The European Theater of Operations

The European Theater of Operations, the first to requisition Waacs, was the second to receive them. By the end of the war it employed 8,316 women, the largest number in any overseas theater.1

The first requisitions, made by the theater Services of Supply in the summer of the Corps' formation, were not pressed after Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's departure for North Africa. After some six months of waiting for shipping priorities, the first two units earmarked for the theater were disbanded and their members were sent either to North Africa or to stations in the United States. In the spring of 1943, the Services of Supply again sent a requisition, but again furnished no shipping priority and shortly thereafter canceled the request.2  Impetus in the program passed to the theater's Air Forces, of which General Eaker noted later:

Shortly after I arrived in England the problem was presented to me . . . . The commanding officer counseled me against bringing Waacs over . . he said that I would be held responsible.3

Accepting the responsibility, the Eighth Air Force requested an entire WAAC battalion and set a shipping priority for the summer.4

In mid-April of 1943 the theater WAAC staff director, Capt. Anna W. Wilson, arrived in London to make preparations for the unit. Small advance parties from the Signal Corps and other groups were also present. Captain Wilson made plans for reception, housing, and assignment of the women, and for such feminine needs as laundry rooms, sanitary facilities, special post exchange items, and clothing main-


tenance supplies. The WAAC's way was smoothed by the long-accepted presence of the many British women's services, as well as of the Voluntaires Francaises, the Norwegian ATS, the Polish ATS, the Canadian WAC, and other such groups.5

The arrival of the American WAAC was nevertheless of considerable public interest. Captain Wilson reported:

We were interviewed by the press and on short-wave radio, and were a little surprised to find ourselves near-celebrities. We are now settled in a very comfortable flat overlooking Hyde Park . . . two bedrooms; two baths, kitchenette, and a living room.6

Captain Wilson noted that a disproportionate amount of her time was consumed by the social and public relations activities required of her. As in other overseas theaters, there always existed a certain tendency for the WAC staff director to be considered dedicated to official teas, press conferences, and ceremonies instead of to her military responsibilities.7

First WAAC Separate Battalion

Upon receipt of the Air Forces' shipping priority, WAAC Headquarters rounded up as many members of the original units as could be found, with replacements for those who had gone to North Africa. These were rapidly organized at Fort Devens to form the 1st WAAC Separate Battalion, under the command of Capt. Mary A. Hallaren. Women were equipped with full winter uniforms, as authorized for England, plus gas masks, canteens, first-aid packets, utility packs, helmets, and pistol belts without pistols. Their training included judo, hikes with full packs, and an obstacle course which, although not required for noncombatants, every woman elected to go through. The 555 enlisted women and 19 officers were so eager for the long-awaited assignment that no case of AWOL occurred prior to sailing. On 16 July 1943, almost a year after the initial request, the battalion reached England.8

Upon arrival the women were divided into companies and assigned to various Air Forces stations. Housing consisted of "everything from castles to huts," 9  generally being identical with the type used for male troops at the stations. Theater historians later noted, "It was anticipated that special housing and physical facilities would be required for the Wacs, but the problem of housing Wacs provided no particular difficulties." 10

It was immediately apparent that WAC employment in England offered little more difficulty than employment in the United States, and had the advantages of new sights and experiences and the stimulus of closeness to combat. The regulation WAC uniform was obviously inadequate for work in unheated buildings during the approaching winter and for the projected movement to the Continent, but time permitted remedial action. The supply lanes to the United States were by this time open and were relatively short, and many items could be procured from British stocks. The dangers of the area were no more


DOCKING IN SCOTLAND. Advance party of WAAC officers and enlisted women are greeted by a bagpipe band upon their arrival, 11 May 1943.

DOCKING IN SCOTLAND. Advance party of WAAC officers and enlisted women are greeted by a bagpipe band upon their arrival, 11 May 1943.

DOCKING IN SCOTLAND. Advance party of WAAC officers and enlisted women are greeted by a bagpipe band upon their arrival, 11 May 1943.


than those confronting the civilian population, and appeared to have little effect on morale; General Eaker later noted, "One of the factors in their success was courageousness. I saw this demonstrated when German planes came over . . . they keep more calm than men in emergencies." 11

The first arrivals were an immediate success to a degree which, in the opinion of Air Forces commanders, motivated the extensive requisitions that followed. General Eaker stated, "It was not long before they were the best we had . . . other forces followed our lead."12 An Eighth Air Force supervisor stated:

Their work has improved the efficiency of my office tremendously. Their attitude, discipline, and efficiency are of such value that not only enlisted men but some officers have been released to perform other duties. 13

In a typical Air Forces flight control room, Wacs were shortly assigned as teleprinters, typists, and switchboard operators.14  General Eaker noted his surprise in finding that "military secrets were going to have to be kept by women," and added:

One of their most important duties was to keep secret and confidential files. They were intelligent and learned quicker. They were the best photo interpreters . . . keener, and more intelligent than men in this line of work.15

Build-up of Units Before D Day

Further requisitions followed from both the Air Forces and theater headquarters. Personnel for the next shipment was at first organized as the 2d WAC Separate Battalion, but at the request of the theater the battalion was inactivated and its members shipped as casuals without grade allotments. The move was made possible by the Corps' recent military status, and was pronounced by the theater to be more suitable to its needs, since the women could be integrated into existing units. These Wacs arrived in the theater in September and November of 1943, and were assigned to both Air Forces and theater headquarters, bringing the total of theater WAC enlisted strength to 1,126. In October of 1943, as a result of continuing requisitions, the War Department raised the theater WAC quota to 2,775.16

Before this quota could be shipped, the War Department at the end of the year informed the theater that no more Wacs could be sent for several months. Losses of the conversion period had left existing units in need of replacements, while the manpower shortage of early 1944 was already being felt. Theater protests followed, citing the approaching invasion of the Continent. General Spaatz and General Eaker appealed personally to General Arnold in Washington, asking that he prod the War Department.17

The theater also asked permission to make up some of the deficit by recruiting and training American civilian women living in the British Isles, believing that considerable numbers might thus be obtained. This authority was not granted for some time, and even when later put into effect proved an insignificant source of recruits, as did a similar provision for transferring to the WAC the few American citizens in


the British women's services. It became clear that the European theater must depend upon recruiters in the United States for its supply of Wacs.18

There followed what was, over the next months, to be a continuing skirmish over the numbers and skills of Wacs who could be sent overseas. The War Department noted that, to meet the theater's heavy demands for skilled typists and stenographers, not only would the entire recruiting intake be required, but it would be necessary for stations in the United States to resort to the embarrassing expedient of using male typists to replace Wacs "for combat" instead of vice versa. The theater in reply urged that they be so embarrassed. In its opinion, overseas areas, being obliged to support and supply troops under difficulties, required the best workers for each type of duty; the argument was that one Wac typist could replace two men while eating only half as much.19

At the moment part of the dispute was resolved in the theater's favor by General Arnold of the Army Air Forces, who secured permission to cut loose the Air Forces quota from the rest of the theater's, and to supply all the Wacs that General Spaatz requested, provided that only AAF stations were called upon to supply them. In February of 1944 the War Department therefore approved a new quota for the theater, 4,448 Wacs for the Air Forces and 1,727 for all other commands, a total of 6,215 for the theater.20

Requests from the Services of Supply in Europe were slower to come in. It was not until just before D Day that the SOS requested several large groups, so hastily that some, especially telephone operators, had to be provided with air priority.21

Under the new quota, WAC shipments were at once resumed and, during the first half of 1944, arrived in the theater almost faster than they could be accommodated at reception facilities. Just before D Day, theater WAC strength had reached 3,687. At this time the War Department was again forced to shut off the supply, pleading heavy shipments to the Pacific. In spite of theater protests, no further quota increase was to be granted for some months.22

