The Army Service Forces
The Army's third major command, the Army Service Forces, had by mid-1944 been assigned some 40 percent of the WAC's enlisted women, including training center cadre. Upon the departure of Colonel Hobby's office for the General Staff level, the position of ASF WAC Officer was established, parallel to that of Colonel Bandel in the Army Air Forces and Colonel Davis in the Army Ground Forces. The first and only incumbent was Lt. Col. Katherine R. Goodwin, formerly staff director of the First Service Command and personnel officer in the Office of the Director WAC. Her office was located in that of the ASF Director of Personnel, General Dalton, but she had advisory powers direct to General Somervell on nonpersonnel matters. Because of its late beginning and because the ASF did not desire separate statistical studies for women, Colonel Goodwin's office had only one assistant.1
In the field, each of the nine service commands and the Military District of Washington continued to have its own WAC staff director. For a time the staff director's office was under the service command's director of personnel, until later raised by an ASF circular to the immediate office of the commanding general of the service command. In those commands which Colonel Goodwin considered the most successful in recruiting and public relations, notably the Third and Seventh, the staff director also conducted periodic conferences of WAC company officers and recruiters in the area in order to improve efficiency and spread the latest information on personnel practices.2
The numbers of Wacs assigned to each service command varied greatly, from scarcely more than 1,000 in the First to 2,000 in the Eighth and more than 4,000 in the Fourth, which operated a training center. In general these were organized in regular post headquarters companies which, although no longer required to be identical, contained similar clerical and administrative personnel to help staff the post.3
|Military District of Washington
a Including training center.
LT COL. KATHERINE R. GOODWIN (center) visits the Signal Corps photographic laboratory at Camp Hood, Texas, August 1914.
Other Wacs were allotted directly to the various ASF technical services such as the Signal Corps, for duty on Class II installations under the jurisdiction of the technical service, although located within the service command. Each of these services ordinarily had a WAC staff director, and sometimes several, as in the case of the Transportation Corps and its various ports. The ASF administrative services, such as The Adjutant General's Department, seldom had staff directors or assigned WAC personnel, since they had few if any Class II installations; personnel in their specialty was ordinarily assigned as part of post headquarters companies.
In this far-flung organization, existing records gave little clue to the exact jobs filled by Wacs and the exact numbers of Wacs in each job. Wacs on Class II installations, such as those of the Signal Corps, might accurately be assumed to be working for that service, but not all were necessarily in communications duties. Similarly, Wacs in post headquarters companies might be working for the post headquarters, but they might also be in sub-offices of the administrative services, such as the post judge advocate, or in Quartermaster Corps, Signal Corps, Medical Corps, or other technical work not under the technical services allotment.
Even though exact statistics thus were never gathered, it was known that the Army Service Forces, as its name implied, offered large numbers of noncombat jobs intrinsically suitable for women, and that Wacs at the height of the war had worked their way into a wide variety of them. Especially from the individual administrative and technical services, some conclusions could be obtained as to the relative success and suitability of the duties.
The Signal Corps
The first of the Army Service Forces' agencies to request Wacs was, according to its own undisputed claims, the Signal Corps.4 Even in World War I the Chief Signal Officer reported:
Our experience in Paris with the untrained and undisciplined English-speaking French women operators and experience elsewhere with the willing but untrained men operators was almost disastrous. The remarkable change in the character of the service at General Headquarters and other points when the American women operators took over was one of the features of the Signal Corps work of the times.5
In spite of this early enthusiasm, the Signal Corps experienced numerous delays and difficulties in launching a successful program to employ Waacs in World War II. In part this early delay resulted from a strong distrust of the Auxiliary status. In the earliest conferences the chief exponent of this view was Col. Henry L. P. King, Military Personnel Branch, Office of the Chief Signal Officer, who feared loss of trained personnel if the WAAC Director had command powers. In addition to seeking assignment and transfer control, the Signal Corps asked that the women wear Signal Corps insignia, that their units be designated Signal Corps and not WAAC, and that communications training be given by the Signal Corps and not by WAAC training centers.
Such proposals for integration were deemed by the War Department illegal under the Auxiliary status, with the exception of the matter of technical training. WAAC Headquarters proved agreeable to abandoning its plans for a communications specialists school at WAAC training centers in order that the Signal Corps might send qualified personnel to whatever Signal Corps schools were indicated. The Director also gave reassurance that -as was later to be demonstrated- she would never move any such unit, once assigned. At this, the Chief Signal Officer expressed in writing his appreciation of the concession and added:
It is felt that as a result of the co-operation given . . . by the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, the way has been opened for the release of needed enlisted men to field units and for a more extensive use of WAAC personnel.6
Proceeding with enthusiasm, the Signal Corps not only requisitioned Waacs for its Class II installations, but requested that all service commands be directed to requisition Waacs in every one of certain listed communications duties under their jurisdiction. Additional sweeping estimates were submitted to the Army Service Forces, as they had been periodically since the WAAC was organized, proposing to use women in literally every Signal Corps activity, from mixed tactical units to pigeon companies.7
The most important immediate proposal was that the WAAC aid in what came to be called the WIRES plan (Women in Radio and Electrical Service). Currently enrolled in Signal Corps schools were some 30,000 civilians, receiving free training and allowances during three- to six-month courses in radio and switchboard operation and related skills. Men in such courses were in the enlisted reserve and could be called to active duty upon successful graduation, but women graduates were necessarily hired as civilians, with the possibility that once trained they would seek better-paid jobs elsewhere. Use of the WAAC inactive reserve thus appeared a logical solution, and was generally agreeable to the women; a group at one school organized themselves as the first WIRES and appealed to Director Hobby to admit them. Upon the request of the Signal Corps, WAAC officers were dispatched to make necessary arrangements.8
Unsuitable Organizations and Locations
These extensive plans were shortly checked by the discovery that, while most Signal Corps jobs were perfectly suitable in themselves, they could not be given to Waacs without violation of numerous War Department policies on assignments for women. Since most Signal Corps jobs on Army posts were performed by civilians, the Signal Corps informed the Director that it would be necessary to rescind the ruling that Waacs would not replace civilians. There were also about 1,500 Signal Corp enlisted men who might have been replaced, but these were in small scattered detachments, the majority at stations where no WAAC unit existed. Therefore, the Signal Corps also asked the War Department to rescind the ruling that enlisted women would not be sent to any station without a WAAC barracks and commander for their adequate housing, supply, and protection.9
Both of these efforts were unsuccessful, since neither of these policies was ever to be relaxed by the War Department. Another point of dispute was the fact that Waacs, as civilians, could be assigned only to a WAAC unit and not to the Signal Corps; thus, the assignment of Signal trained Waacs was a prerogative of the post commander and not the Signal Corps, and the WAAC Director could not guarantee their correct assignment.
