exists no precedent for social distinction among the women of the nation beyond the normal relationships of employer and employee.69
To make the situation worse, there was no uniformity of practice in this respect among the Allied nations, the U.S. armed forces, and even within the Army itself. In most Allied forces, officers were not bound by such a custom and could not be punished for dating an enlisted Wac. The U.S. Navy also promptly announced, upon the formation of the WAVES and SPARS, that off-duty social association was permissible. As a result, the WAC suffered considerably by comparison, especially in recruiting publicity, and also was faced with the problem of punishing enlisted women for dating naval or Allied officers who were not punishable.
The Army itself had no Army-wide rule on the matter. The Army had always kept its social caste system unwritten, as one of the "customs of the service," and each local commander was therefore entitled to interpret the custom, or to ignore it, as he saw fit. In the United States most commanders enforced the "custom'"; a few did not. For example, the Fourth Service Command and the Third Air Force, covering in part the same territory, had different rules, and an Air Forces enlisted woman was punished for being caught dating a service command officer, who was not punished. From every Army command, and especially from overseas theaters, there was continuous evidence that the rule was habitually violated and that the impossibility of enforcing it had merely caused loss of respect for all rules.
Ranking officers such as Maj. Gen. Charles H. Bonesteel at Fort Benning reported that it would be helpful to them for the War Department to announce a firm policy, but the `'Tar Department refused to do so, pointing out that the customs of the service were not written, and should not be. The War Department noted that it would be especially difficult to put in
writing the prohibition of association, since the wives and daughters of many Army officers were enlisted women; such Army officers would thus be placed in the embarrassing position of violating a written regulation instead of merely a custom of the service.70
In January of 1944, just before her move to G-1, Director Hobby again petitioned the Army Service Forces to permit off duty association, adding:
Since most of the youth of the country is in uniform . . . they are faced with the problem of dislocation by the very process of their service. Every indication tends toward the realization that there should be no more restrictions on those in uniform than are essential to their military mission .... As long as this is a war-time Army, every allowance should be made for a normal social life as far as it is compatible with any stated regulations and policies governing the efficient operations of all branches of the service. In this respect it must be recognized that this is a people's army rather than a regular peacetime army, and traditions temporarily waived accordingly.71
The Army Service Forces nonconcurred in these views and General Dalton made the suggestion "that WAC personnel at Training Centers be apprised that literal observance of pertinent Army custom is recognized as being impracticable under wartime conditions with respect to nonofficial or private social functions.'' 72 G-1 Division, War Department General Staff, concurred in General Dalton's suggestion." 73 Colonel Hobby refused to make any such suggestion to training center authorities, who had at a previous meeting already stated that WAC training centers would not teach enlisted women anything that they would discover to be untrue when they reached their stations in the field.74 Instead, she indorsed the papers hack, submitting as new evidence the WAVES policy, which stated in writing:
The custom of the Service requires great circumspection in social relationships in order to avoid any compromising of their relative military positions. However, the commanding officer of the WAVES has ruled that officers and enlisted personnel of opposite sexes may attend social functions together so long as they conduct themselves in accordance with the general rules of conduct applicable to ladies and gentlemen in any social or nonmilitary situation.75
However, the Army Service Forces refused to let this new request reach G-1 Division, on the grounds that the War Department had already disapproved its substance.76
It was almost four months before Director Hobby returned to the project, this time from the vantage point of her new office in G-1 Division. To avoid the danger of loss of discipline if enlisted women dated officers on the same post in which case they had shown some tendency to give orders to their WAC commander instead of vice versa--the Director proposed that permission for off duty association be limited to personnel not assigned on the same installation. In the Army chain of command, almost any officer at a given station might be regarded as the supervisor of any enlisted woman, whether or not she worked in his office. The Director therefore proposed that the Army policy be worded:
Army officers and enlisted personnel assigned on the same post, camp, or station will
observe all established customs of the service in their social relationship at all times. Army officers and enlisted personnel of opposite sexes, not assigned on the same post, camp, or station, when on leave, furlough, or off duty in the continental United States, may have social engagements and attend social functions together so long as they conduct themselves in accord with the accepted rules of conduct.77
General White, then Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, postponed decision on her proposal for several months, during which Colonel Hobby drafted several alternate wordings, with the advice of the WAC staff directors of the Air, Ground, and Service Forces. General White eventually concurred and, after private discussion with General McNarney, Deputy Chief of Staff, was instructed to get a directive published. At this moment General White was replaced by Maj. Gen. Stephen G. Henry. Although General White personally oriented General Henry on the situation, and although General Henry at first penciled "okay" on the proposed directive. within a week he had disapproved it, saying "I have personally taken this matter up with General Surles [Director of Bureau of Public Relations]. He will not clear for release. Must be handled orally as any other `custom of the service.' " 78
Before her resignation, Director Hobby was to propose her policy twice more. In all, she had proposed seven times that the Army's social caste system be modified for personnel of opposite sexes not assigned to the same station; she was seven times refused.79
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