The Army Ground Forces
Although equal in echelon to the Army Air Forces, the Army Ground Forces offered a less favorable field for the employment of womanpower.1 Ground Forces units were chiefly tactical in nature, depending upon the Army Service Forces for supply and other services. Except for its schools and replacement depots, the AGF had few permanent installations under its jurisdiction in the United States. There was some early debate within AGF headquarters as to whether Waacs could not be used to staff the rear echelons of separate corps, thus giving "a continuity of administration in the event a Corps is ordered overseas," but this idea was not approved. In general the WAAC was regarded as part of the Services of Supply, even when a few units were attached for duty at AGF installations.
It therefore came as an unexpected problem when, on 1 May 1943, the War Department formally assigned to AGF and other commands the units previously on loan from the ASK The standard ASF Table of Organization units were not particularly suitable for the needs of the AGF, since most routine services were performed for it by the ASF, and only highly skilled typists and stenographers were wanted.
Upon her assignment as AGF WAC Officer during the period of conversion to Army status, Maj. Emily E. Davis visited all AGF 'WAC units and found that the only one with good morale was that at Fort Riley, which had been sent out after the end of the T/O system and thus fitted the needs of the station. Others suffered from malassignment and underutilization, and also had not received full uniform issue or been able to get salvage or repair of clothing. Some units were found to lack adequate housing and dayroom space, and had no recreational or special services program. Two units were under the command of WAC officers whom Major Davis pronounced "very weak" and immediately replaced; in three months these commanders had not made the most elementary arrangements for the welfare of the units.
For the remainder of the war the employment of Wacs in the AGF increased slowly. Replacements for the 34 percent losses of the conversion period were not forthcoming until early 1944, and additional requisitions were at first few. AGF headquarters voluntarily limited the number of Wacs by refusing all requests from the District of Columbia or installations "which are near large cities where they can procure civilian personnel." Requests from installations such as the Desert Training Center were also disapproved as unsuitable. Negro Wacs were rejected, since it was believed that they could not
FIRST OFFICER EMILY E. DAVIS, right foreground, with Colonel Hobby and Colonel McCoskrie on a tour of Fort Des Moines in June 1943.
be employed in sufficient numbers to justify a detachment unless the War Department reconsidered their use to replace civilians in the operation of kitchens, dining halls, and cafeterias. For these reasons, the total number of AGF Wacs was never to be very great, at its peak strength amounting to less than 2,000, one twentieth of that employed by the Air Forces or the Service Forces. 2
Lt. Col. Emily E. Davis remained the sole WAC representative in Headquarters, AGE Although her responsibility was parallel to that of the Air WAC Officer, smaller numbers of women were assigned to AGF, which never approved her request for an assistant in its own headquarters. At a later date a WAC staff director was assigned to the AGF's largest field command, the Replacement and School Command, and another to the Antiaircraft Command.
WOMEN ASSIGNED TO THE ARMY GROUND FORCES work alongside soldiers at Camp Dams, North Carolina, above; WAAC ex-school teachers outline courses for the enlisted personnel elementary school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, below.
AGF WAC Jobs
Wacs with the Army Ground Forces worked gradually into positions more diversified than the original assignments had promised. AGF requisitions continued to ask for women with a high degree of skill in some administrative or technical field, with the result that only 14 percent of its total enlisted women were in the two lowest AGCT classifications; the other 86 percent were in the top three groups, with 47 percent of enlisted women having the scores required of officers. These considerably surpassed the scores of Wacs in any other domestic command. A special arrangement was made whereby, if the AGF was accidentally assigned a Wac lacking in skill or aptitude, she was immediately reassigned to another command.
These women gravitated naturally toward a station's more responsible positions, especially since they were relatively more permanent employees than the enlisted men, not being subject to withdrawal for combat service. Wacs were finally assigned to every major training installation of the Army Ground Forces, both schools and replacement training centers: infantry, cavalry, field artillery, coast artillery, antiaircraft, tank destroyer, airborne, and armored force. They were also assigned to two overseas-replacement depots. Over 70 percent of the Wacs' jobs in these installations were clerical and administrative; others were technical, professional, mess, supply, or automotive.3
|Type of Duty
|Administrative and Clerical
|Technical and Professional
|Radio and Communications
One of the largest AGF WAC units was at the Ground Forces Replacement Depot, Fort Meade, Maryland, where over 400 women were assigned. To handle the tremendous volume of overseas replacements, a "belt line" process was established, by which each man's records were passed down a line where each checker took care of a single item. This process resulted in extreme accuracy but extreme monotony; it was performed on a twenty-four-hour basis, in shifts of from eight to twelve hours, depending on the load. It was reported that "WAC personnel became proficient in this type of operation, and as general-service men were released for overseas duty, they became the section heads of many of these processing departments."