On the other hand, the Signal Corps insisted that the WAAC must "guarantee them assignment on a communications basis and none other," and Colonel King wrote, "Tell the WAAC that since Signal
Corps money is being used to train Wires we mean to keep same either as civil service employees or Wacks.10
Colonel King therefore returned to efforts to secure transfer of command from the Director to the Signal Corps, in the belief that the Signal Corps could then assign Waacs to replace civilians and to stations without WAAC companies. He wrote memoranda and made personal visits to most of the other technical and administrative services, urging their concerted action against the War Department policies involved. Securing the agreement of some, and noncommittal replies from others, he then attempted to call an ASF conference to force the issue.11
The Army Service Forces did not comply with the request, since it was at the time awaiting General Staff decisions as to the Corps' future status and size, and was unable to give the Signal Corps much more satisfaction than had WAAC Headquarters. At this time the Signal Corps noted, "The situation became so complicated that it was not known how requisitions were to be submitted, or how to procure Waacs for any type of installation under the Chief Signal Officer."12
Such squabbles over maximum replacement proved doubly futile, in that the numbers of WAAC recruits were never to be such as to warrant extension of employment to questionable locations or to replace civilians. The immediate result was that the Signal Corps delayed in opening its schools to Waacs, the WIRES plan lagged for some six months without action, and the Signal Corps established only the schools already agreed upon three radio schools at civilian institutions, to provide radio operators for the AAF.
Thus, the first WAAC communications specialists to reach the field went in post headquarters units and-other than radio operators-without Army training in Signal skills, relying wholly upon their civilian background. Recruiters continued to accept volunteers in Signal skills, and training centers to send them out, without much knowledge of actual needs.13
Signal Duties in the Field
Among the first communications specialists to reach the field were the bilingual telephone operators in the first overseas unit, which reached North Africa in January of 1943. Two WAAC officers also went to the Eighth Air Force in England, even before arrival of the European theater staff director, to plan for Signal Corps Waacs in that command. A considerable percentage of the first WAAC unit to reach England consisted of telephone operators and other communications personnel, sent with the approval of the Chief Signal Officer but without Army technical training.
At about this time, the first units began to reach the Signal Corps' own installations in the United States. First to arrive,
in March of 1943, were units assigned to Camp Crowder, Missouri, which by the end of the WAAC totaled some 489 enrolled women and 100 officers. Another unit under Signal Corps control went to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, in June, and still others were on requisition. However, most women in these units were not technical specialists, but clerical and overhead workers to aid in running the schools.14
From the first there was no doubt of these units' success in the assigned duties. In Allied Headquarters in North Africa, the assistant chief signal officer stated:
The manner in which they picked up the work was outstanding. . . Had we had enough of them, we could have used them to operate all our fixed communications installations-telephones and telegraph-throughout the rear areas. Every one . . . released some man for Signal Corps duty up in the combat zone.
The former chief signal officer of the AAF in North Africa added:
Don't tell me a woman can't keep a secret. Why, their own company commander doesn't even know where the board is located-we've tested the girls again and again.15
The Chief Signal Officer, Maj. Gen. Dawson Olmstead, on a visit to the area, was informed by the theater commander that approximately 1,300 more Signal Corps Waacs in ten different specialties would be required if obtainable. The same good reports were received from the European theater, where, after a one-week indoctrination course, 100 WAAC telephone operators were assigned to operate multiple switchboards at five command headquarters. The officer in charge reported, "Very soon I received praise of the improved service, as the good results were noticed almost immediately."16
Another early success was the participation of twenty-nine WAC telephone operators in the Quebec Conference in August of 1943. Rushed from train to switchboard, the women were on continuous duty for eighteen hours and doubled as secretaries and stenographers when a shortage of these occurred. After seventeen days of secret duty, each member received an individual commendation. Wacs also served successfully on the switchboards at the Cairo Conference and the Potsdam Conference.17
Requests from Signal officers in the United States continued to indicate an urgent need for more Waacs, since current directives required release of their general service men. Civilian replacements were scarce, and available limited service men often were unsuitable.18 In general such requests also indicated a desire for Signal Corps technical training for the women. In England the using agencies, desiring teletypists, had been obliged to train WAAC typists in the theater, which they protested was a task more properly assumed by the Signal Corps in the United States. Studies showed that women could, with training, fill seventy-eight different Signal Corps jobs. Therefore, in May of 1943, Brig. Gen. Henry 1.. P. King's successor, Col. Duncan Hodges, put the long-delayed WIRES plan into effect. The women were to be trained first in Signal Corps duties in an inactive WAAC status, and then sent to basic training. Objectives were set at some 2,000
QUEBEC CONFERENCE, AUGUST 1943
women, the first of whom reported in late May to a training course at the State Teachers' College at Livingston, Alabama, with eleven other schools scheduled for later opening.19
Effect of Army Status
The Signal Corps was highly pleased by the WAC's new Army status and the system of assignment, instead of attachment, to the using command. Signal Corps Wacs could now be assigned to the signal service company and not to the post, while the simultaneous multiplication of WAC units in the field made it possible to attach these women to existing companies in adequate numbers without violating War Department housing policy. On the other hand, Army status wrecked plans for WIRES training, since the new WAC legislation provided for no inactive reserve component. A mere 276 women were already in schools; these were given a choice of discharge or enlistment, and all enlisted.