By D Day, Wacs were assigned to Headquarters, Supreme Allied Expeditionary Force; Headquarters, ETO; to the Allied Expeditionary Force; and to other theater organizations. Within the Air Forces, they were in Headquarters, U.S. Strategic Air Forces; Headquarters, Eighth Air Force; Headquarters, Ninth Air Force; Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Air Forces; Headquarters, VIII Fighter Command; Headquarters, IX Bomber Command; I, II, III Bomber Divisions; and the 2d, 14th, 20th, and 96th Combat Wings. There were also numerous independent organizations that used almost a thousand Wacs in Europe, including the Air Transport Command and the Office of Strategic Services.23

Before D Day, initial job assignment in some of these organizations suffered from the fact that only the Air Forces in Eng-


land were as yet engaged in combat. Other headquarters still had plenty of enlisted men, and were still located in areas where competent civilian help was obtainable. Therefore, while Wacs would be needed in the future, and were welcomed by higher commanders who had requisitioned them for this reason, their welcome from subordinate commanders and enlisted men was less enthusiastic. In Lt. Col. Anna W. Wilson's opinion:

Male soldiers who were firmly established in their administrative, clerical, and communications jobs and were not trained for combat naturally were fearful of the arrival of WAC personnel. Their comments on and reception of WAC personnel were derogatory and cold. The Wacs felt that they were unwelcome, which in fact they were. Months passed before this feeling of ill-will disappeared.24

Censorship of letters showed that there was much bitterness in the accounts written home by enlisted men and Wacs alike, which upon investigation had "no reasonable basis" but which authorities feared would damage WAC recruiting.25

Until D Day, as a result of the abundance of personnel, Wacs therefore at times did not replace men, or were assigned to only part-time work, or were fitted into existing organizations in duties less responsible than those of enlisted men and British civilians and less useful than the positions the women had occupied in the United States. The staff director listed incorrect assignment as first among causes of low morale. The WAC personnel officer noted, "The greatest gripe from Wacs has constantly been, `not enough work to do.26  Luckily, the serious morale problems that usually accompanied such a situation in the United States did not develop, chiefly because of the women's sense of nearness to combat and the prospect of more useful days ahead.

Office supervisors discovered no loss of efficiency during the buzz-bomb raids, and in fact, as D Day approached, there were grounds for believing that the reverse was true. One unit, which arrived in London simultaneously with the V-1, reported:

At first the Wacs were up most of every night, spending much of their time in the improvised basement shelter. Since this area was not properly equipped, there was great loss of sleep, and the nervous tension which resulted was almost as bad as the bombs.27

However, the women soon became accustomed to the alarms and slept all night without going to the shelter, and they worked without interruption even when bombs fell close to their offices. Several Wacs were awarded the Purple Heart for injuries received in bombings; they were more fortunate than British servicewomen in that none died of these injuries.28

The Move to the Continent

Less than a year after the first group's arrival, the invasion of Normandy began and Wacs moved out into France and later into Germany. A lively dispute had raged all spring over the propriety of taking women along. The more gloomy objectors stressed the fact that the women would probably be killed or captured and, if captured, might not, under the rules of land warfare, be recognized as "protected personnel" and would not, like nurses, be entitled to officer prisoners' privileges. Some


LANDING IN NORMANDY, 14 July 1944, above. Photographs; below, were taken in the WAC camping area on 1 August 1944.

LANDING IN NORMANDY, 14 July 1944, above. Photographs; below, were taken in the WAC camping area on 1 August 1944.

LANDING IN NORMANDY, 14 July 1944, above. Photographs; below, were taken in the WAC camping area on 1 August 1944. LANDING IN NORMANDY, 14 July 1944, above. Photographs; below, were taken in the WAC camping area on 1 August 1944.


feared that fighting men would worry so much over the Wacs' safety that their efficiency would be impaired. Others questioned whether women could live in tents under field conditions. Officers on the other side of the argument declared that their offices required their Wacs and that conditions on the Continent would be no worse than those in London under the buzz bombs, which had not disrupted office work. The WAC staff director was of the opinion that Wacs should move with their headquarters, in view of the reported success of the Fifth Army's experiment in Italy. The Wacs themselves were, as always, inordinately eager to go.29

The theater's decision was that the Wacs would go along, and that 50 percent of the personnel of Forward Echelon, Communications Zone, would be WAC. Necessary plans were made for clothing and maintenance, tentage, and well trained cadre. An initial attempt was made to select personnel carefully on the basis of ability, physical stamina, and emotional stability; the group selected to follow invasion troops onto the beaches was also given a strenuous training program, plus field clothing and equipment. Unfortunately, it was soon clear that the whole WAC population of England would shortly be on the move, and that other units coming directly from the United States would have to go to France without special screening or acclimatization.

As the time approached for movement to the Continent, certain bookkeeping difficulties had to be solved. When the WAC's own Table of Organization units had been dissolved, the War Department had specified that overseas Wacs would be assigned only to large headquarters operating under bulk allotments. Assignment to vacancies in men's T/O units was prohibited because of the notion that every T/O unit would sooner or later move out to do battle.

Actually, Air Forces and Signal Corps headquarters, although under T/O's, were able to operate from bases farther behind the lines than were some of the bulk allotment Communications Gone headquarters. To avoid violating the T/O ban, the Air Forces for the first months employed Wacs on an impractical and confusing lend-lease basis from theater headquarters. Bookkeeping difficulties almost wrecked this program and shortly forced the War Department to relax its ban and permit 4Vacs to be assigned to men's T/O units, to "suitable noncombatant positions in fixed headquarters or installations." 30  With this, the stage was set for easy movement of Air Forces and Signal Corps Wacs to the Continent. As a matter of fact, the term "fixed installation" was shortly to be interpreted by the theater to mean a tent moved forward not more than once a day.

The first Wac to arrive on the Continent was a stenographer who, on 22 June, flew in and out of one of the beachheads to record a conference. The first regular WAC unit landed in Normandy on 14 July 1944, almost a year to the day after the first group had arrived in England, and thirty-eight days after D Day. These Wacs, assigned to Forward Echelon, Communications Zone, arrived on the Normandy beaches in LST's, and camped out in an apple orchard. They slept under shelter halves or in pyramidal tents on Army cots, received the usual field rations, and washed in cold water carried in hel-


mets. They immediately went to work as telephone operators, typists, and clerks, working in tents, cellars, prefabricated huts, and mobile switchboard trailers. Because of the cold and mud, they wore leggings, trousers, and combat jackets; even long underwear was now popular.31

It was not noted that the men's anxiety over WAC safety impaired their efficiency, as had been feared; in fact, historians recorded that men were glad to have American women to talk and sing with, and "just to look at." However, since living and working conditions were equal, the normal amount of masculine griping was found to be definitely hampered.

More Wacs arrived at once, by plane and boat, some in units and some with their sections-Normandy Base Section (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force), and Air Forces units, also Quartermaster, Transportation, Engineers, Ordnance, and others. Large groups of Signal Corps telephone operators arrived, many having been hastily flown in from the United States on a high-priority requisition. The most forward and mobile WAC detachment was reported to be the unit with the 12th Army Group, which advanced with its headquarters close behind the fighting lines.

On 31 August, five days after the fall of Paris to the Allied forces, a WAC advance party arrived, and on 1 September Wacs began pouring into the city from Normandy and England, by plane and by truck convoy. WAC telephone operators at once took over French switchboards just abandoned by the German army; office workers operated with captured German office supplies; cooks and mess sergeants assumed supervision of French cooks and waitresses in the various messes: and the Wacs themselves moved into and gradually filled a number of hotels in the city. By October, 3,000 Wacs were in France; by the end of 1944 over half the ETO WAC units were there.

