Recruiting and Publicity
The solution to the riddle of WAC recruiting developed, in the opinion of some observers, into a favorite indoor sport. To the end of the war, it never lost its appeal for amateur and professional alike. The letter-writing public, in particular, was fascinated by the problem, and WAC files were filled with helpful letters, such as, "I read with a great deal of interest . . . the recruiting difficulties of the WAC. An idea occurred to me which is so simple that I am surprised that no one has thought of it.1
Insofar as this riddle was ever solved in World War II, the solution was not simple, but a matter for constant and painful attention. Following Director Hobby's move to G-1 Division, the principle was fully accepted by the Chief of Staff that continued recruiting success would require not only specialization, but expert specialization, in the recruiting of women. One of the more significant developments of the last months of the war was the perfection within The Adjutant General's Office of a precision recruiting machinery, previously unknown in the Army.
For the last eighteen months of the war, the Recruiting Service faced a tremendously more complicated national problem, and a generally admitted "War-Is-Won" attitude, with those few applicants who still presented themselves including greater numbers of culls and previously rejected women.2
Under the circumstances, there existed some question as to whether a continuation of WAC recruiting was possible at all. Some staff offices, such as G-3 Division, recommended against making the effort. During the last year of the war the Army was already overstrength, and the draft was able to supply enough limited service men for replacements. Since there was no longer any numerical compulsion to recruit, the decision hinged upon the relative efficiency of Wacs and limited service men.
It was the General Staffs decision that WAC recruiting must be continued in spite of the greater effort and expense involved. It was noted that all available general service draftees were required as combat replacements. Therefore, men drafted to fill clerical jobs would be not only limited service but frequently lacking in clerical skills. It was also reasoned that, although the Army was overstrength, there were many able-bodied soldiers still in the zone of the interior who were needed overseas, and skilled Wacs could be trained and as-
signed to replace them within six to ten weeks, while men could not be. The final decision was that the overstrength could best be taken care of; not by cutting off the supply of needed skills, but by discharging noneffectives, thus "improving efficiency and avoiding aggravation of the current overstrength."3
"Fighting Men and Wacs"
This decision was announced by Secretary of War Stimson in widely quoted interviews: "The need at the moment is for fighting men and capable Wacs." The Secretary specifically repudiated the decades-old view that male 4-F's and limited service personnel, whenever obtainable, should be used for noncombat Army jobs. One reporter noted, "Secretary Stimson added that the Army doesn't think very much of 4-F's and would prefer a good capable Wac any day." The Secretary added:
We can fit them into the Army with the minimum of training and use them on jobs where men are seldom as well-trained, as efficient, as well-suited by temperament, or as willing to work as women are.
In another press release a month later. Secretary Stimson again stated:
We need women because they have the skills we are looking for . . . . It is not economy to take men from their families and from jobs in essential industry to do the work in the Army which women who are mobile and without dependents could do with less training.4
Such a statement was at first shocking to press and public, which clung to the World War I view that limited service men, however sickly or unskilled, should be used by an Army in preference to women, however healthy or skilled. In response to an appeal from the Bureau of Public Relations, which was deluged by complaints, G-1 Division stated the War Department's position unequivocally in writing:
1. If the Army is up to troop strength, why are more women needed?
Answer: From 75,000 to 100,000 men or women a month are needed to keep the Army
up to strength.
2. A million men have been discharged. Couldn't they have been retained to do the work Wacs do? Answer: These men were discharged for physical reasons, for essential civilian jobs, for age, or because unskilled and unsuited for combat. Some could have been placed by the Army, but they have a high sick rate, and would have had to be trained for jobs for which they had no aptitude.
3. Some 5,000,000 4-F's have not yet been called. Couldn't they be drafted to keep the Army up to strength, without using women? Answer: Most such men would have to be trained, while women have previous civilian skills. Also, 3 medical persons are needed for every 4 hospital patients, so that the Army does not want 4-F's.
4. About 10,000,000 men aged 26-38 are deferred. Why not use then instead of Wacs? Answer: Most are in essential jobs; many are fathers. It is better to take women already skilled in clerical work than to take these men from industry and retrain them.5
This concept of the ideal composition of the Army became so well accepted that when, in late 1944, economy-minded congressmen again demanded reasons for not stopping WAC recruiting, the Army replied that in future its activity would be
. . . in line with the statement of the Chief of Staff to the effect that the personnel needs of the Army are now for fighting men and Wacsmen qualified for combat, and women qualified for those jobs requiring the technical and administrative training commonly found among women.
A letter from the Secretary of War to an inquiring congressman further stated:
As you know, selective service calls are now confined almost entirely to combat replacements, whereas the recruitment of Wacs is based upon the Army's need of those skills and training largely held by women.
The need for administrative skills in fact was found to be increasing rather than lessening in the last days of the emergency, because of the need for hospitalization of wounded and for paper work to redeploy or separate others.6
The General Staff decision constituted, in effect, a new Army personnel policy. Until this time, it had been customary to group female military personnel with other "limited service" personnel, without much distinction. The new policy recognized three types of military personnel: general service men who were available for combat, women who were "limited service" only with respect to combat, and finally, the genuine limited service category, men or women with physical and mental handicaps requiring additional medical attention or consideration on Army jobs. The Secretary's statement made it clear that in the future "fighting men" would be preferred for combat and "capable Wacs" for office work, with the real limited service category a distinctly last choice for either.
The General Staff thenceforth turned upon the WAC Recruiting Service a close and specialized attention that was to produce, by the end of the war, a streamlined and efficient recruiting and publicity machinery which compared favorably with civilian sales organizations, and which was later to serve as a model for the Army's own postwar Recruiting Service.
Improvement of Recruiting Machinery
In preparation for its resumption of recruiting responsibility at the end of the All-States Campaign, the Army Service Forces began a stock-taking of the state of The Adjutant General's Army Recruiting Service. Investigators, sent out to compile the working recruiters' needs, found an organization scarcely improved since the days of World War I, and recruiters fatigued and in need of attention. Offices were still unattractive and poorly located, transportation still inadequate, funds not properly distributed. Ratings were so poor that only low-rated and therefore often unqualified men and women could be assigned to recruiting duty, while those already assigned could not look forward to promotion no matter how capable their work. There was no training course by which recruiters might be helped toward a proper pride in their specialty, nor bulletins to encourage them. Not even a sufficient supply of uniforms for satisfactory public appearance was provided.7
The inadequacy of those in command of recruiting stations, as well as that of the enlisted personnel, was also frequently noted by these investigators, who reported:
Personnel assigned to recruiting is generally below standard and seems to be in
direct relation to the results achieved. Particularly the Army officers in charge of districts seem unsuitable, by the admission of Service Command Headquarters. WAC officers for the most part seem average or better but need training. Enlisted women were below standard in many cases.
Those in charge of stations were found to include such persons as a professor of botany, a linguist, and a man who "is inefficient and drinks too much." Even in the far more important position of director of recruiting in service command headquarters, there were found to be no topflight sales personnel, but a former farm manager, an accountant, a bookkeeper, an ordinary salesman, and others even less qualified. General Dalton suggested strongly to the service commands that they replace such directors of recruiting with Army officers with a civilian background of responsible sales experience-by definition, those whose salaries had been at least $7,500 yearly-but unfortunately no such officers could be found in most service commands.8
It was impossible at all stages to avoid frequent unfavorable comparisons with the Navy recruiting service. One Army investigator reported:
The WAVES have enjoyed a constant and aggressive recruiting policy, backed by highest Headquarters. Offices have been manned with personnel of civilian sales experience, both officer and enlisted. Sales managers have been commissioned. Sales education and training have been available for all levels. They have enjoyed abundant advertising material and transportation.