The Signal Corps immediately began to seek some other system of earmarking acceptable recruits in order to retain Signal Corps control of qualified women during their basic training. For this purpose, the newly devised plan for branch recruiting appeared made to order, and it was with some disappointment that the Signal Corps received the Army Service Forces' decision not to join the AAF in branch recruiting at this time. The disappointment was alleviated within a few months by the authorization for station-and-job recruiting, which achieved virtually the same result. Under this plan, women received basic training first and then reported to the Signal Corps for either immediate assignment or specialist training.20
Some difficulty in obtaining recruits, even with the station-and-job promise, was caused by the high requirements of the Signal Corps. Women for attendance at the three radio operators schools were required to have near-officer qualifications: AGCT scores of 100 for radio operators and 110 for repairmen, as well as good scores on the radio operator's aptitude or mechanical aptitude tests.
By September of 1943 some 1,750 women had been trained, chiefly for the Air Forces, and the schools were discontinued. Thereafter the Signal Corps generally accepted only women with high AGCT scores as well as civilian skill "sufficient to qualify them for assignment with only nominal on-the-job indoctrination in Army procedure." Thus, women to be trained as tabulating machine operators were required to have clerical skill and an ACCT score in Grade III or better; women to be key punch operators required the same plus average typing speed; cryptographic clerks needed officer qualifications-an ACCT score in Grade I or II plus good education and mathematics or language background. Full civilian training in their fields was required of radio operators, radio and electrical repairmen, telephone operators, teletypewriter operators, draftsmen, and various photographic experts.
Such highly qualified personnel was not only hard to find, but the subject of competition from other agencies, particularly the WAVES, which offered officer status
to cryptographers and other specialists. By June of 1944 the Office of the Chief Signal Officer was still highly discontented with the returns from station-and-job recruiting, which had produced Wacs only to the extent of some 1,100, or about 9 percent of the strength of the Signal Corps instead of the 16 percent that it had been authorized.21
Signal Corps Training
With a few exceptions, the Signal Corps did not find it necessary to give specialist training to the women who reported to it. It was stated that "substantial" Signal Corps classes, chiefly for overseas shipment, were conducted at Fort Monmouth and at Camp Crowder, but these were chiefly refresher courses in Army procedure for already-qualified women. For skills scarce or nonexistent in civilian life, such as cryptographer, classes were eventually held at Fort Monmouth. In general it was reported that women could master Signal training without alteration in course content, and presented no problems except in the matter of housing.22
Only one training difficulty was reported, that concerning the first cryptographic school. In the early months of this course, the officer in charge reported:
The WAC personnel we have received so far are almost without exception woefully uninformed about the personalities, the geography, and the materiel of the war. It is also evident that their intelligence, on the average, is decidedly inferior to the men they are replacing.
He asked that personnel be better selected according to prescribed standards: officer AGCT score (110 or better), wide vocabularies, technical skill, and knowledge of world events, and that they be chosen from among teachers in higher grades, librarians, editors, authors, and similar occupations. "They are not likely to be found among sales clerks, packers, restaurant employees, machine tool operators, beauty operators, and music teachers.23
With higher WAC enrollment standards, higher-grade personnel became more readily available. With the virtual cessation of the WAC Officer Candidate School at a time when the Signal Corps Officer Candidate School still received large quotas, it became still easier to get women of officer qualifications but enlisted status. Final reports indicated good results in training female cryptographers, and the instructor at Fort Monmouth reported that the women "far exceeded expectations" and could "hold their own with the best students.24 Some WAC supervisors were of the opinion that cryptography would prove the most important future use for Signal Corps Wacs in occupied areas, since women did not fraternize with enemy nationals to the extent that men did, and were therefore less apt to betray secrets inadvertently.