In addition, many Wacs were used in training regiments in clerical capacities. WAC tabulating machine operators were in great demand by the Machine Records Unit, so much so that some showing aptitude were especially trained in the work, but the total number desired was never obtainable. Instead, many of the women recruited under the station-and-job plan with a promise of assignment to Fort Meade were so lacking in clerical aptitude as to be untrainable for the processing of papers, and 115 of them were used in the motor pool as dispatchers, drivers, mechanics, and attendants.
Antiaircraft Artillery School
In the Antiaircraft Command Wacs performed a variety of duties on the firing ranges where trainees here taught the
principles of antiaircraft defense. At some antiaircraft firing points the entire training operation, with the exception of technical supervision by male officers, was handled by enlisted women: WAC control tower operators kept the tow-target plane on the course, while other Wacs gave the fire signal over the field telephone, and WAC mathematicians computed the correct angle of fire and the accuracy of fire.
Other AGF Schools
At the Field Artillery School, a few Wacs were used as control tower operators to guide liaison planes. At the Armored, Field Artillery, and Cavalry Schools, Wacs were employed as radio mechanics, taking care of records and requisitions involving radio equipment, and repairing and installing radios in tanks, bantams, and other vehicles, both in camps and in bivouac areas. Other Wacs were radio operators and instructors in the Cavalry and Armored Schools, and in the communications school of the Field Artillery School, training men in code sending and receiving.
At the Parachute School, Fort Benning, Georgia, over one hundred women were utilized in the parachute rigging and maintenance sections. Women originally recruited for this work, under the station-and-job plan, were former textile mill workers and did not prove very apt, some 40 percent being unable to complete the training, with the average female rigger being able to rig only six chutes daily, as compared to ten rigged by the average man. Women were not allowed to jump with the chutes they had packed, as men were required to do, on the grounds that this was not an essential part of the job for a woman, but were allowed to fly with paratrooper trainees and watch them jump with chutes the women had packed. After station-assignment recruiting was discontinued and the requirements raised, women developed greater proficiency in this work and ultimately were considered "equally qualified with male personnel in rigging and better qualified in maintenance."
Women served also at various stations in such varied jobs as proofreaders on technical manuals, as photographic technicians, as sewing machine operators in a book stitching shop, as translators for the preparation of language courses, and as motion picture projectionists in training classes. One woman, as chief clerk of a department, was responsible for keeping track of its officer and enlisted personnel and 300 trainees, for checking the contents of all incoming and outgoing papers, for the computation of rations needed, and for maintaining records of completion of qualification courses. Another, a classification clerk, assigned all male cadre returned from overseas. One was personal secretary to two generals and a colonel. Another secretary prepared reports and took all testimony concerning cases brought before a board of officers.
Staff directors on field visits made a point of checking such job assignments against actual skills. While typists were usually well assigned, stenographers were frequently found to be dissatisfied, and staff directors reported, "The failure of staff officers to use stenographic ability persisted through the entire period of the war." Many complained of not being busy, saying, "I feel that the Wacs could handle much more work than is given them;" or, "It is said there are five persons to each Army job and that statement seems believable." With these and a few
other exceptions, the classification of enlisted women was, by 1945, pronounced "excellent" by the staff director.