A comparison of one recruiting area revealed numerous differences:
|Personnel on recruiting duty||205||375|
|Number of substations||53||63|
|Number of vehicles||19||63|
Army recruiters had nevertheless, at the time of the survey, got 70,000 women as against the Navy's 48,000-the difference being chiefly due to the Army's six months' start-but the Army had been forced to spend a million dollars on paid advertising while the Navy experts had obtained almost an equal amount free, and had been able to limit acceptances to women with a high school education. The Navy's savings resulted, in Director Hobby's opinion, from the fact that, before WAVES recruiting began,
The leading male sales managers of leading industries were contacted and offered a commission in the grade of Lieutenant Commander to participate in the WAVES recruiting program at one of their approximately 500 Navy recruiting stations .... This highly trained sales organization promptly obtained so much free sponsored advertising that the paid advertising test was cancelled.
It was the Director's opinion that reform in the recruiting organization could eventually enable the Army to do the same.9
In remedying these ills, it became increasingly obvious that, as General Ulio had predicted a year before, the recruiting organization for men was inadequate to cope with the problems of recruiting women: specialization was the only means of lasting success. In January of 1944, this principle was first applied by the establishment, within The Adjutant General's Office, of the Planning Branch for WAC Recruiting. The Planning Branch's staff was chosen from Army officers of proven ability, most of whom had years of civilian experience in the field of life insurance
sales management. Brig. Gen. Edward F. Witsell, of The Adjutant General's Office, noted:
This decision was based on the realization that the problem is not only one requiring expert sales technique, but the personalized technique best found in the life insurance field, where salesmen deal daily with the intimate personal relationships of all types of individuals.10
As chief of the branch, The Adjutant General appointed Lt. Col. John F. Johns, a former insurance sales executive who had for two years been Director of Officer Procurement, Fifth Service Command.
To advise the Planning Branch, there was set up at the War Department level a Planning Board for WAC Recruiting. The Planning Board had an impressive membership of the highest personnel advisers available to the Army-not only General White of G-1 Division, but the personnel chiefs of Air, Ground, and Service Forces, at that time General Bevans, Brig. Gen. Clyde L. Hyssong, and General Dalton, respectively-as well as The Adjutant General and the Director WAC. This board met occasionally as needed to settle major questions. With such a battery of talent turned upon the problem, there was little chance that earlier errors would be repeated.11
An auspicious factor for the success of further recruiting efforts was the close and friendly co-operation that existed from this time forward between The Adjutant General's Office and the Office of the Director. Colonel Johns' group met frequently with Deputy Director Rice, with Col. Vance L. Sailor of The Adjutant General's Appointment and Induction Branch, and with representatives of Young & Rubicam. With the establishment of the Planning Branch, the Director's Office routinely referred to it a considerable burden of recruiting inquiries-suggestions from the public, protests, and requests for changes in standards.12
At the time of its establishment, it appeared to the men of the Planning Branch that their powers to improve the Recruiting Service were limited. In her reply to the Meek Report, Colonel Hobby therefore asked that this group be given power to institute approved sales policies and methods, supervise and visit the field, and integrate advertising and publicity. These recommendations were all approved by General Marshall.13
Diagnosis of Resistance to Enlistment
As the first step in improving both the recruiting and the publicity machinery, a national conference of Army recruiters from every service command was held in Chicago; its keynote was the discovery of handicaps and the polishing of method.14 Veteran recruiters at the 1944 conference no longer expressed any doubt as to the basic cause of women's resistance to enlistment. Recruiters stated the conviction that the cause of recruiting difficulty did not lie in any of the earlier diagnoses such as women's aversion to Army housing, uniforms, pay, jobs, or any other WAC deficiency. Instead, it appeared to them to be almost solely due to the poor public at-
titude toward women in the armed forces, which in turn was largely traceable to the opposition of Army men.15
Brig. Gen. Henry S. Aurand of the Sixth Service Command voiced the service commanders' opinion to this effect:
We are all convinced that the attitude of the buck private is the reason for slow enlistment of Wacs. That is unanimous, and we all say you cannot do anything about it. You have to recruit in spite of it. Let's take this Command for example. Less than ten percent of the enlisted men are in combat organizations. Just tell those fellows to go out and get Wacs so they can be sent overseas, and you will see how far you get. You cannot do anything about that. You have to do it in spite of the attitude of the Army. You might just as well put that in your pipe and smoke it. You are not going to change the way these men think.16
This opinion was supported by thousands of letters and statements to recruiters from hesitant prospects. A typical letter from an eligible stated:
The trouble lies with U.S. men. The average serviceman absolutely forbids his wife, sweetheart, or sister to join a military organization, and nearly all U.S. women are in one of these categories.
When a girl sees an Army officer refuse to return a WAC salute and even leave a restaurant just because a group of Wacs walk in, is that any inducement for her to enlist? The catcalls, filthy remarks and dirty stories floating among soldiers and sailors about servicewomen make a decent American girl shudder. From Nebraska to California to Montana to Florida I have heard servicemen's opinions, all the same .... Ever since I can remember I have thrilled to military music, marching feet, and uniforms. When the WAC was formed I desired to go right in but the boy I was going with said it would be the end of our romance. Now . . . my husband is an Army officer overseas and my brother is overseas. This state is filled with servicemen's wives living at home .... There is nothing I would rather do than join . . . but if I do, I would probably be disowned by my father, my brother would be ashamed to admit relation to me, and my husband would be heartbroken .... The WAC hat is atrocious and the whole uniform a definite drawback, but if men would give their OK, women would gladly wear them. Other objections raised are low salary, long hours, and adverse living conditions, but . . . the expenses I have each month leave about the same amount of money a Wac clears .... All those silly reasons are just excuses for pleasing a man.17
Even the most loyal Wacs themselves, and the parents of Wacs, dared not gloss over this factor in advising other women to enlist. A typical Wac letter to a prospective recruit stated:
You make up your own mind what you want to do about joining up with the WAC . . . I'm not homesick and I'm not sorry for myself, but I've had the biggest disappointment of my life. You know I loved basic training with all the hard work, discipline, and things I felt I was "taking" in order that I might become a good soldier. I still do not mind having to sleep in an upper bunk with few comforts that I had at home .... I have no complaints about the requirements and restraints . . . but the biggest disappointment is the utter lack of respect for the personnel of the WAC. At first I was indignant, but lately . . . instead of being a proud soldier, I am embarrassed that I am a Wac. The soldiers have absolutely no respect for us.18
There was little tendency among service commanders to make light of the American woman's subservience to masculine opinion in this respect; the emotional suffering of women and their parents under such social disapprobation was too intense
to be discounted. One mother sent to the President a daughter's letter, adding:
It is a terrible thing to have one's child write such a letter, when there is nothing a mother can do but pray .... Is it such a terrible thing that girls are in the Armed Forces? It seems they are very much resented.19
There existed considerable differences of opinion among conferees as to whether the Army man's thinking could be changed. The vice-president of Young & Rubicam, Mr. Jack Reeder, alleged:
I would want to resign from Young and Rubicam tonight and go into some other kind of business if I agreed that you cannot change the attitude of the Army men in regard to the WAC. I have never seen any public attitude yet which could not be changed if gone about intelligently. Some of the things we have persuaded Americans they would want . . . makes me think that this is not a particularly tough job, especially when the Wacs themselves are doing such a wonderful job of changing the opinion of the men.20
Most service commanders, at a conference in Dallas, agreed that there was nothing wrong with the product for sale, and that men's attitude rapidly changed wherever they had actually worked with Wacs. Maj. Gen. David McCoach, Jr., of the Ninth Service Command, added: "There is no question of the popularity of the Wacs in those services which have them. Right in my own headquarters everybody is enthusiastic . . . .21 Nevertheless, only a small fraction of enlisted men were ever thus exposed, and even Young & Rubicam's experts admitted that when they started a survey of what men thought about Wacs, "Our first man was arrested and put in jail in Omaha and we were called off."