Signal Corps Jobs
One of the first and most important assignments of Signal Corps Wacs was that in the War Department Signal Center in Washington, called "the world's most im-
portant communications center," 25 and hub of the Army's entire wire, radio, and cable system. With its outlying transmitting, receiving, and operating installations in the vicinity, it made up station WAR, in immediate contact by radio with all theaters and by land-line circuits with every major installation in the United States. Wacs for this service met the highest of intelligence and aptitude tests, and their loyalty records were minutely investigated. With the first assignment of a few Wacs to this work, the Chief Signal Officer, Maj. Gen. Harry C. Ingles, reported "an immediate improvement .... The loyalty and application to duty of these Waacs created an example which resulted in a noticeable increase in production." 26 By the end of 1944, some 235 Wacs were employed, chiefly in teletype operation, including radioteletype, and transmission and relay of messages translated into perforated tape on highspeed perforators. The chief of the Army Communications Service, Maj. Gen. Frank Stoner, stated, "We have found the Wacs conscientious, efficient, and dependable . . . thoroughly capable of filling many positions which formerly required trained men." 27
The 2d Signal Service Battalion, which was under G-2 Division of the War Department for operations, employed some 1,000 Wacs at its stations at Arlington Hall, Vint Hill, and Two Rock Ranch. In general the secret work was routine, noisy, but of a nature requiring perfection in detail. The WAC staff director reported:
It was proven over and over again that women were far better equipped than men for routine but detailed work. They were not qualified for highly technical jobs in most cases, but were qualified for routine research and for specialists' jobs such as teletype and radio operator. About fifty women were also assigned to the battalion's Miami detachment, which distinguished itself chiefly by attempting to operate with a male commander for the WAC unit, in violation of War Department regulations, to be found out only when improper administration resulted and was investigated.28
Other Signal Corps stations also employed appreciable numbers of Wacs. The Eastern Signal Corps Training Center at Fort Monmouth employed an eventual total of about 300, chiefly clerical and administrative personnel to run the center.29 The Holabird Signal Depot near Baltimore employed some 100 women for similar duties, and a quota of 75 was allotted to the Army Pictorial Service and Signal Corps Photographic Center on Long Island, for work in film libraries and laboratories.30
The average Army post in service or air commands also employed a few Signal Corps Wacs, although in lesser numbers than enlisted men and civilians. For example, the staff of the Signal Corps office at Fort McClellan, Alabama, included 3 officers, 8 enlisted men, 5 enlisted women, and 55 civilians. All positions appeared to
be essentially civilian in nature. The experience of WAC training centers, where Wacs necessarily composed most of the staff of the post signal office, indicated that Wacs could if necessary perform most of the Signal duties on an Army post. The question as to whether all or any of such jobs required military status was a technical one for higher authorities, but from the WAC viewpoint either all-WAC or all civilian offices were preferable to mixed ones, which spotlighted differences in pay and privileges.31
Employment of officers was in general seldom as efficient as that of enlisted women. Both in the United States and overseas the Signal Corps showed a propensity for assigning women officers to secretarial and similar duties scarcely requiring an officer's training. Eventually three WAC officers were allowed to attend the G-2 school, with the promise that if all graduated in the top 10 percent more Wacs would be accepted; all did. Several WAC officers also attended the three-month Advanced Radio Communications School at Arlington Hall and the Signal Corps Supply School at Camp Holabird.32
Signal Corps Jobs Overseas
Extensive employment of Signal Corps Wacs, both officer and enlisted, was made in all overseas theaters, although not to the extent that the Signal Corps desired, Brig. Gen. Jerry V. Matejka, the new head of Signal Corps personnel, complained:
Substantial requirements for Wacs on Signal Corps duty have existed in the various theaters, yet the furnishing of WAC personnel has been either retarded or abandoned because of apparent lack of the same co-ordination of interested agencies in the War Department as is applied to furnishing enlisted men as fillers and replacements.33
Some measure of the difficulty appeared due to the Signal Corps' own reluctance to part with V1'acs on its stations in the United States. Thus, when requests from the European theater for a WAC signal service battalion of approximately 550 Wacs were approved by Operations Division, War Department General Staff, the Army Service Forces protested that male personnel should be sent in order to avoid disrupting the work of field stations using trained Wacs on key jobs. On Operations Division's insistence the unit was authorized for activation in the theater, but with the requirement that 200 of the Wacs be supplied by the theater.34 Even when trained radio operators were found malassigned as clerks on Signal Corps installations in the United States, the Chief Signal Officer refused to release them for radio work overseas.35 General Matejka further remarked that "use in overhead installations has been disrupted by the withdrawal of WAC personnel for overseas.36
In spite of the alleged difficulty of getting Signal-trained women for overseas duty, most overseas theaters by the end of the war had acquired relatively large
numbers, many trained in the theater. Some one third of all Wacs in the Mediterranean theater, or about 700 women, were estimated to be employed on communications duties-a percentage notably higher than that achieved in the United States.37 In Europe, the 3341st Signal Service Battalion eventually reached a peak strength of about 28 officers and 738 enlisted women, and in Paris its women were employed in every department of what claimed to be "the largest message center in the world . . . with the exception of Washington, D. C." 38 Other units also contained some Signal Corps personnel, which brought the number in Europe to an estimated one fourth of the theater's WAC strength, or some 1,700 women. The Pacific theater reported that only about 3 percent of its Wacs, or 150 women, were in communications work, including secret duties with the Signal Intelligence Section. Lesser numbers were also used in smaller theaters.39
Peak of Employment
In September of 1944, some months before the WAC reached its peak strength, the Chief Signal Officer estimated that there were about 1,500 enlisted women at six installations under his own jurisdiction, or some 16 percent of the total enlisted strength. This, he believed, exceeded all other technical services in percentage of replacement with the possible exception of the Chemical Warfare Service. In addition, there were 236 enlisted women in the War Department Signal Center, and more than 700 performing Signal Corps duties in the service commands. To this could be added at least 1,700 in Europe, 700 in Italy, and 150 in the Pacific. It thus appeared likely that Wacs on Signal Corps duties totaled at least 5,000, some 5 percent of the WAC strength.40
The general job groupings for Wacs, at least in the United States, were estimated by the Chief Signal Officer to include:
|Signal Corps Technical Specialists
|Administrative and Clerical
|Mess and Motor Pool Personnel
Special Problems of Signal Corps Wacs
In spite of such wide employment and consistent success on Signal Corps duties, it was evident by the end of the war that in employing women the Signal Corps faced several problems. The women described most Signal Corps technical jobs as "nerve-wracking"; after a few months they tended to become a nightmare of beeping earphones, clicking keys, or clattering machinery. A WAC inspector reported:
Severe nervous strain was imposed by the necessity for constant attention . . . no thought was required for much of it, yet the worker did not dare to let the work become automatic, as one slip wrecked everything, and the fear of costing men's lives was always with them.41
Added to this was the ever-present strain of keeping security, and sometimes the knowledge that the operator, alone with a few of the Army's top authorities, shared secrets in which a slip of the tongue in public could cost the lives of hundreds of soldiers.