The Transportation Corps shortly sent picked personnel from the United States to form a traffic regulating group entirely composed of Wacs; many of the map tracings for routing combat supplies were made by this group. The Signal Corps organized an all-Wac battalion, composed of switchboard teams, message center teams, and teletype teams. This could not be called a WAC battalion because its tables called for combat equipment, and Wacs were noncombatants; Signal Corps authorities therefore called it the % 3341st Signal Service Battalion, with the % mark indicating, to the initiate, Wacs. Another all-Wac battalion, composed of Negro personnel, came in a unit toward the end of 1944 and took over half of the Postal Directory for the theater. Besides these all WAC units there were Wacs in almost every command echelon down to the Army group level. 32

In the eight months before V-E Day, Wacs followed closely behind the fighting forces. Food, quarters, and supplies were the same as those available to the men. The only reported difficulty concerning quarters was the absence of heat and hot water; doctors estimated that 25 percent of the women in one unit had chilblains. Conditions were extremely unsettled, medical and hospital care uncertain; there was cold, rain, snow, and mud; it was seldom any longer possible to have advance inspection of housing. Nevertheless, the strenuousness of this period had no perceptible effect; authorities were in fact


LT. COL. ANNA W WILSON, WAC Staff Director, European theater, lunches in the field in France, 1 August 1944.

LT. COL. ANNA W WILSON, WAC Staff Director, European theater, lunches in the field in France, 1 August 1944.

surprised to discover that the WAC sick rate was the lowest of the year. During the initial six weeks when Wacs were landing on Normandy beaches, only one woman had to be sent back to England because of illness. Wacs noted that after the V-bombs in England, the sound of distant artillery fire in Normandy was a relief. Morale remained high in direct proportion to the women's sense of playing an immediate and essential part in the winning of the war. With civilians temporarily left behind, and men for office work scarce, Wacs were at last the valued employees they had been in some units in North Africa. This period, in spite of its lack of physical comforts, was reportedly the one in which ETO Wacs were happiest. In December of 1944, during the dark days of the Battle of the Bulge, offices depended greatly on their women, and WAC morale and efficiency were at a peak.

At the time of the Battle of the Bulge, theater representatives went to Washington and personally sought and obtained resumption of Wac shipments. These, by V-E Day, had raised the ETO WAC strength to more than 8,000-the largest number of Wacs utilized by any foreign theater. The number was only half of the 16,000 that had been requisitioned, and much less than the 25,000 to 50,000 that the WAC staff director felt would have been requisitioned had there been any


hope of receiving so many. As the Air Forces mission shrank after V-E Day, greater proportions of the total came to be employed by field and service forces.33

When, in the spring of 1945, the First Tactical Air Force and the 12th Army Group headquarters opened in Heidelberg and Wiesbaden, no one debated whether or not to take Wacs to Germany; they moved with their headquarters as a matter of course. After V-E Day, only a handful of Wacs were left in England; the majority came to be concentrated in Germany at Berlin, Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Heidelberg, and other headquarters. Here and in Paris, living conditions became luxurious in comparison to wartime billets and to the average accommodations of troops in the United States.

In Paris, Wacs lived in hotels with maids, dining rooms, no work details, and good recreation and sight-seeing facilities. In Frankfurt, they were housed in a well-heated apartment building, ordinarily with only two women to a room, and ate at an excellent mess boasting small tables and tablecloths, with civilians to do all but supervisory work. There were available a complete and quick civilian laundry service and good recreational facilities. In Wiesbaden, women lived in cold but comfortable apartments and a handsome private home. In Heidelberg, a comfortable hospital building was used for housing. Visiting War Department inspectors late in 1945 reported that "'with few exceptions, these Wacs were living under better conditions and with more comforts than it was possible to have during the war." 34

WAC Job Assignments

During the entire period of employment, the most notable difference from the pattern of job assignment in the United States was that a higher type of personnel was available to the theater. As in the North African theater, the women who made up these shipments constituted, on a statistical average, the cream of the Corps. Records showed that 99 percent of ETO Wacs were skilled, and that more than 50 percent of enlisted women had the AGCT scores required of officers. Such women were not only easier to assign but, as later studies showed, were less liable to become disciplinary problems, suffer low morale, or require medical discharge. No "holding depot" to accommodate unassigned personnel was ever needed for women, since all were readily assignable.35

Another notable difference in the employment pattern resulted from the theater's decision to limit women's jobs to a rather narrow range. Like most overseas theaters, the European theater considered women's job superiority proven only in routine clerical, stenographic, and communications duties, and was loath to risk shipment of other skills in which a man might not be efficiently replaced. Final records of WAC assignment indicated that about 35 percent of the theater's enlisted women were employed as stenographers and typists; another 26 percent were clerks; 22 percent were in communications work. These percentages of scarce skills were considerably higher than those available to the Corps as a whole. In the United States, as in Britain, personnel shortages had admitted servicewomen to a wide variety of work and had made it necessary to accept recruits in any skill. In the European theater, only 13 percent of American servicewomen were employed






in the more unusual skills: medical technicians, mechanics, draftsmen, interpreters, weather observers, and photographic specialists.

The maintenance of this policy at times was carried so far as to result in the malassignment of women with "unfeminine" skills. Thus, some one hundred WAC mechanics in the Air Service Command, although pronounced "highly satisfactory" in this work, were ordered reassigned to unskilled desk jobs on the grounds that it was not appropriate for Wacs to wear coveralls. Other WAC mechanics remained unassigned at ports, and were eventually transferred to the Air Transport Command.36

The policy also made it increasingly difficult for the War Department to approve theater requisitions, and for shipping agencies to fill them satisfactorily. Many requisitions, while numerically reasonable in view of the total strength of the Corps, would have required skimming almost all stenographers and many typists from stations in the United States-a sacrifice which the War Department deemed unjustified in view of frequent reports that there was already widespread theater use of WAC stenographers as typists and of typists as clerks. Stations in the United States experienced difficulty in providing even the numbers approved. The theater reported receiving typists labeled stenographers and clerks called "potential typists." Also, as volunteer stenographers and typists were all shipped, it became necessary for stations to send nonvolunteers who were known to be more liable to psychiatric breakdowns. Plenty of volunteers for overseas service remained in the Corps, but not in the requested skills. Eventually the War Department was obliged to inform the theater that its requisitions could no longer be approved if they asked percentages of scarce skills higher than could reasonably be supplied. The theater's requisitions thereupon dropped a notch in skill, but continued to concentrate upon clerical fields, in spite of the staff director's attempts to interest offices in using Wacs in medical, mechanical, and other work.

An additional complication in shipment was the matter of grades. Since arriving casuals were assigned to existing units, the theater asked that they arrive with low grades in order not to outrank men and women already in those units. Expert stenographers were sought in the grade of private, and experienced company officers in the grade of second lieutenant. The Army Service Forces filled several shipments with Wacs who voluntarily relinquished their ratings for a chance at overseas service. However, when later nonvolunteer shipments arrived with ratings, a morale problem arose and the War Department ordered the ratings restored to earlier arrivals, not wishing to establish a policy of reducing to the grade of private all men and women sent overseas. Eventually the War Department was forced to apply a percentage ruling to WAC shipments, requiring the theater to absorb a percent of higher grades equal to the over-all distribution.37

Rather than ship women who did not meet the exacting specifications in theater requisitions, incomplete shipments were sometimes made, a practice that also met with objections from the theater, since short shipments upset assignment plans almost as seriously as did unqualified ones. At other times, shipments were delayed until after the theater's need had changed


or had been filled from other sources. Colonel Wilson later commented:

The fluctuating supply of WAC personnel, engendered by the voluntary recruitment policy, prohibited firm planning . . . and resulted in an immeasurable expenditure of money, time, and effort, all of which would have been avoided by the application of selective service to women.38

Officer Assignments

As was generally true overseas, ETO WAC officers were frequently less fortunate than enlisted women in the variety of their assignments and the degree of responsibility delegated to them. Several WAC officers attended the British Staff College in a class with British women officers, but an assignment adequate to justify this high-level training could not be found. Wacs who had graduated from the Army's own Command and General Staff School were assigned to jobs such as photointerpreter. A generous portion of 32 percent of the WAC officer strength was made available for WAC administration. A high percentage of the others was used in routine jobs which were similar to those of enlisted personnel except that an officer was required for security reasons-code and cipher officers, watch officers, signal officers, photointerpreters, censors, and military secretaries.39  In spite of a War Department letter prohibiting the employment of WAC officers as stenographers, aides, and chauffeurs,40  by the end of the war, no less than forty-five WAC officers -14 percent of the total- were serving as personal assistants to ranking officers in the European theater.