Commanding generals of service commands generally refused to abandon the project as completely hopeless. Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins stated, "The enthusiasm of the Army can be obtained by the `center of influence' method." He recommended that senior officers demonstrate to their juniors by concrete action, not speeches, that they approved of the WAC. Maj. Gen. Richard Donovan of the Eighth Service Command called for the AST to take the lead in "breaking down opposition on the part of the enlisted men" and selling them the idea that "each of them can and must recruit a Wac . . . . We have an Army of seven million men . . . if one out of twenty can induce some woman to apply, we would have 350,000 applications.22
In this respect, the most confident of the service commands was the Seventh, which had already developed and tried out an orientation program for male Army personnel, with very encouraging results. This program employed enlisted men and women with professional stage and radio experience in a lively dramatization of the WAC's jobs and mission. At every Army station where the show had been presented, a notable improvement in soldier understanding and friendliness had been reported. Although it was physically impossible for the actors to visit every station in the United States, the Seventh Service Command made available the script and instructions for use by other commands.23
Out of these conferences and simultaneous telegraphed instructions to the field,
there came for the first time a clear and uniform understanding in all commands of the policies basic to successful recruiting. The first of these, not new, was a matter which a year's previous effort had not succeeded in informing all recruiters: "Request omission from announcements of reference to the fact that Wacs `replace men.' Imply that men are destined to move overseas leaving work to be done here." Colonel Hobby added:
I think that the WAC is old enough to stop talking about `replacing' a man . . . manpower has become so acute that we should not think in terms of womanpower replacing a man. The soldier does not like it. There is not always a good civilian reaction to it, and we mothers are jealous, perhaps, of our sons . . . we do not like to think that some girl has replaced our son. The WAC is now a total part of the man and woman power of this nation.24
Quite closely related to this principle was the Director's request-somewhat startling at first sight-that recruiters cease from public praise of the WAC. She noted:
I think that the day of speaking of the WAC as something new or novel should be over. We should stop saying what a good job the WAC does. I think it should be an accepted part of the war effort. We should simply appeal to the manpower and the womanpower of this nation.
Telegraphed suggestions to the field added:
Because it will antagonize male listeners, don't imply that women do a better job than men except on work in which men recognize women's superiority, such as stenography.
Recruiters were also warned that it was no longer enough to state that the Army needed personnel, because surveys showed that the public realized the need. Director Hobby said, "l-We know that a great many women are rationalizing the job they do. If they work . . . two hours a week, they think they are doing a war job." As a "simple measuring stick," she suggested that recruiters ask such women whether their work could be justified as essential in countries that drafted women.
All present at the conference deplored the widespread misunderstandings about recruiting promises. Recruiters were told emphatically that they must make clear to the prospect the limitations on even the station-and-job promise, and Colonel Sailor of The Adjutant General's Office added, "The interested prospect is almost sure to overlook the phraseology, unforeseen military exigencies- I wish I could catch up with the guy who coined that . . . ." He advised avoidance of all promises where possible. Colonel Hobby especially insisted that additional and undignified inducements not be added at a local level, with particular emphasis on a rumor that nylon hose, unobtainable on the civilian market, were being offered.
Service command representatives also unanimously objected to impossible quotas, which had previously been based on the astronomical numbers of Wacs wanted by the Army, instead of upon what might reasonably be obtained. Director Hobby agreed, and stated that it was possible that quotas had been the basic reason for the defeatist attitude about the failure of WAC recruiting.
Another demand of service commanders was for the establishment of a recruiters' school. A few service commands, on their own initiative, had taken some earlier steps to train WAC recruiters. The Ninth Service Command's indoctrination pro-
gram had included a study of WAC Regulations, local news files, common errors, and what not to say for publication.25 It was Colonel Johns' first opinion that all could do likewise. He informed service command conferees:
The nine Service Commands have men who are possessed of a sufficient knowledge of the problem to start the training procedure, so that you do not have to wait until we set up a school. May I suggest that you try to solve the problem in your own commands?
Service command representatives disagreed, stating variously: "We have done that, but have not been successful"; "If we could have them go to school outside the Service Command, it would be much better than the effort we can put forth"; "Recruiting is primarily AG work . . . you have the Fort Washington School.'" When Colonel Johns called for a vote, six of the nine favored a centralized school.
Remedial Action by The Adjutant General
During the first six months of 1944, Colonel Johns' Planning Branch took swift remedial action against all such defects in organization that might hamper or discourage the working recruiter. In January The Adjutant General's Office published the first issue of its Recruiters' Review, designed to inform recruiters in the field of the latest developments and to exchange workable ideas between commands, as well as to reveal the comparative record of each area's progress. The Air Forces already used a similar bulletin to spread knowledge of successful devices.
By the first day of February, The Adjutant General's Recruiting Publicity Bureau was ready to distribute more than 39,000,000 pieces of literature, including recruiter's kits, booklets, cards, posters, a more attractive application blank, a booklet for servicemen, a reassuring letter for mothers of recruits, and other aids.
In March, as a result of suggestions made at the conference, widespread use was made of ideas and devices that had proved successful in various commands. Small information booths were set up in department stores, theater lobbies, and other places where women were more likely to go than to the main Army recruiting station. Columns were written by enlisted women for home-town newspapers, letters of information were mailed home from training centers and new stations, home-town mayors proclaimed "WAC Day," and the Air Forces bombed whole communities with recruiting literature. A moving picture short subject was planned, to orient Army men to the useful work done by Wacs.
The Planning Branch sponsored a concerted drive on women's colleges, universities, and business and technical schools, with the object of getting skilled workers and at the same time "to improve the general opinion of the nation regarding the type of women which make up the WAC." Nationwide publicity was directed to particularly successful local results. For example, when General Somervell's daughter and six other highly eligible young women enlisted from Sweetbriar College, General Dalton was rushed to the spot to administer the oath, and widespread news stories resulted.
Also in March, for the first time in over a year, a recruiting quota was set that was humanly capable of being met. In April, for the first time in most recruiters' memory, this quota was exceeded-a
psychological triumph which, without any great increase in recruits, caused a more optimistic feeling to be reflected in press and public opinion.26
In late April, a WAC recruiters' school was established in conjunction with The Adjutant General's other schools, taking fifty women at a time for classes of two weeks' duration. To be eligible for the school, enlisted women were required to be high school graduates of good character, with at least two months' recruiting experience and previous experience in dealing with people.