Most Signal duties also involved shift work, which constantly rotated so that regular sleeping and eating habits were impossible. British inspectors had pointed out long before the WAC was formed:
A policy is present in the service of working watches or shifts with irregular hours of duty . . . it should have been known by now that the irregular rhythm of working hours is injurious to health .42
WAC inspectors repeatedly recommended that shift changes be less frequent than the customary two weeks, but this was nowhere possible under established Signal Corps policies. On ordinary posts the handful of Signal Corps Wacs was obliged to try to sleep at odd hours while barracks-mates engaged in normal activities. On all-Signal Corps stations, company commanders attempted to reserve one building for each shift, a move which seldom proved practicable since women worked in different offices on different schedules. At only one station, Arlington Hall, was some measure of relief achieved by the use of cubicle housing, four women to a cubicle. One WAC adviser noted:
One of our biggest problems was that of shift workers . . . we had to watch their health carefully. There was always the danger of emotional upsets caused by difficult sleeping arrangements.
The company commander's usual efforts to provide feminine-type sports, recreation, orientation, or even hot food and sympathetic counsel were often thwarted by the women's peculiar working hours and by the impossibility of keeping cadre on 24-hour duty.
In addition, at most stations the shortage of Signal Corps personnel was such that no leaves, furloughs, or passes were possible for months. WAC advisers recommended, without effect, that "it is most important that officers and enlisted personnel, both men and women, be required to take regular leaves twice a year." 43 There was on many stations also a certain reluctance to release women for any cause, even for officer candidate school, and Wacs were not eligible for the direct commissions that men of equal qualifications received in certain duties, or for admission to Signal Corps Officer Candidate School. Even appropriate enlisted grades were chronically scarce; remarkably consistent complaints were received from stations all over the world that enlisted Wacs had replaced men in top enlisted grades, or even officers and warrant officers, without receiving any ratings at all.
On restricted installations, particularly the several detachments of the 2d Signal Service Battalion, the situation was especially difficult. Here a woman, once assigned, was a virtual prisoner for the duration; men might look for enforced rotation to overseas service, but even this was not permitted for a woman until after the end of the war. If a woman failed in or was unequal to technical duties, she was retained on the station in menial or service duties on the grounds that she "knew too much" to permit her to be released for proper assignment elsewhere.
WAC inspectors reported that women for such installations should have been originally selected from volunteers who had been clearly informed of their pros-
pects, a method that was successful in other technical services. Instead, Signal Corps personnel went to Forts Des Moines and Oglethorpe and selected women who afterwards alleged that they had received promises of grades, overseas service, officer training, or "the glamour of working for intelligence." Women recruited directly for the station were not informed of its restricted nature. Neither had some of the company officers been well chosen, in the opinion of WAC inspectors. One observer recommended that in the future all company officers be chosen from among operational officers who had themselves worked shifts and were "aware of aching feet and backs and being unable to sleep in the daytime."44
Even if capable, the company officers on secret installations were often not "cleared" to visit the men or women on the job, and thus understood neither the working conditions nor the measures needed to provide outside rest and quiet. Inspection privileges were likewise denied to Army classification survey teams, staff visitors, and medical officers. Because of the highly secret nature of the installations, neither the Signal Corps nor G-2 Division believed it possible to permit interference by medical officers or inspectors on the grounds of health and wellbeing for either men or women. The Signal Corps employed a rapid succession of WAC advisers and staff directors-among them Capt. Susanna Turner and Capt. Zelma Hanson-but did not clear these individuals to visit secret work.45
Eventually the health and morale situation of the 2d Signal Service Battalion became so bad that G-2 Division, in the closing months of the war, was obliged to accept a WAC staff director and to clear her for visits to secret units for which the Signal Corps staff director was not cleared. This officer, Capt. Barbara Rodes, expressed her belief that many of the problems had been preventable, and that "If they had had a WAC Staff Director in the beginning to pick personnel after a study of G-2's needs, they would never have had low morale in the WAC unit." Captain Rodes succeeded in getting a few women released for overseas duty and officer candidate school, and in getting ratings for others. She also gave considerable effort to helping women "to visualize the importance of a job and to get the whole war picture so that they could keep their perspective."
Independent reports from virtually every overseas theater showed an almost identical pattern of difficulty in Signal Corps work, mitigated only to some extent by the more stimulating nature of life overseas. In the Mediterranean theater, by the end of the war, some 8 percent of Signal Wacs, or an estimated fifty women, had suffered mental breakdowns, and others were believed to be on the verge of physical or psychiatric illness. In the Southeast Asia Command, the majority of all illnesses occurred in the minority of women who were assigned to Signal Corps work.