Such employment of WAC officers caused other ranking officers in the theater to ask that their enlisted WAC secretaries be directly commissioned and continue on the same job. Director Hobby steadily opposed all of these proposals, maintaining that if the women were more worthy of commissions than other Wacs in the theater, they should be selected by an officer candidate board, and that to open the door to such a policy would mean yielding to the political pressure of hundreds of other prominent sponsors who still sought WAC commissions for friends and constituents. The War Department therefore never wholly sanctioned the European theater's request, but a concession was made which permitted deserving cases to be forwarded for review in Washington. Under this authority several direct commissions were eventually granted none to secretaries. but several to technicians such as the WAC sergeant who, as an expert on bridge demolition, was already filling the job of a major in the Corps of Engineers.

Because of a peculiar loophole in the WAC legislation, there was no legal barrier to the direct commissioning of British civilian women in the WAC; however, in the European theater only one civilian, General Eisenhower's chauffeur-secretary, was commissioned in this way, over Director Hobby's protest.41


WAC Staff Director's Office

Some initial difficulty was reported by Colonel Wilson in establishing her own office and her relative responsibilities. In her opinion, theater authorities, while welcoming the enlisted women, were not initially receptive to an active role by WAC staff officers, particularly in the first months before General Eisenhower's return in 1944. The title of Director was objectionable to the headquarters because "by definition and practice in the civilian world [it] implies a certain amount of the command function." 42  As a result, Colonel Wilson and her subordinate staff directors in air and service forces headquarters found that

. . . until the WAC Staff Directors became personally known in the commands, they met many difficulties in the performance of their mission, especially with respect to making staff visits and collecting information necessary for making long-range plans and policies.

Equally objectionable to theater authorities was the word inspection in the War Department's provision that "a principal function of staff directors will be continuous inspection . . . for the purpose of gaining information upon which to base recommendations on . . . plans and policies." In spite of the War Department directive, the theater refused to authorize staff advisers to visit WAC units, on the grounds that this usurped the inspector general's duties or those of male commanders. Theater authorities also were reluctant to allow WAC staff officers to receive statistical reports on WAC strength. losses, disciplinary action, and other problems.

Until the end of 1943 the theater did not define the position of the WAC staff director's office, which was unofficially that of a section of G-1 Division. As a result, other sections of the headquarters co-ordinated matters with the staff director only when the existence of the section was known to them.

Colonel Wilson noted that staff actions and directives which supposedly applied to both men and women frequently omitted any provision for women, with resulting confusion in the field, but that "failure to provide adequately for female personnel was never the result of intentional neglect, but of oversight resulting from the magnitude of the overall European Theater planning job."

Soon after General Eisenhower's return from North Africa at the end of 1943, a formal announcement was made of the establishment of. the WAC Section, G-1 Division, and it was required that "all matters pertaining exclusively to the Women's Army Corps and necessitating the formulation or interpretation of policy will be referred directly to the WAC Section."

WAC officers also became part of the offices of the quartermaster, the provost marshal general, Special Services, Information and Education, the adjutant general, and the inspector general. This generally proved a great advantage from the Wacs' viewpoint. Not until a WAC officer was assigned to Special Services in April, 1944, was a complete recreational program designed to fit the needs and interests of women. The assignments also generally proved acceptable to the office concerned; the theater's chief quartermaster later noted that numerous early mis-


takes would not have occurred except "for lack of a female advisor in OTCQM prior to the arrival of the first women troops.43

In the next few months, subordinate headquarters employing numbers of Wacs acquired their own WAC staff directors. A directive was published officially authorizing field "visits" by the staff director. The informal collection of a monthly statistical report through "technical channels" was also sanctioned, although only the Air Forces in the theater ever agreed to require this officially.

In spite of these great improvements, the position in G-1 Division did not prove entirely satisfactory to Colonel Wilson, who found that her office's nonconcurrences were often lost in the final G-1 decision and were not apparent to either higher echelons or other staff sections. With the establishment of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, at some distance from the rest of the headquarters, the WAC staff director was not again officially able to see the general whom she was responsible for advising; at this time there were nine intermediaries between them.

On the other hand, the staff director, who had left the United States in WAAC days, retained many operating functions that in the United States were willingly dropped as soon as military status permitted. The staff director's office had powers of assignment and reassignment of Wacs; it approved or disapproved all promotions of WAC officers, even those employed on duties unrelated to the Corps; it requested and suballotted quotas, requisitioned personnel, and took action on requests for the discharge or return to the United States of individuals in the WAC. In general, it performed for G-1 Division all personnel functions relating to women. Here, as elsewhere in WAC administration, it proved to be difficult to relinquish operating powers until some voice was obtained in the shaping of policy.

It was not to be until after the end of the war, and after Colonel Wilson was replaced as staff director by Lt. Col Mary A. Hallaren; that earlier efforts bore fruit in a directive stating:

Although her office is an adjunct of G-1 Division, the position of the 1NAC Staff Director is on the same level as the assistant chiefs of staff with respect to all matters pertaining to the WAC. On such matters she is advisor to the Chief of Staff and the chiefs of the general and special staff divisions . . . . Channels of communication between . . . divisions and the WAC Staff Director are direct.

This circular also repeated War Department directives insuring "continuous inspection. 44  Colonel Hallaren later stated, "From the day this went out, we had no problem; it was a joy to be in the Headquarters.45

Housing, Supply, and Clothing

From the first it was clear that administrative arrangements for Wacs in a theater of this type would present no insuperable problem even in the absence of a strong staff planning section. In general. Wacs received exactly the same type of housing that was provided for male administrative troops, which was usually much superior to that provided for troops in the United States. The majority lived in hotels and houses, although a few others had barracks, Nissen huts and, temporarily, tents.


While the women remained in England the theater required that all proposed WAC housing be inspected by a representative of the staff director before a unit moved in. On the Continent such inspection was not always possible.46

The locating of most WAC housing in civilian communities made extra protection for women's quarters unnecessary, and also eliminated the need for excessive restrictions upon the women's freedom except those required of the entire population. The theater found that Wacs resented even minor restrictions such as "march outs" to work during morning and evening dark hours, preferring to get about independently. Because of the uncertain nature of transportation facilities, enlisted women were not sent from station to station without a WAC officer escort, unless a woman's commanding officer certified that the travel concerned did not require an escort. Other than these, there were no restrictions for Wacs which did not apply to men.