To improve the type of personnel assigned to the WAC Recruiting Service, the Planning Branch proposed a special allotment of grades that would make it possible to assign and keep competent specialists; comparable to the Navy's ratings.
This effort was for a time blocked by General Dalton, who stated that he did not wish to restrict the service commands in how they utilized their bulk allotments. Colonel Hobby therefore included in her reply to the Meek Report a recommendation that appropriate grades and ratings be provided. This was approved by the Chief of Staff. General Marshall, at her request, also directed each service command to bring recruiting personnel up to authorized strength and assign a fulltime supervisor of WAC recruiting.
In this month, members of the Planning Branch spent two thirds of their time in the field. Service command organizations were revised, supervisors appointed, and attempts made to keep up recruiters' enthusiasm. More uniforms were obtained for recruiters, and they were given a priority on the new tropical worsted summer uniforms.27
In May, after two months of furious activity, the Planning Branch published a selection procedure for WAC applicants. This was later, for convenience, incorporated in an ASF manual. It gave a detailed compilation, in one convenient publication, of the many rules, procedures, and policies that now applied to WAC recruiting. For new or untrained recruiters, such a book of reference was expected to be especially valuable.28
In all these efforts, good use was made of the National Civilian Advisory Committee, by which prominent women lent their assistance in many localities. One report from an especially active group in the Second Service Command, headed by Mrs. Oswald Lord, showed that it had approached numbers of eligible women for enlistment, obtained much free advertising, persuaded 300 theaters to show WAC recruiting films, put displays in various department store windows and in Pennsylvania Station, New York City, got spot announcements from seventy-five radio commentators, met with local groups and churches, arranged trips for reporters, and persuaded the Fifth Avenue Coach
Company to repaint one of its buses with WAC advertising.29
At the same time, with the aid of Director Hobby's appeal to the Chief of Staff, funds for paid advertising for another four months were secured. The ASF opposed the further use of funds on the grounds that the Navy did not require it, but the Director noted that, in spite of planned improvements, the Army did not yet have the necessary trained and capable personnel, nor was there any one unified WAC recruiting service comparable to the Navy's. Without such central coordination, she stated; the use of free sponsored advertising was ineffective, since each sponsor followed a different theme. Paid advertising was thus as yet the Army's only means of maintaining centralized control of advertising policies and coordination of the sales approach of the field recruiters.30
The importance of the expense of the measure depended on the viewpoint; thus, although about $2,000,000 was spent on paid advertising in the fiscal year 1944, this was little more than half that appropriated to give soldiers free lapel buttons with certain medals.31
Establishment of a Separate WAC Recruiting Service
All of these improvements, while valuable, did not yet solve the problem of creating efficient recruiting machinery. In late May of 1944, the Planning Branch finally admitted the necessity of the one last step that had been foreseen by General Ulio more than a year before: the complete separation of the WAC Recruiting Service from the Army Recruiting Service in the service command organization. In spite of other improvements, final control of acceptance or rejection still did not always lie with personnel trained to meet the problem or sympathetic to it. At a meeting of the Planning Board in late May, the inadequacy of this organization to meet continuing needs was noted, and it was decided that "definite steps must be taken immediately to gear the recruiting organization to the mission to be accomplished." 32
The seriousness of The Adjutant General's proposals caused considerable General Staff debate. Complete specialization was recommended, with the WAC Recruiting Service entirely divorced from the Army Recruiting Service, and responsible only to the director of personnel of a service command and thence to The Adjutant General. Acceptance and rejection would be entirely in the hands of the service command's WAC recruiting officer and her assistants, and could not be overruled by the parallel Army recruiting office. The service would have its own appropriate allotment of grades, with assignment and promotion entirely in its own control. It was also proposed that order be brought out of the hodgepodge of personnel by permanently assigning to the WAC Recruiting Service those temporary-duty
recruiters now on loan from Air or Ground Forces, currently only partially under Recruiting Service control, and unable to be rated until returned to other duty.
The drastic nature of the proposed action brought objection from several agencies, particularly G-3 Division, which in July of 1944 believed the war's end too close to warrant the effort and recommended that WAC recruiting cease. However, in view of the continuing need for the administrative skills found among women, it was the General Staffs decision that the reorganization was warranted, and the establishment of the WAC Recruiting Service was directed.
With the addition of former temporary duty personnel, a total of almost 4,000 persons-both men and women, officers and enlisted personnel-was assigned to the WAC Recruiting Service. The assignment of men was limited, since past experience showed a bad public reaction, partly because men were kept from combat to recruit women, and partly because
. . . many of the enlisted men who have been assigned to WAC recruiting have proved actually harmful because of their wisecracking and scornful attitude towards members of the WAC in the same office and because of blunt and often fresh remarks to prospective recruits.33
It leas finally decided to allow only a minimum use of returned combat men, who could not be accused of avoiding active duty, and whose status as war heroes lent a certain prestige to the recruiting station, particularly if they could be kept busy making public speeches to civic groups. The Navy some time before admitted that, even though men in its recruiting stations had no authority over NAVES acceptances, they were not even satisfactory in a limited role as processing agents because they "did not pay sufficiently careful attention to weeding out underage girls and some who proved to be marked disciplinary problems.34
With the completion of this reorganization, the WAC recruiting machinery reached the peak of its wartime efficiency. In July of 1944, Colonel Johns and Planning Branch members visited all service commands, and reported:
The program on an over-all national basis seems now to be well underway, and definite accomplishments should shortly begin to result, providing the public does not become too thoroughly convinced that the war is about over.35
At this inopportune moment, the brief honeymoon between the WAC and the nations' manpower agencies was ended when the Office of War Information, objecting to the WAC decision to spend its advertising money in newspapers instead of radio, stopped all radio co-operation. OWI's national headquarters wrote to all radio stations in the United States that, since the War Department had decided to spend its WAC advertising appropriation by buying newspaper space exclusively, the Office of War Information therefore "feels that the WAC Recruiting Campaign will be adequately handled in this media" and that free radio facilities should not be given to recruiters. Colonel Johns reported:
The withdrawal of OWI radio support has affected every Service Command . . . this has proved inestimably detrimental to the Recruiting Program and . . . even in the event radio support is soon reestablished, the posi-
tion we formerly held in relation to this medium can never be fully regained.36
The national situation had not improved, with even military authorities implying that the war was over. Colonel Johns reported:
Continued adverse publicity has had a very detrimental effect . . . . It is doubtful if we will exceed our quota . . . , because of headlines and statements such as ARMY IS ALREADY OVERSTRENGTH, or MORE THAN A MILLION MEN HAVE BEEN DISCHARGED, or MEN BEYOND 26 YEARS OF AGE ARE NOT NEEDED, and numerous other negative pronouncements by Army and Government officials.37
Achievements of the WAC Recruiting Service
In the face of these difficulties, the new and separate WAC Recruiting Service nevertheless accomplished what, in the first months of the year, had seemed unlikely: the maintenance of recruiting for the rest of the war at a level not too far below that set earlier by the All-States Campaign, with an actual rise in recruits in the summer of 1944 in spite of the optimism engendered by the Normandy invasion.