Since the end of the war intervened before women in most theaters and domestic stations had been on Signal jobs for more than eighteen months, there was no exact knowledge as to how long their efficiency could have been sustained under existing conditions. There were some grounds for belief that, under unchanged Signal Corps personnel and housing policies, two or two and a half years might be the maximum serviceability of the
average Wac, after which disability discharge would be required and attrition might outweigh efficiency. Civilian experience indicated that the duties themselves were not at fault, since civilian women made careers of such work, with the aid of vacations, normal recreation, and private housing. One WAC commander reported, "When demobilization came, my women swore they would never come back to the War Department or to shift work, but about 25 percent eventually did-as civilians.46
Evaluation of Success in Signal Jobs
Apart from the question of how long it could be sustained, there was no doubt that WAC performance on Signal Corps jobs had been successful. A board convened in late 1948 at Fort Monmouth to consider the employment of the WAC in communications activities stated that it was "an accepted conclusion" that women were "more adaptable and dexterous than men in the performance of certain technical specialties." 47 A survey made of Signal officers in Army areas and overseas commands produced the opinion that women could fill approximately 50 percent of all operations, communications, and photographic positions within a communications zone. The consensus was that many maintenance functions could also be performed by women, with the exception of those involving heavy physical labor, and that "Wacs should be used as far forward as Army Headquarters."
It was concluded that women should be used in as many such activities as possible, with immediate emphasis on training in Army schools as teletype and telephone operator, message center clerk, radio and radio telephone operator, cryptographic technician, and facsimile operator. Similar studies within the office of the Chief Signal Officer indicated likewise that Wacs could be used in communications centers, on switchboards, in photographic detachments, in film libraries, and-provided that a WAC detachment was already at the installation-in Signal Corps administrative offices at Army posts, camps, and stations. The proper division of employment between civilian and military women was left for future resolution .48
Chemical Warfare Service
Second among the Army Service Forces agencies to obtain a WAAC staff director and the promise of WAAC personnel was the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS).49 While the numbers involved were relatively small, never exceeding about 700 Wacs, the percentage of replacement achieved was higher than that in most larger agencies, eventually reaching, at different times, from 13 to 22 percent of the Chemical Warfare Service's domestic
INSTRUCTION IN RADIO THEORY for women attending the Midland Radio and Television Schools, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri.
enlisted strength.50 In early April 1943 the first CWS WAAC unit reached Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas. A second WAAC unit reported in late April to Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, and a third and fourth in June to Camp Detrick, Maryland, and to the Chemical Warfare Center, Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland.51
Commanding officers of field installations did not entirely share the enthusiasm of the chief of the Chemical Warfare Service for requisitioning Waacs, and admitted later that "men busy on research projects where the slightest error might ruin months of experiments at first took a dismal view of female assistants in laboratories and proving grounds." 52 However, tentative inquiries a few weeks after the units' arrival brought the reply that "the Waacs at these installations are rendering excellent service." An early thousand hour experiment with a detail of sixty at
WOMEN DECONTAMINATION EXPERTS in the Chemical Warfare Service at Gowen Field, Idaho.
Edgewood Arsenal, to determine to what extent Waacs might be used in the work of impregnating protective clothing with chemicals, met with "such surprisingly good results that we are about to recommend that some all-WAAC chemical impregnating companies be organized." 53 The WAAC staff director, Lt. Helen E. Hart, later stated that her chief contribution to the CWS program at this time was her success, after much pleading, in persuading her commanding general to change the name of this unit, which was finally given the name of WAAC Processing Company, instead of that which the general had first directed-WAAC Impregnation Company.54
Very shortly, CWS inspectors were surprised to find the entire WAAC detachment at Pine Bluff Arsenal plunged into a serious state of low morale by what appeared to male inspectors to be a minor circumstance-the fact that Waacs had not replaced soldiers. As a matter of fact, the shortage of civilian personnel had made it possible to secure a bona fide military allotment for the installation, which
eventually would have required enlisted men, but to the Waacs nothing was apparent except that they had filled former civilian vacancies. CWS inspectors noted in some surprise that the "insidious idea" that a woman should replace a soldier appeared to be "prevalent among all WAAC companies in the field." The situation was somewhat alleviated upon conversion to Army status, when "malcontents" departed Pine Bluff Arsenal en masse. Thereafter, the fact of Army status reassured the women that military jobs were being filled.55
While the diminishing supply of recruits made it impossible to fill all further CWS requisitions, three more detachments later reported respectively to Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Huntsville Arsenal, and the Office of the Chief of Chemical Warfare Service.56 The Chief of the CWS, Maj. Gen. William N. Porter, noted that as the Corps ended its second year, the quality and efficiency of WAC personnel was holding up well and that there was "a high degree of enthusiasm in their respective tasks." 57
The majority of these CWS Wacs were employed in routine post headquarters duties which differed from those of other commands only in subject and terminology. For example, at Pine Bluff Arsenal Wacs drove, serviced, and cleaned the large Army buses that connected the widely separated munitions buildings, transporting civilian shift workers twenty-four hours a day. Other Wacs ran the arsenal's military personnel section, handling records of both officers and enlisted men. Wacs in the quartermaster branch handled stock records, requisitions, inventories, shipping tickets, and reports. One WAC sergeant ran the sales commissary; a corporal computed field rations for the post; others sorted the post's mail; the publications section was composed entirely of Wacs. One WAC officer was in charge of the motor pool; another was arsenal librarian; another the assistant to the chief of the payroll section. Two WAC officers inspected the seven post cafeterias and ran the officers' mess. Another WAC lieutenant was chief of the chemical production control section, co-ordinating manufacture and shipment schedules.