Organizational supplies were also generally superior. Because of the precedent of the British women's services, the Wacs obtained bed linens and mattresses, plus a limited number of electric irons and some hairdressing equipment, although this last was never rated entirely adequate. Post exchanges were ordinarily as good as those in the United States. Mess equipment was also generally adequate. In spite of the absence of milk, fresh fruits, and other items, the WAC messes were well rated, with cooks showing ingenuity in preparing dehydrated foods and other standard Army rations, which were superior to those of the British. Wacs usually had a separate mess only if civilian employees could be obtained for all heavy labor; kitchen police and similar fatigue duty became almost as unknown as it had been in Italy.47

The only immediate problem presented by the area was that of suitable clothing. The standard winter uniforms that Wacs had brought from the United States were considered inadequate, especially in the Air Forces, where many women were assigned to night shifts in unheated buildings and underground operations centers. The situation was declared an emergency, and the issue of enlisted men's long-sleeved undershirts and long drawers was authorized. Since Wacs were found to be catching colds because of a certain reluctance to wear these ill-fitting garments, the theater immediately requested many extra items above the regular issue: wool underwear designed for women, wool shirts, a field jacket and wool liner, with matching trousers and trouser liner, combat boots, and long wool hose. Most of these were obtained from the United States after much delay. Because of the limited cleaning and repair facilities, all Wacs in the theater also received extra exercise dresses, wool skirts, and field shoes.

The Quartermaster-designed trousers and jacket, when finally received from the United States, were found to be bulky and unbecoming, could not be tailored to fit the figure, and shrank and faded when laundered in the field. A smart three-piece wool uniform was therefore designed by the European theater-slacks, skirt, and battle jacket-which was found to be durable, warm, lightweight, and becoming for wear either under field conditions or in the city. A request for this was for-


warded to the War Department, which refused to authorize it on the grounds that all available material was being used to produce the new ETO battle jacket uniform for men. At this, the European theater found means of procuring in England enough of these uniforms to furnish each woman at least one. With the benefit of these additions, Colonel Wilson noted that ETO Wacs were better dressed than those in the United States, where cold-weather garments and other extra items were not issued except to a few outdoor workers.48

Maintenance supply of uniforms was also good in comparison to that of other overseas locations. The theater engaged in a continual struggle to keep up adequate stocks of women's clothes, and had chronic shortages, particularly in small sizes, but this was no more than could be said of most stations in the United States. The theater experienced an additional difficulty in that purchase of rationed clothing in civilian shops was forbidden to American troops in England. Wacs needed many items that were no longer issued, such as warm bathrobes, bedroom slippers, brassieres, and handkerchiefs. As items brought from the United States began to wear out, the theater cabled to The Quartermaster General to point out that, while in the United States it might be practicable to call these items nonessential and to require a woman to buy her own, such procedure was inappropriate in an overseas area where the items required ration cards that the Wacs did not possess. Fully 60 percent of the women, the theater estimated, were in need of girdles. The Quartermaster General refused to resume issue of these items, but eventually arranged for their purchase and resale through post exchanges to women overseas.49

Health, Morals, and Discipline

During the entire period of employment, there was little to indicate that service in the European theater was more detrimental to women's health or behavior than service in the United States, or produced any problems that would have rendered the employment of Wacs uneconomical. For most of the war months, the WAC attrition rate remained the same as that of noncombat men-one half of one percent.50  This was in spite of startling statistics computed in the early days, when it was reported that ETO Wacs, unlike those in the United States, appeared to be losing twice as many days from work as men. This rate seemed due chiefly to the high incidence of respiratory disorders. Upon investigation it was found that most of the Wacs at this time were newly arrived in England, and that the rate of respiratory disorders among newly arrived male troops was also twice as high as that of the theater as a whole. In addition, Wacs were chiefly office workers, and the rate of respiratory disorders among male headquarters troops was also twice that of the field forces.

An odd additional factor was the unsatisfactory model of military shoes for women, and the shortage of proper sizes, which, according to a medical report,

. . . loomed large in the noneffective rate for Wacs during the period when they were being admitted to the hospital for adjustment of


shoes .... The proper fitting of shoes is still an unsolved problem. Metatarsal bursitis and fallen arches are common disorders.51

The WAC illness rate was further increased by the fact that pregnant women, although not ill, were hospitalized and returned as patients, for their better protection. As Wacs became acclimated, and as improved administration caused less delay in processing of female patients, the final rate of time lost in hospital was found to be only 2.2 percent for Wacs as against 2.5 percent for all troops, nonbattle cases only.52

Women were found to develop psychological disorders somewhat less frequently than men, and records kept for the first year and a half showed that only a dozen requests for return home had been initiated. "Female complaints" caused almost one-fourth of WAC hospitalizations, and were serious enough to cause the Air Forces surgeon to recommend that "women with menstrual disorders should be eliminated prior to their dispatch to a Theater of Operations.53

However, this rate of time lost because of female complaints was exactly compensated for by the higher rate of venereal disease among men. The WAC venereal disease rate was variously computed at from one sixth to one ninth that of the men, and considerably less than that of civilian women in the United States. In the first year, with over 6,000 women, there were only about 10 cases, including both married and unmarried.54  Most of the latter were from a small minority of women who, in the theater's opinion, should not have been enlisted and should certainly not have been sent overseas. After inspecting the theater Wacs for the Medical Department late in 1944, Major Craighill stated, "We have found that the medical problems as respects morals are much better controlled in WAC than in civilian units.55  Army historians later noted, "venereal disease among the Wacs was conspicuous by its almost total absence. 56

The WAC pregnancy rate was likewise negligible.57  For unmarried women it was estimated as about one a month, out of 6,000 women then in the theater, while about two married women a month were returned for pregnancy, the total rate being less than one sixth of the rate among civilian women in comparable age groups in the United States. The number of Wacs returned because of pregnancy did not raise the total WAC attrition rate above that of the men. The infrequency of discharge for this cause was such that no entirely satisfactory system of processing pregnant returnees was ever worked out, with some hospitalized women awaiting return for as much as two months, and at least three babies being born in the theater.

Both the WAC pregnancy rate and the venereal disease rate compared favorably with statistics available on Wacs in the United States. Fearing that overseas conditions placed a greater strain upon accepted standards of conduct, Colonel Wilson and the ETO medical consultant


decided that Colonel Hobby's moralizing approach to the facts of life, as incorporated in hygiene manuals, was too Victorian and that it "had been a mistake" not to include very frank sex advice. Several "fairly vigorous lectures" were therefore presented to the enlisted women, but because of "reverberations" from the WAC unit, medical authorities were obliged to desist. The British women's services likewise discovered that their women preferred advice that was moral rather than chemical or mechanical in nature.

Medical care provided for women appeared to be quite similar to that available in the United States. Like the War Department, the European theater appointed a woman doctor to be medical consultant for women, suffered setbacks in its attempts to provide service for scattered WAC minorities, and did not until the end of the war get around to appointing gynecologists on the staffs of general hospitals that treated Wacs and nurses. The War Department's medical consultant for women's welfare, Major Craighill, reported:

The medical care of Wacs in England and France is excellent . . . dispensaries, station and general hospitals having special medical facilities for women. Very few hospitals are equipped for gynecological or obstetrical cases . . . The health of the WAC is good . . . there is no evidence of undue fatigue. Tension is apparent only among those groups having insufficient work to occupy them fully.58

There was no indication that ETO Wacs were appreciably less healthy than those in the United States. Some reports showed that ETO Wacs lost less time in the hospital than Wacs in the zone of the interior, but ETO authorities believed their WAC noneffective rate to be slightly higher.59

WAC disciplinary records were also good. Statistics compiled by the Air Provost Marshal showed that men committed various offenses from ten to a hundred and fifty times as often as women.60  On a percentage basis, men were AWOL 89 times as often as women, drunk 85 times as often, and violated miscellaneous Articles of War 150 times as often.61

Commands reported that "Wacs classed among the most smartly and neatly dressed troops on the stations." Serious misconduct was lacking; and the advance plans for a group of female military police were never carried out. Court-martial cases were few; there were only two general courts reported among Wacs in the history of the theater. Historians, questioning whether this rate resulted from good behavior or from undue leniency of WAC company commanders, examined company punishment records closely and determined that there had been "no tendency to coddle or minimize punishment for misdemeanors . . . . Supervision at the detachment level was more thorough and constant than among males." 62

Of aid in maintaining this record was the fact that the theater acted to make clear the disciplinary powers of WAC commanders by reaffirming the War Department's two safeguards: that enlisted women would be assigned only in groups, and only under the command of a WAC officer.