Even more remarkable was the WAC Recruiting Service's success in preventing enlistment of unqualified women. Records of training centers indicated that discharges for erroneous enlistment, minority, and dependency were wiped out by the new system; the Army thus saved thousands of dollars in terminal bonuses alone, as well as in clothing, transportation, and training costs. Discharges for undesirable traits and for fraudulent enlistments were almost eliminated. At the same time there was a reduction of 35 percent in the number of women who had to be sent to the Special Training Unit.38
Also, after six months of the new system, Director Hobby was able to recommend the abolition of paid advertising, since the Army now, like the Navy, had a specialist group with centralized control. The Planning Branch estimated that, in the last nine months of 1944, the value of free sponsored advertising obtained by the WAC exceeded $15,000,000. As a result, the WAC was able to turn back unspent some $200,000 of the earlier appropriation for paid advertising. Had the Planning Branch and a separate WAC recruiting service operated from the beginning of the war, it was estimated that the economy would have been even greater, to the sum of several million dollars.39
Last Days of WAC Recruiting
Cessation of recruiting began gradually in the fall of 1944 by the simplification of mechanics. It was at the time hoped that a need for lesser numbers would permit abandonment of the various special inducement systems such as branch or station-and-job recruiting. There were two major objections to these systems. The ASF and AGF objected to them on the grounds that the AAF continued, by means of them, to get the majority of recruits; the majority of women in the top ACCT brackets also chose the AAR.40 The ASF also objected on the grounds that ASF training centers could not classify
and assign, as they saw fit, the women already promised a branch, job, or station.41
The AAF concurred in dropping the station job system, always troublesome, but refused to allow the 1.500 members of its recruiting teams to continue unless branch recruiting also continued. In late August of 1944, letters therefore went out directing the end of station-and-job recruiting on 1 November.42
The next step was intended to be the reduction of recruiting to a maintenance basis immediately following the defeat of Germany-which, it was prematurely expected, would take place by the end of the year. Plans made in late October called for the strength of the Corps to be frozen at the end of 1944, recruiting thereafter to be limited to 500 or 700 women a month in essential skills to make up attrition. This reduction would, in The Adjutant General's opinion, make possible a simultaneous 65 percent reduction in facilities and 77 percent in personnel.43
In pursuance of this plan, letters went out to all service commands on 20 December 1944, virtually ending active WAC recruiting. Effective 1 January, each service command was directed to reduce its service to 20 officers and 41 enlisted personnel. Each command had a quota of only 68 each month, the women to get a choice only of the major branch of service, not job or station.44
Unhappily for this plan, and for the relief to which recruiters were looking forward, the Battle of the Bulge made this directive obsolete even before it was sent out. In the first days of the new year, the relief orders were rescinded and recruiters learned of the General Hospital Campaign with its system of recruitment for specific installations.45
In every way the General Hospital Campaign, which occupied the first four months of 1945, made the fullest use of the technical knowledge evolved by the Recruiting Service, and avoided the pitfalls revealed by past experience. The original directive plainly stated that, while women could be promised initial assignment to a unit, the recruiter must make clear the meaning "initial" and also that the members might be trained as either technicians or medical clerks, according to the needs of the service. To prevent misunderstandings and later disputes as to what had been promised, it was specified that a qualification certificate be completed in quadruplicate: the original to be placed in the service record, a duplicate to go to training center classification officers, the third copy to the woman herself, and the fourth to the service command file.46
So thorough did the WAC recruiting organization eventually become that, in the last days of its operation, it appeared doubtful whether any eligible prospect or avenue of approach in the entire nation was ignored. In fact, the Director received a congressman's complaint that recruiting literature had been sent to a former constituent, although the lady had died the previous year at the age of 95.47
After almost three years of continuous
campaigning, the unrelieved proximity to public opinion had been sufficient to reduce even the most normal and extroverted of recruiters to what most believed to be incipient paranoia with delusions of persecution. Relief had been promised upon successful completion of the General Hospital Campaign, since there was no legislative authorization for a peacetime women's Corps and demobilization was at hand. With the campaign completed and V-E Day at hand, G-1 Division of the General Staff hastened to restore the earlier orders to cease WAC recruiting except for attrition replacements.48
Effective 15 May 1945, the WAC Recruiting Service was abolished, its separate Table of Organization was rescinded, and it was again integrated into the Army Recruiting Service. Its personnel was cut from 3,600 to 300, the excess being returned to the major command that had contributed it. The Planning Branch for WAC Recruiting was also abolished as of 15 May 1945. The recruiting effort for women of all services appeared over. Even the War Manpower Commission declared an end to the joint statement of policy, and noted that, because of the lessened need in industry, "Army-Navy recruitment of women will no longer be subject to the restrictions and policies set forth in the joint statement." 49
For a few weeks it appeared that this action had been premature. In the uncertain days of the early summer of 1945, both the Army and the Navy decided that it had been a mistake to cut recruiting of women to an attrition basis, since the demobilization process began to present unprecedented demands for clerical personnel. As a result, soon after Director Hobby's resignation, G-1 Division presented the service commands with a new quota of 10,000 in six months-fully half that which the highly organized WAC Recruiting Service had been able to get in its most intensive campaign. In addition, it was demanded that 75 percent of recruits be in the scarce clerical skills, and another 25 percent in other skilled specialist fields.
With something of the optimism of early WAAC days, the General Staff indicated that the Army Recruiting Service should be able to get these numbers without the expense of reactivating the WAC Recruiting Service. Some surprise was expressed that WAC recruiting had promptly slumped to insignificant numbers as soon as the WAC specialist groups were disbanded, and that low-grade recruits were again being erroneously admitted. Officers sent to the field to investigate reported that WAC recruiting "had been relegated to a position of minor importance." 50
The renewed demand, therefore, caused some concern to former WAC recruiting authorities, who had always held the unanimous opinion that recruiting would never succeed without organization:
Chevrolet, or General Electric, or any big concern trying to sell a large quantity of goods could not do it without retail salesmen . . . to try to do this job without people . . . would be just about suicides. 51
At a meeting of the divisions concerned, it was pointed out that the Army Recruiting Service faced an impossible situation: the Navy had just launched a specialists parked campaign for 20,000 Waves; the skills asked were short nationally; the pay and advancement offered could not compare to industry's; and women were reluctant to enlist just as men were being redeployed from Europe.
Bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki intervened to spare recruiters this ordeal. Soon after V-J Day, the war time history of WAC recruiting was closed out by a telegram to all service commands:
DISCONTINUE WAC RECRUITING AND WAC ENLISTMENT. DO NOT REPEAT NOT COMPLETE ENLISTMENTS BEING PROCESSED. REPLACE WAC RECRUITING PERSONNEL WITH MALE PERSONNEL END.52
Public Relations Support
During the last eighteen months of the war, an identical course of development had been experienced in the parallel problem of providing public relations support for WAC recruiting. Although the policies for presenting the Corps in a dignified manner had been established since the day the WAAC was launched, the average public relations officer in the field did not have the advantage of familiarity with these policies. Recruiters in the field complained that; with a remarkable unanimity considering the lack of co-ordination, almost every post public relations officer had decided that it was funny or effective to pose a woman peeling mountains of potatoes or onions, or to smear her face with grease and show her peering from under a truck. One male recruiter noted:
Post Public Relations Officers, with the best intentions in the world . . . would send out pictures of somebody doing a tough job. Making your pictures of pretty girls panting and in awkward positions won't win friends and influence people.53
Local radio shows were even more difficult to control; a typical early protest went to the Fifth Service Command concerning a soldier broadcast which was "in poor taste, with kidding back and forth between the Waacs and soldiers of a sort that sounded cheap on the air." 54 Overseas theaters in early days were also habitually blind to the effect of their news releases on the home-town recruiters. Soon after Waacs arrived, the North African theater created a minor sensation by releasing pictures of veil-skirted Waacs in what appeared to be a harem, but which NATO public relations officers insisted was a "light, clean comedy put on under the supervision of staff officers . . . ." The public nevertheless persisted in writing to the Director for information on "the burlesque show being put on by Waacs in North Africa"; one told her: "I am about to prepare a study on causes of delinquency and would appreciate the details you have uncovered." 55
The agencies releasing publicity material in this un-co-ordinated fashion included not only posts, camp, and stations, but overseas theaters, the various divisions of the Bureau of Public Relations itself, and all War Department personnel who
mentioned the WAC in public interviews.56
By the time of the move to G-1 Division, the WAC: file of clippings labeled "Horrible Examples" included many unlikely releases originated by station public relations officers, such as FORMER CIRCUS FREAK NOW A WAC AT THIS POST. Wacs in leopard skin sarongs and Wacs in nude-colored bathing suits vied with overweight Wacs and stern-faced mannishly barbered Wacs for Army publicity pictures.