Experiment With Mixed Tactical Units
The only official experiment with mixed tactical units in the United States was the early one made with antiaircraft artillery units under the actual command of the Military District of Washington. This experiment was made in spite of the objection of the Judge Advocate General that it would involve "assignment to combat units" and was thus probably illegal. However, the British experience in such mixed units had proved satisfactory, and the Antiaircraft Artillery (AAA) desired the action.4 Civilian volunteers would otherwise have been required, and this involved difficulties of administration, discipline, control, and efficiency. Also, as the Army Service Forces noted, "it takes about ten volunteers to take the place of one soldier." 5
No publicity was permitted on this project, partly because the unit was itself highly secret in nature, equipped with radar, height finders, fire directors, and other such apparatus, and partly lest WAAC recruiting should be harmed by mistaken notions that women were to fire guns or sleep in the men's barracks. The experiment actually offered little grounds for alarm, for the "tactical" unit in question appeared firmly rooted in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., and was "mixed" only during the working day, the Waacs enjoying their customary separate housekeeping at night.
In accordance with General Marshall's verbal instructions, two WAAC companies, totaling 10 officers and over 200 enrolled women, reported to the area in December 1942. With these, the AAA was directed to organize two composite batteries using women in at least 55 percent of the jobs, and to work out cables of Organization showing exactly which jobs in AAA batteries, battalions, and regiments could be held by women, and whether the whole idea was workable.
The women concerned were carefully selected for their high AGCT test scores, although actually the AAA discovered that women of less ability could have performed certain routine jobs as well and felt less bored. They were never assigned a tactical mission, but did participate in the Eastern Defense Command's tactical problem. The women were not assigned to fire guns, nor were they given small-arms training. They were not assigned to outlying searchlight positions because of the isolation and the fact that the public would have observed the experiment. They were assigned to operate various instruments and machines, as well as to perform clerical duties, and the entire range section was completely manned by Waacs. The AAA reported, "WAAC personnel exhibited an outstanding devotion to duty, willingness and ability to absorb and grasp technical information concerning the problems of maintenance and tactical disposition of all types of equipment." Little administrative difficulty was reported, although separate housing was of course required, and there were separate dayrooms for men and women plus one for mixed groups.
At the conclusion of the experiment some months later, a full report was rendered to the War Department as to the possibilities of using women in such duties. The report concluded:
WAAC personnel can be used in performing many of the tasks of the Antiaircraft Artillery. They are superior to men in all functions involving delicacy of manual dexterity, such as operation at the director, height finder, radar, and searchlight control systems. They perform routine repetitious tasks in a manner superior to men .... The morale of women used in the AAA was generally high due to the fact that they felt that they were making a direct contribution to the successful prosecution of the war.6
As a result, the AAA requested that it be allowed to retain WAAC personnel and be given ten times more, to the extent of 103 officers and 2,315 enrolled women.
Since the need for antiaircraft protection in the area had subsided, G-3 Division decided instead that the most profitable immediate use for Waacs was in overhead installations to replace combat fit men. With Colonel Hobby's concurrence, G-3 therefore directed that the AAA units be dissolved, their personnel reassigned, and records preserved to permit reactivation of such units should future need arise. This action was taken, over the protest of the AAA. Records were filed for future use, and G-3 Division concluded that "The experiment which has been conducted of employing WAAC personnel in antiaircraft artillery units has demonstrated conclusively the practicability of using members of the Corps in that role." 7
Problems of Full Integration
Except in the one tactical unit, considerably more difficulty was encountered in achieving full integration of women into the Army Ground Forces than was the case in the AAF. From the enlisted women's viewpoint, the most visible distinction was the matter of insignia, in which it was the Ground Forces policy for women to wear WAC insignia instead of that which would have been worn by a man in the same assignment.
A more important handicap to integration, in the AGF staff director's opinion, was her inability to secure a merger of personnel allotments. Although allotments from the War Department no longer were divided into male and female, AGF headquarters continued to divide them, setting aside for each WAC detachment the exact number of grades the old WAAC Table of Organization had specified. These were designed for an ordinary ASF unit with many unskilled workers, and were somewhat modest for the average highly skilled AGF unit, allowing only 5 or 6 in each unit of 150 to hold one of the first three grades, and requiring about 80 to remain privates. These grades, however modest, were the sole property of the Wacs and were not interchangeable. Stations soon protested this lack of flexibility. The Armored Replacement Training Center wrote:
When we first received this company it was felt that our women were not qualified for the ratings in competition with the men, and our staff officers desired to give the ratings to men, which of course, we could not do. Now, with our expansion, the reverse is true . . . there are 41 privates in the WAC detachment, and we feel that most of these would be T/5's if all our ratings were pooled and they were in direct competition with the
men .... Eventually our most competent administrative personnel will undoubtedly be women; some thought should be given to this and the War Department should initiate some policy.