A minority of WAC jobs were the technical ones which concerned the real chemical warfare mission. "We got most of the scientifically trained Wacs there were," claimed the CWS staff director. For reasons which could not then be publicized, the CWS wanted not merely chemists but also pharmacologists, neurologists, and toxicologists. Other technical services frequently surrendered to the CWS any WAC scientist whose qualifications were too high to be utilized appropriately elsewhere.
Before admittance to the installations, a four-way loyalty check was required for each woman, which often caused a wait in staging areas of two months or more. Upon reaching CWS installations, women were surprised to find assembled many prominent scientists engaged in closely guarded research projects of great interest and variety. "Many of the women already had master's degrees." the staff director stated, "and I would estimate that they got about the same opportunities that a Ph.D.
doing research would get." Many quickly became devoted to their projects; one woman, in rejecting a bid to officer candidate school, explained that she had previously shared the instructions of a certain famous scientist with a college class of seventy, but now had his exclusive supervision.
A few such enlisted women were eventually given work of real responsibility. A WAC pfc, with twelve years in public health work and an M.A. in bacteriology, sought new therapeutical methods of handling infections of gas wounds. Another WAC pfc, the former director of the Neuropathology Laboratory at Yale Medical School, investigated the effect of war gases upon the blood. At Johns Hopkins University, Wacs were directed by the staff in research concerning the use of penicillin spray in control of pneumonia which might be caused by chemical burns. At Dugway Proving Ground, a WAC T/4's research in heat radiation received a commendation from the U.S. Weather Bureau. Some of the Wacs were lured away by the Sanitary Corps, which was able to offer direct commissions, but others refused to leave their projects even for officer status. The extent to which such WAC scientists were employed was limited only by the fact that recruiters were unable to furnish them in the numbers desired by CWS.
Where college-trained scientists were not available, CWS requested and made good use of Wacs with lesser professional skills. WAC laboratory technicians were numerous at most installations, and WAC draftsmen were employed to design protective equipment. Dugway Proving Ground boasted the only WAC glass blower extant, who devised special sampling apparatus for experiments. Edgewood Arsenal used WAC photographers to photograph material for technical publications, and a former designer of fur coats to design and make canvas cases and protective coverings.
Women without skills could also be used by CWS with only on-the-job training. "It would be a mistake, in the future, to assume that CWS can use only scientists or technical experts," said the WAC staff director later. "For certain work all that is needed is a liking for outdoor work and for messing around with chemicals, smoke pots, and field instruments. We found that former factory girls were quite good at this, and interested in it." Perhaps the most colorful CWS job at Edgewood Arsenal was that of a WAC pfc who prepared colored-smoke grenades for signaling purposes and detonated them to test for brilliancy and duration of color; when the wind proved capricious this individual was habitually either green, yellow, or red from the-fortunately soluble-smoke clouds. At Dugway Proving Ground, Wacs were trained to participate in field observation during the mortar or rocket shoots, noting wind direction, air temperature, air pressure and humidity, and mastering the principle of the balloon run. They set up and oriented an artillery aiming circle and noted ballistic characteristics during rocket or artillery tests. Most women enjoyed outdoor work of any sort, and when shortage of personnel and periods of twenty-four-hour duty brought WAC office workers near the breaking point, it was found possible to revive them by brief rotation to field tests.
Problems Common Among CWS Wacs
The chief difficulties in CWS assignments for women were quite similar to those noted on secret installations of the Signal Corps. Because of the restrictions surrounding the more technical work, in-
spectors, staff directors, and company commanders were forbidden to check on any job assignments, even routine. As a result, some installations took advantage of this immunity from supervision to assign women to unsuitable duties contrary to War Department regulations. At various stations the requirement for WAC company officers was ignored. At another, enlisted women were assigned to a post commander's home to cook and act as personal servants to his wife. In several cases, civilian jobs in post exchanges and commissaries were staffed with Wacs. If detected, none of these violations could be reported, since it was alleged that security would have been endangered. The ASF WAC Officer, upon repeatedly receiving complaints from irate relatives, several times attempted to visit such installations, but was always informed that they were officially exempt from ASF inspection. Even the CWS WAC staff director was not cleared for such inspection.
Another factor which, in the staff director's opinion, caused lowered morale was the fact that women could not go into combat-supporting CWS units and that the CWS refused to release women for any other overseas assignments, on the grounds that such action would violate security and deprive installations of irreplaceable personnel. CWS was therefore exempted by the War Department from the WAC shipment quotas allotted to most other commands. The staff director estimated that only about 20 percent of the Wacs were employed on work that was too secret to permit them to go overseas or even on leave. She said, "The women could never understand it. I fought to get just two of them over, to give the others hope of reward for good service, but I failed."
Another problem faced by CWS units was that of obtaining good company officers. "We had a very high type of women on the average," the staff director stated later. "We found that WAC commanders had to treat them like intelligent adults. It was fatal to give unnecessary restrictions or to be too energetic in enforcing petty regulations." In general such restricted units, like those of other technical services, were found to require special attention to suitable recreation, rest, and living conditions.