Negative public statements were also frequent, with typical headlines such as: RESULTS SO FAR POOR, GENERAL UHL REPORTS; WAAC DRIVE GOES SLOWLY; RESPONSE IN NEBRASKA UNSATISFACTORY; LAG IN WAAC ENLISTMENTS IS DISAPPOINTING TO THE ARMY. At the same time other services, with smaller actual enlistments, were releasing statements such as WOMEN MARINES' RECRUITERS SWAMPED WITH APPLICATIONS. Some public commendations were ill-chosen to soften soldier opinion, such as a statement from a post commander: "Their coming here has literally shamed the soldiers into a little more conscientiousness and neatness." Errors of fact were common; Wacs were pictured in jobs that they did not actually perform, or in unauthorized uniforms. Possibly most damaging were press stories to the effect that MALE RIDICULE RETARDS WAC ENLISTMENT, or WOMEN IN WAR OPPOSED.
Since all such efforts of local public relations officers had been guided by very little knowledge of national recruiting policy, it was possibly more surprising that some had achieved effective and positive publicity, such as MEDAL GIVEN HUSBAND RECEIVED BY AIR-WAC, or PLANE NAMED PALLAS ATHENS . . . AS TRIBUTE TO GIRLS AT THIS BASE.57
In January of 1944, the Chief of Staff became aware of the problem through one of the worst gaffes yet committed by the publicity organization. In this month public relations officers in the European theater released to a national pictorial magazine in the United States a series of pictures of grotesque mannish-looking "Wars" in obscene poses and engaged in soliciting men. The captions did not make it clear that the subjects were men dressed in WAC uniforms. Once released, the pictures were beyond recall by the War Department. Director Hobby protested:
These pictures together with the captions, are a reflection on both the serious purpose and the morals of the WAC . . . . The WAC is a component of the Army, and War Department policy contemplates that there shall be no discredit to any member of the Army of the United States because of sex, as well as none because of color or creed.58
This incident for the first time brought the Chief of Staff into the problem of coordination of publicity with recruiting expenditures. In a personal note to the bureau he commented, "We do not appear to have made the best of the picture." General Marshall listed cases that he would have used to aid recruiting if he had been a public relations expert: General Arnold's WAC adviser, representative of 20,000 women; the five WAC officers in
Africa, present at Casablanca and entertained at dinner by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill; the fact that General Eisenhower's driver was a Wac and that "my driver in Africa was a Wac and a very efficient one.'" From his own office he contributed a case; saying:
There came to my office, shortly after the initiation of the WAAC, a Lt. r. T
Newsome. She was used to replace an officer in the outer office to meet people.
Her work proved so valuable that she was gradually moved from job to job until
she is now my personal secretary for all
matters pertaining to the U.S. Chiefs of Staff and combined Chiefs of Staff,
briefing the papers, making contact with the interested parties who include
General Arnold, General Somervell, and General Handy, and apprising me of the
pros and cons of the various issues. That is certainly an important job.
Furthermore, during certain periods on off hours she performs the duty of Acting
Secretary, General Staff:
I am sure that there are a number of somewhat similar cases, none of which I have seen featured. Who is handling this business? 59
The answer, not rendered in exactly those terms, was that there was no section or individual in the Bureau of Public Relations charged with co-ordinating WAC publicity on an Army-wide basis. On 18 February, at his request, the Director submitted to General Surles of the bureau a twelve-page summary of problems and deterrents connected with WAC recruiting.60 This received no immediate reply.
Establishment of the WAC Group
A month later, in her reply to the Meek Report, the Director recommended formation of a specialist group; under General Surles' jurisdiction, to co-ordinate publicity with recruiting policy. She stated:
Civilian experience has shown that in the information field there are two distinct and separate functions to be performed. The personnel required to perform these functions is different in temperament and training and never grouped together in civilian practice. One is the creative type which thinks of ideas which, when they occur, will create an impression on the public mind. The other is the type which tells what has happened: factual reporting. The personnel of the Bureau, in keeping with its mission, has been selected from this latter type . . . . A group must be established whose primary mission is to prepare plans and follow through . . . . 'This must be a professional job, competing in a well-organized field for the attention and interest of the civilian public against professional attempts to attract the same people in other directions.61
Over the objections of both General Somervell and General Surles, General Marshall directed formation of such a group. General Surles stated that he could spare no personnel for the project. Accordingly. G-1 Division augmented the Bureau of Public Relations by twelve officer grades to form a WAC Group.62
Six field grade male officers and six company grade women officers were assembled to form the WAC Group, headed by Col. J. Noel Macy, formerly the WAAC's first deputy and public relations officer. Specialists here included in the fields of radio, photography, newspapers, magazines, and other publicity media. The group was formally charged with developing a favorable public reaction to
WAC recruiting, and its relations to The Adjutant General's Planning Branch here formally defined. It was directed to devise a proper approach, gather material, write releases, review copy for accuracy, and guide field public relations officers toward the original idea of the WAC as a serious and dignified organization, which General Marshall had attempted to inculcate at the WAAC's first press conference almost two years before. It was Director Hobby's opinion that such a group, operating from the beginning, might have saved the WAC from much of its recruiting difficulties and public misunderstanding.63
From this time onward, it was not always possible to tell which improvements in national opinion could be credited to Army recruiters and which to Army public relations officers, since they were no longer employing contradictory approaches. The WAC Group set itself to obtain from posts and stations a stream of information and pictures that would make good news stories, which soon began to flow out to the recruiters and to publicity media-radio, newspapers, and magazines. It was hoped that enough emphasis upon accurate publicity of this type would eventually counteract other stories shocking enough to reach reporters unassisted.64
By the summer of 1944, the WAC's first real public relations campaign was under way. For the first time a full-scale publicity campaign was designed to reinforce a recruiting campaign, and for the first time public relations officers in the field learned exactly what the Army wished of them in the way of presenting the Women's Army Corps to the public. The rules, as laid down in classified bulletins to field public relations officers, were quite similar to those which Colonel Hobby had adopted for her own office two years before, with some additions. The chief ideas to be keynoted by stories and pictures were:
1. Wacs are just as feminine as before they enlisted. They gain new poise and
charm. They do feminine jobs much like those of civilian women. They have dates
and are good friends with Army men.