The AGF WAC Officer therefore recommended that no separate grades be allotted for women, except cadre, but that grades be open to men and women alike. AGF's G-3 did not concur, and its system was continued throughout the war, with the modification that a revision of the WAC allotment could be obtained by any station upon formal request to Headquarters, AGE Concerning this, AGF's Replacement and School Command protested that "such a recommendation requires extra paper work and loss of time. Normally, changes will be made only when a number of desired changes have accumulated, and individuals deserving of higher grades suffer from the lapse of time." AGF Replacement Depot 1 sent a similar protest. These protests from the field convinced AGF's G-1 Division, but not G-3, which maintained:
Since WAC personnel are in a more permanent status . . . and since they are used in large proportions in administrative Job assignments where higher ratings tend to be concentrated, the proposed directive will tend to filter WAC personnel toward the higher grades and will exclude opportunity for male personnel returning from combat who may be qualified for such jobs. Although opportunity should be given all WAC personnel to qualify for promotion, it is believed that the present system should be continued as a means of control.
The separate allotments were therefore continued. This matter of ratings was
a common cause of complaint among women. One wrote:
Many Wacs have taken over positions vacated by enlisted men and are performing the duties well, but due to current directives cannot be promoted to the grade they are occupying .... I believe that a Wac should be given the grade which belongs to the job.
The actual result of this policy was the opposite of that expected. As large numbers of highly rated men were returned from overseas, all male grade allotments were soon exceeded and male promotions were frozen, whereas Wacs, with a separate allotment and few WAC returnees, still received promotions. AGF Wacs soon came to have higher ratings than those in any other domestic command. Even so, the AGF WAC Officer continued to recommend that allotments be merged, saying that to promote AGF Wacs when men working with them in identical jobs could not be promoted "obviously had unfair implications from a practical point of view in the field."
Well after the end of the war, in October of 1945, Colonel Davis finally obtained publication of her 1943 recommendations: "Grades for enlisted men and enlisted women, other than detachment overhead, will be interchangeable without reference to this headquarters."
In the opinion of AGF staff directors, the failure to integrate womanpower, either in insignia or in grades, caused some loss of esprit among AGF Wacs. One enlisted woman wrote, "If the Army Ground Forces wants us to like it, why not give us an incentive?" Another said, "I am sorry to say that the girls in the other branches of the Service appear to have more to do, more responsible work, and are given more credit for the jobs they do." Like men serving under the same conditions, many objected to the more severe AGF discipline. One wrote, "I believe the Wacs in the AGF are disciplined far more than the Air Wacs and Service Force Wacs," and another added, "I cannot understand why we have less privileges and more severe discipline than the Air
and Service Force Wacs. Restrictions concerning bed check, uniforms, dating officers, are more rigidly enforced, bordering in some cases on downright pettiness and hair-splitting."
One of the Ground Forces' characteristics that women found peculiarly objectionable was its policy of permitting very little transfer or rotation for women, and almost no overseas assignment. When the War Department directed the release of women for shipment overseas, the newest arrivals on a station were usually sent, partly because their low ratings fitted the requisitions, and partly because they were not as yet highly trained and indispensable.
One woman wrote, "Wacs do not rotate every year as the enlisted men do; the coveted overseas assignments go to the lower-ranking women, so here we sit year in and year out, same post, same job, which might account for our sinking morale." Dozens of women supported this view; one added, "as a matter of fact, this detachment has begun to be known as the Lost Battalion." Many who had no desire to go overseas believed that rotation of some sort was desirable. One enlisted woman summarized the general lack of esprit by concluding that "the lack of imagination on the part of some of the Regular Army men and their failure to understand that morale is based, among other things, on recognition of ability and the proper reward for such ability, has undoubtedly played a big part in the failure of the AGF WAC recruiting drive."