Civilian Competition

Final theater reports indicated only one important handicap to WAC employment in an area such as this one: the competition with civilian employees. This problem, although appearing minor at first consideration, became more prominent in the period following the slackening of hostilities and was eventually rated the European theater Wacs' number one difficulty by both WAC staff directors, as well as by returning enlisted women.

It had been originally contemplated by the Chief of Staff that no civilian women would be employed overseas, but by the time of the WAAC's formation it was already clear that such employment could not be prevented in certain areas. As early as 1942, Director Hobby had therefore proposed that difficulties between the two groups be minimized by directing that "no organization or group of women employed by the American forces . . . wear a uniform or parts of a uniform which are of a color or a pattern which would cause them to be confused with members of the WAAC." 63

She pointed out that existing regulations provided a satisfactory uniform for American civilian employees-the blue hostess-librarian uniform-which was ordered through Special Services from commercial firms that were ready to supply them. However, the Army Service Forces refused to send this proposal to the War Department, and it was not considered. Instead, at a meeting at which the Director was not represented, it was decided to sell the WAAC officer uniform to any civilian women going overseas.64

The problem had small immediate importance, since until after the cessation of buzz-bomb danger very few American civilians went to the area, and British employees lived at home and seldom wore uniforms. To Colonel Hobby's inquiry, Colonel Wilson replied, "This is a situation about which we are not unduly concerned." In the early and dangerous days of the invasion, Wacs were the only female employees in most cases. Later, the theater decided to take female civilians to the Continent as soon as conditions became safe and stable, and it was necessary to provide them with quarters and identifying uniforms. Colonel Wilson concurred in a recommendation that civilians get separate messes and distinctive uniforms, but instead the theater authorized officer accommodations for them and allowed each command to prescribe its own uniform. At this, a considerable morale problem resulted among equally qualified enlisted women, mitigated somewhat in cases where British civilians were veteran employees who had shared the bombings and rationings.65

Early in 1945, a morale crisis was precipitated by news of plans to send overseas large numbers of American civilian women as soon as hostilities ended. At this time Director Hobby's staff learned that "a meeting was held in the Secretary of War's office, at which representatives of the Quartermaster and G-1 were present, but no representative of this office . . . those present agreed that the WAC uniform should be provided for civilians overseas." In a series of confidential memoranda, the


Director protested that WAC enlisted women were as well qualified as the civilians who would wear the officer uniform; that civilians should not receive officer privileges without accompanying military responsibilities and discipline; that the social association problem would be hopelessly complicated if civilians wore the WAC uniform; and that the practice "would react to the serious detriment of the morale of the enlisted women who have served the Army well and faithfully under the rigorous conditions of overseas life without [such] pay or privileges . . . ." 66

The Director shortly succeeded in getting a directive to the European theater that civilians would get only the enlisted uniform, and this with the addition of conspicuous colored shoulder straps, sleeve braid, and cap crown, plus a blue hostess-librarian overcoat. The theater cabled back for a reconsideration of continued issue of the unchanged WAC uniform, which would considerably simplify its supply and storage problems. This was not granted, but hundreds of unmodified uniforms were already in the hands of civilians, and War Department attempts to get the directive enforced in the theater were never wholly successful. Colonel Wilson was not asked to comment; she noted, "The problem was of such a controversial nature that it was impossible for the WAC Staff Director to initiate a paper as a branch of G-1." 67

With the post-hostilities arrival of American civilian women, the Wacs' esprit vanished, as well as pride in Army status and uniform. The women talked of little else; the gist of their more printable comment was that they had been hooked as sentimental suckers by a government that penalized enlisted service and handsomely rewarded those who stifled their patriotic fervor until the danger was over. The theater noted numerous "natural jealousies" that arose between the two groups. The Wacs' chief complaint was not the pay or officers' mess and quarters, but the uniform, and the fear that the Corps' hard-won reputation for neatness and good conduct was rapidly vanishing in the eyes of the occupied nations and the American soldiers alike as a result of the way in which their uniform was worn by civilian women untrained in military customs and unsupervised as to appearance or living habits.

In addition to the civilian employees in WAC uniform, there were women movie stars, newspaperwomen, Congresswomen, society women, and the entire casts of traveling shows such as Panama Hattie. Further indignation was provoked when these women, as well as USO workers and nurses, got priority on the scanty WAC maintenance stocks, resulting in shortages to enlisted women. Also, civilians could date officers and attend officers' social functions. They had different housing standards, less restrictions, no inspections, and no company punishment. Though holding jobs similar to enlisted women's, their top salary was $745 a month as against the WAC maximum of $138.68


The theater also admitted that "occasionally there was a tendency to cater to the civilians in order to keep them happy and on the job, and on the other hand to delegate to WAC personnel in the same office the more difficult and less pleasant jobs and overtime work because they were military personnel and subject to orders." 69  When questioned by WAC officers concerning the necessity for this practice, ETO's Chief of Military Personnel replied: "The matter is a command function based on the overall view which probably the individual does not understand.70

The civilian women themselves were equally resentful. They felt that their quarters were often worse than the WAC officers' quarters, sometimes lacking in heat when WAC quarters were heated. Civilian personnel also lacked the many military benefits and provisions for morale-building recreation and entertainment that enlisted Wacs had. No system of hearing civilian women's complaints was set up until 1947, and no action was taken on them.71

It was in vain that WAC officers attempted to point out to the enlisted women that the fault lay in Congress' failure to draft women as well as men, thus forcing the Army to employ civilians to make up the deficit, and to grant extra privileges to attract them. The women's hostility remained unabated through the final days of the war, and was reflected in postwar refusal of former Wacs to accept civilian employment with the Army. As Wacs became eligible for discharge, the theater, with the War Department's approval, worked out a system that would permit former Wacs to transfer to civilian status and good civilian jobs in the Army of Occupation, but of more than 8,000 Wacs, only 126 chose to accept the offer. Neither did the majority desire to serve the Army any loner on military status.72

Social Association

A second policy problem; which became more noticeable in 1945 as a complication of the civilian importation, was that of the social association of officers and enlisted personnel of opposite sexes.73 Until American civilians arrived and began dating their section chiefs, Wacs had lived without too much objection under General Devers' written directive that the customs of the service would apply except to relatives and fiancÚs carrying letters of authorization. This prohibition, during the war months, was fairly well observed in the subordinate commands and in the rural areas, but was generally ignored in cities and higher headquarters because of the anonymity which couples could easily find in large cities such as London and Paris. Enlisted men made sporadic objections when Wacs dated officers, although believing that they themselves should be allowed to date nurses, but the relative abundance of dateable women in England prevented any real hard feeling.