2. The Women's Army Corps is no longer an experiment. It has public acceptance and prestige. "Present it as a success story." Parents are proud. Requirements are high. Only attractive pictures should appear.
3. Army jobs performed by Wacs are necessary to the war effort. Dramatize the job. Show Wacs working with men. Avoid pictures of kitchen police.
4. "Uncle Sam provides for the welfare of his Army nieces." Emphasize advantages of travel, new friends, medical care, recreation.
5. Adopt an affirmative approach. Don't be on the defensive. The WAC has a right to be proud of its record.
For the first time also the field public relations officers learned the "do's" and "don'ts" which had long been common practice in the Director's office: Say women, not girls. Show the proper uniform always except in sports pictures. Show attractive women but not cheesecake. Use the Corps' full name once-Women's Army Corps-and thereafter in an article it is permissible to say the WAC or Wacs. Avoid pictures of Wacs smoking or drinking. Do not put Wacs on radio programs in competition with male personnel, nor as stooges, nor as romantic interest. Avoid using Wacs in off-the-post theatricals.
Avoid "humor" in camp newspapers which creates the public impression that the Army does not have the proper regard for Wacs. "Would you object to your wife or daughter being identified as the subject of an article or cartoon?" Avoid showing Wacs doing jobs which Wacs do not really do. Do not guarantee assignments, commissions, or ratings.65
There were now many obstacles to the success of the campaign that had not existed two years before. The WAC Group found that the WAC was no longer "news" in itself, and that editors who previously had fought to get any sort of story about the Corps now refused to print anything that was not in itself noteworthy. It now required good writing, good photography, and good liaison to persuade news media to give recruiters the free publicity that formerly had been abundant. Also, public relations officers and civilian reporters were now well set in their previous attitudes, and could not be re-educated overnight.
In spite of the handicap of a late start; the new publicity campaign achieved substantial results. A random sampling of the press scrapbook of a Midwestern headquarters showed that the field had seized on the leads offered. Headlines read: MORE ENLISTING IN WAC-PLEASED AT RESULTS; or SECOND WAC GROUP FILLED- RESPONSE OF NEBRASKA YOUNG WOMEN GOOD. The European theater had in January released a story headlined PREFER ENGLISH GIRLS TO WAGS, but In July it sent a wirephoto of the first Wacs on Normandy Beach, labeled YANKS WELCOME WACS. The "general's daughter" theme took hold at once, with such items as GENERAL'S DAUGHTER ARMY PRIVATE, COLONEL'S MOTHER JOINS WACS, WACS TO MAKE BETTER WIVES SAYS COLONEL, HUBBY'S FOOTSTEPS FOLLOWED BY DEVOTED WIFE, and so on. The number of positive headlines swelled: WAC ENLISTS AND MAKES FAMILY 100 PERCENT IN WAR EFFORT, SOLDIER MEETS WAC SISTER IN AUSTRALIA, FOUR WOUNDED SOLDIER HEROES HELP RECRUIT WACS, MARCH QUOTA EXCEEDED IN WAC ENLISTMENTS, WAC SIGNS LEAVE PAPERS FOR HUSBAND, WAC CREDITED WITH SAVING LIVES OF PLANE CREW, and many others. 66 The files of the WAC Group revealed that in one week alone at least two hundred free news stories and pictures could be attributed to material supplied to news media by the group. Press releases to national agencies were mimeographed and mailed to some three hundred recruiting offices as well as to public relations officers in the field, the Office of War Information, and the War Advertising Council. This caused the amount of news coverage to soar as local newspapers and radio stations picked up items that national services had not featured.67
Material about Wacs overseas was particularly easy to peddle to news agencies, but difficult to get. The North African theater had an early rule that all film must be used to record combat activities. The
European theater permitted WAC pictures, but with so little forethought in public relations policy that releases were often more harmful than helpful. The Pacific theater's stricter control of reporters' activities prevented any great number of derogatory stories, but likewise did not produce any positive material. An appeal for better recruiting aids produced only five pictures of the staff director with koala bears and three of Wacs doing kitchen police.68
Again, the only solution was found to be specialization, with a WAC publicity expert and a photographer sent to tour overseas theaters and obtain newsworthy stories about actual jobs and interesting locations. The result was a considerable jump in sound publicity. In the Pacific theater alone a volume of about 1,000 stories monthly was attained by one permanently assigned specialist. In one month she arranged for 1.360 home-town stories, 6 general stories, and 235 pictures and captions. Overseas pictures and stories were featured to good effect: Wacs dancing with soldiers in New Delhi or studying Paris styles in liberated France, local stories like FOUR KANSAS WACS FLY TO AFRICA, or MINNESOTA WAC, AIDE TO GENERAL IKE, WEDS HIS ORDERLY.69 These were willingly given space by most newspapers; almost every Wac overseas was good for a story and picture in her home-town paper.
Because of the greater apparent importance of overseas stories in the minds of newspaper editors, the Chief of Staff also cabled all theater commanders:
Because of the emphasis placed on all news coming from the theaters of operations, special care must be taken that news stories, radio scripts, or other publicity material about the WAC or in any way referring to the Wacs be in good taste and free from unfavorable innuendoes or coarse humor injurious to the general reputation of the WAC.70
The WAC Group at the same time made efforts to establish friendly liaison with editors and reporters, in the hope that newspapers would gradually learn to consult the group before printing damaging stories. This type of diplomacy occupied a good part of the group's time; unfavorable stories that did reach print were isolated and prevented from spreading, and poor or ill-timed photographs were quickly replaced with better ones. 71
National surveys soon gave grounds for hope that the tide of public opinion against the Women's Army Corps had been almost arrested, at least in its more frequent published manifestations; there was now some chance that a more favorable feeling would set in. The WAC Group reported:
The most recent study of public opinion toward the Wac indicates an increased favorable public attitude and that the public is receptive in general to the purposes and objectives to which the 1945 recruiting program is geared.72
It was never to be known to what extent the tide could have been turned. The WAC Group had been founded by General Marshall only over the Bureau of Public Relations' objections. Four months after its establishment, the bureau began to consider reducing the size of the group after the defeat of Germany. Three months later, in December of 1944, although Germany was still undefeated, the bureau informed the group that it was to be discontinued, since the only purpose in improving public opinion had been "to support all-out recruiting. 73 At this moment the Battle of the Bulge and the resulting extension of WAC recruiting automatically postponed the disbandment of the WAC Group, but it shrank in size until only a few junior officers remained. These pleaded for retention until the Corps was demobilized, citing the volume of output of desirable stories,
. . . which by their very appearance and availability will serve to discourage and offset a return of the previous unfavorable publicity . . . . Should [this) be denied, the needs and accomplishments of the Corps will rapidly disappear from the classification of genuine news, and the unfavorable publicity will again become a fact.74
Nevertheless, at the end of February, 1945, the WAC Group had vanished. To support the General Hospital Recruiting Campaign, there were left three WAC officers in the Press Branch of the bureau. A month later, in an undocumented reversal, the group was suddenly re-established, with eight WAC officers assigned. In May of 1945, upon reduction of WAC recruiting, the group asked to be retained on the grounds that it must now carry alone the load of "prestige publicity" that had previously been shared by hundreds of WAC recruiters in the field. It was therefore left intact for the time being, but was not long to survive the departure of Colonel Hobby in the summer of 1945.75
Support by Films and Stage Shows
Possibly nine out of ten suggestions from amateur critics advocated an additional form of supporting publicity for recruiters: the use of films, stage shows, motion picture stars, and other theatrical means, which, it was confidently stated, would bring the American woman to enlist as would nothing else on earth. In spite of this opinion, no great use of this form of recruiting support ever proved possible, for a number of reasons.