Effect of Manpower Shortages
Toward the end of the war, there began to be evident in the AGF a noticeable improvement in the integration of female military personnel. In part this change originated with the commanders of AGF installations in the United States at the time of severe personnel shortages. The manpower shortages of late 1943 and 1944 found the Ground Forces in the worst personnel situation of any major command, eventually requiring the emergency transfer of thousands of men from the Air Forces and Service Forces. At this time, and especially when the War Department required the shipment overseas of all general service men, many AGF stations began to show increased interest in obtaining WAC units. There was by this date little prospect of obtaining them, because of recruiting difficulties and increased competition from other commands.
The War Department's decision was that incoming WAC recruits would be divided among the three major commands according to the number of requisitions on file from each; the AGF's requisitions being less than 3 percent of the total, only 3 of every 100 women recruited were sent to AGE This trickle was reduced still further when the War Department authorized branch recruiting, since the Army Ground Forces did not at first elect to recruit. In the first four months of 1944, the Ground Forces got only 20 branch recruits, as against the Air Forces 5,000; in addition, some 3,000 women enlisted without promise of a branch, and of these the AGF got only 3 percent, or about 90 women.
The AGF considered the assignment of recruiters as wasteful, and turned to efforts to get more Wacs without expenditure. First, the War Department was persuaded to give the AGF some 100 Wacs left surplus when the Eastern Defense Command was inactivated. Next, in April of 1944, the AGF requested the War Department to give it 8 percent instead of 3 percent of
all recruits. This the War Department refused to do, since the increase would have meant a reduction in the shipments to other commands which had earlier demonstrated faith in Wacs and had made their housing plans accordingly.8
In July, the Army Ground Forces appealed again to the General Staff for a "more equitable distribution," asking that it be given almost all of the general assignment recruits, which were then being divided among the three major commands. This was opposed by other commands and by The Adjutant General, who pointed out that it would penalize the AAF and ASF, which had sent out recruiting teams when the AGF had not. However, it was agreed to grant the AGF a special favor, in recognition of its manpower shortages; it might recruit for job and branch in all service commands, whether it had a station there or not.9 AGF now at last assigned small numbers of its own personnel to obtain recruits, and sent out station teams under the station-and-job recruiting system. The teams did not prove particularly adept at selection, and the desired type of recruit was not always obtained until after the station-assignment plan was ended.
As AGF personnel shortages continued, the War Department was finally obliged to increase its quota from 3,690 to 7,500, thus giving it a larger share of incoming recruits.10 In early 1945 it was necessary to give AGF a further concession: that of dropping the previous system of apportionment of recruits, and acceding to the Ground Forces' request not only for top priority on WAC recruits but for the first choice on the scarce clerical skills. By this means, stenographers, typists, and clerks were diverted from other commands and sent to fill the AGF quota.
At the time of the Ground Forces' greatest crisis, the Battle of the Bulge, AGF WAC units were ordered withdrawn from its less active stations, such as those of the Antiaircraft Command, and rushed to stations where a heavy load was expected, particularly to combat infantry replacement training installations.11
Wacs also were relied upon in the great overseas replacement depot at Fort Meade, where it was stated that the women now "formed the backbone of the administrative organization of the installation, particularly since enlisted men in the headquarters were comparatively new because of the enforced rotation policies for men established by the War Department." Immediately after V-E Day, the women at Fort Meade were hastily transferred across the country to Replacement Depot 4 at Camp Adair, Oregon, to meet the expected heavy shipments to the Pacific. When V-J Day halted the expected rush of replacements westward and the west coast depot was inactivated, the Wacs were promptly shipped back to Replacement Depot 1, now at Camp Pickett, upon the insistence of the commanding officer of that installation.
At about this time the last major headquarters refusing to use Wacs-Army Ground Forces headquarters in Wash-
ington, D. C.-also yielded to the problem of the shortage of expert clerical help, and brought enlisted women into Washington. These women quickly became an integral part of a number of offices, so that the headquarters decided to retain them permanently and move them with it to Fort Monroe.
The close of the war was to see a complete reversal of original policy, with the Army Ground Forces taking the lead in urging a postwar WAC component, and spearheading the demand for a Regular Army WAC. "The services of these women proved of direct assistance in winning the war," observed one staff study, "A far greater number could have been effectively employed." Another study alleged: "Economical, efficient, and spirited results are achieved in military installations where both male and female personnel are on duty."
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