It was only with the move to Germany and the end of the war that feelings on the subject became more intense. For the eighteen months after his return to Europe, General Eisenhower was not informed of his theater's policy in this


regard. After V-E Day he discovered it from "gripe letters" from Army nurses to Stars and Stripes, complaining that it would be less evil to go out with "good respectable privates" than with officers who were always married men. General Eisenhower asked what the "alleged regulation" was that prevented a nurse from going out with an enlisted man, and added, "What is all this?" Upon learning that the theater had a written restriction against social mixing, he wrote:

I want good sense to govern such things. Social contact between sexes on a basis that does not interfere with other officers or enlisted persons should have the rule of decency and deportment-not artificial barriers. 74

Colonel Wilson had not brought the matter to General Eisenhower's attention because she believed that distinction was advisable and had a basis in civilian life, where, "for example, no railway company exists in which section hands or brakemen expect or want social intimacy with the president of the company.75  In answer to General Eisenhower's query, Colonel Wilson recommended, with the concurrence of all subordinate Army commanders, that the current situation be allowed to continue. She informed General Eisenhower that Colonel Hobby favored such a policy, although actually the opposite was true.

Colonel Hallaren, upon assuming office as ETO WAC staff director, advocated a reversal of the policy. She felt that she spoke for the enlisted women, who still resented social discrimination, and that while Wacs probably would not take undue advantage of a relaxed policy, "they get claustrophobia with the door closed.76

In the commotion of demobilization, the theater commander failed to approve either proposal. Without rescinding the written ruling, he authorized establishment of an all-ranks restaurant in Paris where "mixed" couples could get food. Later, after civilian restaurants were opened, there was no particular problem for violators of the rule.

Policy on Marriage

Closely connected with the social association problem was that of marriage of military personnel. The theater's written orders were. "When two members of this command marry, thereafter either they will be stationed at widely separated posts, camps, or stations, or, when appropriate, one of the parties will be removed from the theater." 77  The orders applied only to nurses and Wacs, and not to American and Allied civilians and women of liberated countries. They directly contradicted the War Department circular, which stated that Wacs would not be transferred solely because of marriage to persons serving in the same station.78

The theater chaplain protested to General Eisenhower that, since engaged couples did not wish to be separated because of marriage, "a condition of concubinage" was resulting, and the WAC staff director put it more explicitly that "military couples lived together without the marriage ceremony for fear of being separated." General Eisenhower, upon reading these statements, personally reaffirmed his policy that "Persons in the military service will not be permitted to establish homes and families in this active theater."


Although medical reports indicated that "arbitrary separation of husbands and wives within the theater does not tend to reduce the incidence of pregnancy,"79  it was not until after the end of the war in Europe that the transfer requirement was relaxed. The WAC marriage rate at once quadrupled. Even so, a station was forbidden to allow married couples, military or civilian, to be domiciled together-a provision that later resulted in publication by an interested newspaper of a reprimand to an Army captain beginning, "It has come to the attention of this headquarters that you are living with your wife. This must cease at once.80

There were only 323 WAC marriages in the theater, of which all but eight were to Americans. Historians noted, "It has always been a rare sight in London to see a Wac with a member of any foreign service or with a civilian from any country other than her own." Women noted that "almost any man from the States seemed to think it was a crime for any Wac to cast more than a pleasant glance at a foreigner, when there were so many Americans in Europe who preferred American women . . . ." Likewise, the Wacs mixed less with the British civilian population. Reports noted:

Though a large majority of the Wacs were entertained in British homes, few of them visited these homes more than once or twice. Wacs were in a rather different position from that of the American men in the Army . . . .81

Public Relations

A last management problem, which was intensified with the close of hostilities, was that of WAC public relations. 82  Wacs in the European theater, like those in other overseas areas, never had a public relations problem in the sense that Wacs at home did, where they were constantly observed by critical American civilians. ETO Wacs generally encountered only respectful Continental audiences. However, war correspondents did their best to substitute for the home folks in this respect, from the day that the 1st WAC Separate Battalion landed and was met by thirty-eight correspondents and publicized in 600 newspapers. Press relations were so time-consuming that a WAC staff officer was installed in the ETO Public Relations Office, to cope with news requests. Here her work resolved itself chiefly into a struggle to produce favorable news releases faster than enterprising reporters could produce unfavorable ones.

On the credit side, the European theater quickly reached a volume of WAC news stories equaled by few others, in spite of disagreements with Washington as to a reasonable compromise between the capacity of cable facilities and the needs of recruiters in the United States. Because of the news value of overseas items, Director Hobby sent a WAC writer and a photographer to stimulate output, and later devoted much of her own 1944 visit to England to this purpose. The theater obligingly produced many general-interest stories on the WAC, plus home-town releases on almost every Wac in the theater. The WAC Public Relations Officer, Maj. Henriette Horak, also publicize events that would put the WAC in a good light:


the "adoption'" of British war orphans; visits of Wacs to Paris cathedrals; the story of the responsible work done by Wacs at the Postdam Conference and the Nuernberg trials. Stories were placed in Yank, Life, Vogue, and many others; newsreel coverage was obtained; Wacs were pictured with Generals Eisenhower, Smith, Doolittle, Eaker, Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee, and others.83  To promote GI-WAC friendship, much was made of the naming of a bomber the "Pallas Athene-GI Jane" and a locomotive the "WAC Blazer." By the machinations of the WAC Public Relations Officer, Wacs were slipped into Berlin ahead of other women to achieve a noteworthy "first." 84

The size of the theater nevertheless made it necessary for the WAC Public Relations Officer to decentralize control of releases to various lower echelons not having Wacs on their public relations staffs. The unfavorable stories that slipped by male public relations officers were all of one type: derogatory comments about Wacs by the soldiers, which reporters seemed to take especial pains to evoke. The WAC Public Relations Officer admitted that one of her "chief headaches" was "the antagonism between the Army male and the Army female." As a result, there were frequent releases such as one from Eighth Air Force headquarters, which consistently refused to accept a Wac public relations officer, "Soldiers Prefer English Girls to Wacs." 85

The worst releases of this type came toward the end of hostilities, when Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery's headquarters released a statement that numbers of the WAC and ATS would be sent into Germany to prevent soldiers from fraternizing with German women. The women's duties, said the story, were to act as dance partners, to chat, and to drink tea.86  This appeared in Stars and Stripes, in the London Daily Mail, and in the New York Times. The story was widely re printed in the United States; some writers and one radio religious hour stated that Wacs were being transferred to camps where men visited German brothels too often, and that the brothels were now being filled by Wacs.87

In the United States, the National Federation of Press Women asked that the War Department take a definite stand against this type of overseas "propaganda," but the head of the War Department Bureau of Public Relations took no action because, as he informed Director Hobby, "I think the statement [from Montgomery's headquarters] was well meant, even if poorly advised . . . I smell the needling by correspondents." 88  This type of release continued, fostered somewhat by soldier letters in the European theater Stars and Stripes, which in August of 1945 printed what United Press reporters called "a blizzard of bitter letters" from soldiers; this was also picked up in the United States.89


WAC recruiters in the United States lived in constant apprehension of these periodic outbursts, which got wide publicity because of public interest in overseas news. This particular problem never found a solution; even in the Army of Occupation damaging releases continued to be permitted and even originated by Army public relations officers.90  From the European theater viewpoint the problem had no great effect on WAC efficiency, although it did tend to hamper recruiting in the United States.

Post-hostilities Period

While the WAC's problems of public relations, civilian competition, and social discrimination were considered worthy of record by students of personnel management, they were not conspicuous in the general morale let-down that followed the end of hostilities in Europe, nor as serious as the social and moral problems of men in the occupation forces.

In this period, the efforts of the theater as a whole were turned toward the maintenance of morale and good conduct for both men and women. Women received furloughs and passes under the same rules as for men, were included in Information and Education plans, and were provided with facilities at selected leave areas. Wacs were generally less able to avail themselves of those facilities than were men, since most Wacs were employed in critical categories and could not be released by section chiefs to participate in programs designed mainly for idle troops. Wacs were permitted to take courses such as those at Shrivenham and Biarritz, but few were able to attend.