From its earliest days the Corps offered an irresistible attraction to the theatrical minded. The WAAC had not graduated its first members before a Hollywood company had asked permission to star them in a musical comedy. This and the other frequent requests to make films about the Corps were refused by the Bureau of Public Relations, which replied:
The WAAC is a new thing in the lives of the American people, and so being, is for the present on trial. Its success is dependent upon two effects: first, the achievement of its objective in an efficient, dignified, and military manner, and two, the approval by the American people and their acceptance of the organization as necessary in the war effort. While serious treatment of the organization
in dignified, dramatic structure is one thing, its portrayal in musical comedy is another, and one which cannot receive official sanction.76
In spite of rebuffs, private producers remained interested. It was with something less than appreciation that public relations authorities received offers from unknown producing agencies, such as one which stated, "We are about to produce a legitimate stage play . . . based on the Women's Army and entitled "They All Do It." 77 The typical producer desired to "glorify" Wacs in a nonprofit show for the benefit of some Army cause; the producer would furnish the writer, and the Army would furnish the material, the talent, the equipment, probably the funds, and, usually, indorse the producers' songs as official. All such ideas for gaining producing fame at the expense of the government were politely refused by the Bureau of Public Relations, in consideration of the expenditure involved and the frequently dubious picture of the WAC that would have resulted.78
Even in the case of reputable film companies eager to contribute their services to the war effort, the results were discouraging. As soon as the WAAC was formed, an attempt was made to get a recruiting film from this source. Top-flight talent was contributed, with Warner Brothers sending its director, Frank Capra, to Des Moines to photograph the short subject, Women at War.
The result was pronounced "a very fine picture photographically"; the pictures of Des Moines were "superb," and the film had "great dramatic appeal." Unfortunately, the script as cleared by the Bureau of Public Relations, which at that date had no WAAC specialists, contained considerable untrue information, including a final battlefield scene, with Wacs rushing into combat to take over the work of frontline Signal Corps troops. By the time the film was seen by a WAAC adviser, changes would have been prohibitively expensive, and the studio refused to make them since the script had been cleared by the War Department. The film was therefore shelved for a time, and eventually released commercially with the substitution of dialogue stating that the "combat" was merely a maneuver in the United States a statement equally erroneous as to WAC participation, but less alarming to the public. Its value except as a work of art remained dubious: at best it gave recruits an overglamorous idea of WAC activities, and at worst it perhaps alarmed timid prospects and parents.79
While this particular fiasco was solely the fault of poor co-ordination within the War Department, in general the scripts later submitted by both military and nonmilitary writers proved unmalleable, with errors so integral to the structure that it was impossible to correct them. The difficulty seemed to lie in a certain unbridgeable gap between the real facts of WAC
existence and the workings of the theatrical mind.
For this reason, requests to use WAC training centers and units as the background of commercial feature films were generally refused. Among the dramatic stereotypes suggested for such stories were the ancient rival-buddies theme, which in females looked like a mere cat fight; the bad girl reformed by the Army; the woman who discovers she must shed her Army uniform and don black lace to recover her husband's love. None of these appeared particularly helpful to recruiting, and it proved impossible to interest film makers in the real, although less conventional, drama of a Wac's actual life.
Nevertheless, many critics of WAC recruiting policies believed that the Corps was losing much valuable free publicity by rejecting such offers. Finally it was agreed to let a major company produce a WAC picture provided that the script was approved and a WAC adviser kept on the scene at all times. In spite of such precautions, the resulting effort was an embarrassment to Wacs everywhere. One of Hollywood's most glamorous stars was compressed, rather unsuccessfully, into a WAC uniform, and portrayed as receiving an officer's commission after a writer's idea of "feminine" behavior such as jealousy, tears, hysteria, and face-slapping on the drill field, which would have disqualified any real Wac officer candidate. Real Wacs in the audience fled in tears, accompanied by the jeers of soldier-spectators.80 It was difficult to see what such productions added to public acceptance, other than the idea that all Wacs suffered from emotional instability but nevertheless were promptly made officers.
Thereafter, Army assistance was not given to further fictional films, and such recruiting short subjects as were necessary were made by the Signal Corps. Even with military producers, the proper straightforward and realistic tone was difficult to achieve. A few excellent and successful short subjects were nevertheless produced, particularly in support of the General Hospital Campaign.
Invariably rejected were the hundreds of suggestions that enlistment be stimulated by the use on recruiting duty of Hollywood stars then in the military establishment, particularly Clark Gable and James Stewart. This idea, in addition to its unpopularity with the individuals concerned, would have violated War Department policy on the assignment of prominent persons. As recruiting policy it was likewise frowned upon as being in the same category with offers of free nylons to potential recruits, and other misrepresentations of the advantages of life in the services.
Whether or not, in the future, this advertising medium could be more successfully exploited remained an unsolved problem. After the end of the war, the second Director WAC was of the opinion that the thousands of existing feet of film on WAC activities should be cut and consolidated for a historical record, and for the training of future Wacs, "since enlisted women were used in this war for the first time in the history of the United States Army." The proposal was rejected, however, by Maj. Gen. Russell L. ,Maxwell of the Army Pictorial Board, as not worth the expense of preparation.81
From the parallel patterns of the Planning Branch and the WAC Group, two final conclusions were reported. One was the unvarying unpopularity of their efforts with other agencies, which opposed their establishment as long as possible and proposed their disbandment at the earliest opportunity. It was inevitably irritating to established services to sec one Corps publicized, groomed, and pushed to the forefront of public attention-pictures of WAC recruits mailed to home-town. papers when men's were not; prominent personages rushed into WAC ceremonies while those for men were ignored; publicity given to the WAC's first steps in paths anonymously trodden by men for years.
The other and equally unpleasant conclusion was also inescapable. There was every evidence that no corps or branch, whether of men or women, could recruit any number of individuals, in active competition with industry and the other services, without the expert, hard, and constant attention that had been given to the WAC Recruiting Service. Both the Army and the Navy had found, even after recruiting was seemingly well established, that when recruiters were cut and the machine disbanded, recruits vanished. The General Staff noted:
Experience has conclusively proved that recruits are only obtained by direct and repeated personal interviews and that the average good recruiter can at best actually enlist not more than 2 or 3 prospects out of every 20 interviewed.82
Any corps obliged to recruit in this manner while all others were supplied by the draft was obviously placed in a position to incur animosity. Among the many benefits that selective service would have brought to the WAC, not the least would have been freedom from the resentment of other services, as well as from the strain of keeping itself in the state of spotless saleability ordinarily required only of soap flakes and cigarettes.
It seemed important that future planners realize that an Army which wished to employ women in wartime must either summon its forces to back draft legislation, or pay the price of ungrudging specialization in women's publicity and recruitment. The early failure to commission the most highly qualified experts available, and to centralize control, was a luxury too expensive to be repeated, costing millions of dollars in advertising and thousands of potential recruits. In peacetime, when equal measures were required to recruit men, the problems of WAC recruiters and publicity experts would obviously be less conspicuous, and all branches would be more likely to receive equal publicity.
Page Created August 23 2002
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Return to the Table of Contents