American Red Cross authorities had from the beginning endeavored to provide identical services for Wacs and enlisted men, but reported themselves handicapped by the attitude of their women field workers: "Many of the women approached [to run a WAC rest area) said they had come over to serve the men and not the women." 91  Clubs for enlisted women and WAC officers were eventually set up in London. After some delay, a WAC rest home was established near Oxford soon after the invasion, and moved to Nice after V-E Day; it proved extremely useful, since the Wacs had no convalescent hospitals.92  The men's program of return to the United States-Rehabilitation, Recuperation, and Recovery-was never applied to Wacs, because of their shorter length of service, although Colonel Wilson felt that if a small quota had been included in the program it would have aided morale.93

In this period various devices were employed by WAC commanders to help in sustaining morale: unit clubs; a relaxation of regimentation; athletic tournaments; the salvage of toys, food, and clothing for homeless children; and the hospital visitation program.


Colonel Wilson was not included in planning conferences for the Army of Occupation, but the theater planners determined independently to employ even


more Wacs than had been used in wartime. It was decided that 50.000 Wacs could be used in the Army of Occupation, but that in view of the size of the Corps, only 10,000 would be asked, these to be in addition to the thousands used by the Air Forces in Europe.

Further disagreement with the War Department followed as to the relative needs of the zone of the interior and the Army of Occupation. Theater representatives asked, in conference, "Why is it difficult to get personnel now? What are the Wacs doing over there that they can't be spared to come here as replacements?'' To this, War Department spokesmen replied that the administrative load of demobilization would fall on the United States, not the theater, and that "Wars [in Europe] gripe that there isn't enough work to do-that they would go in the Army of Occupation only for fraternization-they resent it.'' 94

The War Department therefore at first refused the request for more WAC personnel, stating:

The average limited service man in the United States has a much lesser degree of intelligence and effectiveness than the average Wac, and it would thus be most difficult to have limited service soldiers take over the jobs which Wacs are now performing. 95

The General Staff also objected that ex-combat returnees could not be traded for Wacs in the United States because the men had too high grades, were lacking in skills, or were temperamentally unsuited for the work.

Director Hobby did not take sides in the matter, other than to recommend that all or no requests be approved, in order that Wacs not be used in the Army of Occupation except in sufficient numbers to give them a "recognized status" and to make provisions for their health and supply economically justifiable. 96  Finally, a compromise was reached: the War Department refused to exclude the AAF's quota from the requested quota of 10.000, but agreed to raise the theater quota, including Air Forces, from 8,000 to 10,000-thus in effect permitting shipment of 2,000 more women.97

Shipments to supply the additional women had already begun when the onset of demobilization intervened. At this time the European theater used its unfilled WAC quota of 10,000 as an excuse for refusing to release women eligible for discharge, saying, "This personnel will necessarily be considered essential if the theater quota has not been reached, and will not be eligible to return to the Lone of the Interior.98

As in the Mediterranean theater, male replacements in the same skill and MOS were not considered acceptable. The War Department therefore took a step that would have forced return; it cut the theater quota from 10,000 to 6,000 on the basis of "other needs" elsewhere.99  The theater refused to comply; while returning a few women in unwanted skills, it informed the War Department that it had "frozen" the return of WAC stenographers and typists until WAC, and not male, replacements in these skills were received.

This proved a fruitless move, for after the defeat of Japan and the end of WAC


recruiting, the European theater, like all others, was informed that no more Wacs would go overseas. Soon after, the War Department forbade any theater to retain discharge eligibles, men or women, on the grounds of "military necessity.'" Thereafter, demobilization of nonvolunteer Wacs proceeded rapidly. The theater reported that the War Department's action "was a serious blow to the European theater, which considered Wacs its primary source of critically needed clerical and communications personnel, and [it] required the revision of plans for their utilization in the Army of Occupation.100


The statements of both theater commanders and the women themselves indicated that WAC service in the European theater was considered suitable and successful. General Eisenhower informed the War Department:

During the time I have had Wacs under my command they have met every test and task assigned them. I have seen them at work in . . . England, France, and at Army installations throughout the European Theater. Their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable. General Lee added, "The work of the organization has been superior." The Chief Signal Officer, Maj. Gen. William S. Rumbough, called their work with the Signal Corps "superior." Maj. Gen. Willard S. Paul, G-1 of ETO, reported, "I have received nothing but the highest praise for the results you have achieved.101

The Air Forces in the theater added similar praise. General Spaatz of USSTAF stated:
The WAC has been of inestimable value . . . . Its members have worked devotedly, often at arduous tasks requiring exceptional performance.102

General Eaker later added:
Women made, in my opinion, the best soldiers in the war. I feel that Wacs should be retained as part of the postwar military plans.103

The Air Forces in the theater summarized their conclusions concerning WAC employment favorably:
Wacs proved much less of a problem than had been envisaged . . . . It was found that Wacs could live under conditions substantially the same as those of male personnel . . . . Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Wacs was their triumph over the prejudices of the male military mind. The half-amused, half-scornful attitude of some officers in responsible positions was not justified by the performance of the Wacs. A balanced judgment would find that the Wacs have been deserving of any extra time and effort which might have had to be expended on them because of their sex.104

The verdict of the Wacs themselves was also favorable. The life of a Wac in the European theater was obviously superior with regard to housing, recreation, sightseeing, and the absence of kitchen police and other work details. ETO Wacs were more smartly and warmly dressed than Wacs elsewhere. They had experienced the morale lift of constant forward movement to new and exciting areas, as opposed to the tedium of years at one station in the United States; the element of shared dangers had added to Corps esprit. Also, in spite of the poor start in obtaining appropriate ratings, ETO Wacs by the end of the war had more than twice as high a percentage of the first three grades


as did Wacs in the United States, even though they still had only half as many high ratings as ETO air force men.105 WAC officers also had twice as high a percentage in the grades of major and captain as did those in the United States. 106

Awards and decorations were plentiful. Besides three presidential citations, there were about two hundred Bronze Stars and a few other decorations, and the percentage of women receiving the Legion of Merit was considerably higher than that in the United States.107  As a result of all these advantages, ETO Wacs were distinctly proud of their period of service, and upon discharge frequently protested turning in their battle jackets, the only means of distinguishing themselves from the 92 percent of the Women's Army Corps that had not been sent to Europe.108

On the other hand, only a fraction so small that it was not recorded volunteered to stay in Europe, either as Wacs or civilians, beyond the date of discharge eligibility. Only 30 percent said they would later be interested in joining an inactive WAC reserve if one should be created.109  Theater surveys by ETO Special Services Division, attempting to find out how many women would stay, started much unrest and eventually caused Congressional investigation of charges of undue influence in forcing women to volunteer.110  One such allegation stated, "Their officers want to keep the Wacs overseas but the girls themselves do not want to stay." 111 However, while asking discharge, some 63 percent of enlisted women and 85 percent of WAC officers preferred to stay in the theater until eligible for discharge, instead of again serving in the United States.

The approval of both ETO Wacs and the theater commanders of the conditions of WAC service, as they had known it in England and Europe, was to have an effect upon the future of the Corps far beyond that which might have been expected from their small numbers. From Colonel Wilson and theater commanders there came repeated and enthusiastic recommendations that Congress be asked to provide for "the inclusion of women as an integral part of . . . the Regular Army and Reserve Corps." These recommendations were later to be revived when the postwar War Department and the Director's Office were taken over by new staffs from the European theater. At that stage, WAC demobilization plans were to be reversed, and the Army of Occupation was to receive its Wacs. At that time also Generals Eisenhower, Devers, Spaatz, and Eaker were to spearhead the successful drive to ask Congress to continue the Women's Army Corps in the peacetime Regular Army. 112


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