In spite of various problems, as the war drew to a close ranking officers of the Chemical Warfare Service indicated satisfaction with the women's contribution. Army commanders in the field noted, "The men often consider themselves frustrated combat officers and thus lose interest in research and production work, but the Wacs eagerly plunge into their jobs with all their energy." General Porter, chief of the CWS, stated that Wacs had exhibited "all of the soldierly qualities of obedience, initiative, and devotion to duty . . . . The WAC has permeated our entire organization, and we owe them a great debt." 58
The Corps of Engineers
The fact that Wacs had been assigned to the Corps of Engineers since early 1943 was almost as unknown, until August of 1945, as was the project on which they were employed, the atomic bomb. Not until then was it revealed that 422 Wacs, approximately eight and a half percent of the enlisted personnel under the command of the Chief of Engineers, had been employed on the project. Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves, commander of the project, wrote to these women:
Little is known of the significance of the contribution to the Manhattan Project by hundreds of members of the Women's Army Corps . . . . Since you received no headline acclaim, no one outside the project will ever know how much depended upon you. 59
The term Manhattan District was deliberately deceptive, for Engineer offices employing Wacs were located not only in New York, Washington, and Chicago, but also at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Pasco, Washington. Here, the volume of classified material had recently become such that maintenance of security was a problem, and it was held essential that certain key secretaries and file clerks be under military control. A first cautious request was made for only 74 Waacs, who reported in June of 1943; others followed shortly.
The WAC staff director, who commanded the Oak Ridge company for most of its history, reported that she was sent to WAC training centers to select many members personally. The women interviewed were told frankly that, while the work was secret and vital, they would do a hard job, would never be allowed to go overseas or to officer candidate school, could never receive any publicity, and would live at isolated stations with few recreational facilities. A surprising number of highly qualified women responded. Women were rejected if they did not actively desire the work, or did not appear to possess "experience, judgment, earnestness, and sincerity of purpose." The staff director highly recommended this system of selection, to which she attributed her detachment's good fortune in avoiding many of the problems experienced by Wacs in secret installations of other technical services. As a matter of fact, it later proved possible to send a few women to OCS and overseas without violation of security.
There was likewise no pretense that women would do glamorous scientific jobs; the Corps of Engineers did not desire to use Wacs as engineers or technicians, but rather in general administration and paper work. Those assigned were therefore chiefly skilled stenographers, typists, telephone operators, clerks, and teletype and cryptographic technicians.
Exact job descriptions were never recorded, for reasons of security, but it could be stated that the women handled detailed records and technical reports. These included the classified files, communications, the production section, and all offices that handled scientific reports. The District Engineer, Brig. Gen. Kenneth D. Nichols, stated: "Members of the WAC were charged with a major portion of the responsibility for preserving project security." 60
A minority of the women were assigned as chemists and other scientific technicians. A few, by the end of the war, had worked into various technical duties for which they proved apt and in which they received on-the-job training. WAC metallurgy technicians became qualified through work in ceramics, plastics, and powdered metals. Electronics technicians worked chiefly on the construction of needed electronics equipment. WAC photographers became specialists in photo-
graphing metals and metallurgical processes. Spectroscopic technicians were eventually qualified for advanced work with the spectroscope.
Most of the Wacs' positions carried considerable responsibility, and as the project had a liberal allotment of grades, many of the women had received good ratings by the end of the war. Both the responsibility and the ratings were a definite factor in aiding morale, according to the WAC commander, but even greater was the fact that the work was hard and most women were always kept busy.
Problems of Engineer Corps Wacs
Only one major problem was encountered by Wacs serving with the Corps of Engineers, quite similar to that already reported independently by other technical services. This was the fact that the secrecy surrounding all installations prevented inspectors and WAC staff officers from checking on the accuracy of job assignment or the compliance of post commanders with War Department directives.
Serious morale situations soon developed in the Pasco and Los Alamos units, where Wacs were habitually used as babysitters, servants for civilians, and other nonmilitary jobs. In one, a number of highly qualified communications experts were assigned as barmaids to serve beer to civilian laborers. The women stated that they were subjected to rough language and insulted by the civilians, until one fled to Washington to appeal to the Air Forces to obtain their transfer to bona fide communications work.61 The case was reported to the Chief of Engineers, who refused to transfer the women to the Air Forces; the ASF WAC Officer and the Ninth Service Command WAC staff director were both denied permission to visit the installation. At the second WAC detachment, an even more widespread morale problem developed when a young WAC officer without troop experience, sent to the station to do an office job, suddenly found herself in command of a newly acquired WAC company in addition to doing full-time office work, and without the assistant required by War Department regulations.
The problems presented at both of these stations eventually became so serious that, late in the war, the Corps of Engineers was obliged to appoint a WAC staff director. To avoid bringing in an outsider, Capt. Arlene G. Scheidenhelm was named staff director and was cleared to visit the other stations. At one station the detachment was reorganized; at the other, the staff director stated:
I merely told the post commander that he shouldn't use Wacs as barmaids or we should all get in trouble; he asked which women to reassign, I named them, and he reassigned them at once. All that was needed was a WAC Staff Director who was a part of the Corps of Engineers.
The day when the A-bomb news could be released was dubbed by the Wacs "our day," and they were, according to the staff director, "the proudest Wacs in the Army," feeling that they had done more than most other Wacs to shorten the war and save the lives of American soldiers. At this time, the WAC units were awarded the Meritorious Unit Service Award; twenty women were presented with the Army Commendation Ribbon; and one received the-Legion of Merit. Congratulatory messages were also received from the Secretary of War, from General Groves,
from the District Engineer, and from the WAC Director. General Groves wrote:
As one who observed your performances month after month, I wish to express my personal appreciation . . . . You can well be proud of your service with the Manhattan District and the part you played in saving countless American lives.
To this the District Engineer added:
No WAC assignment anywhere exceeded in importance their mission with the Atomic Bomb project.62
Some 700 enlisted women-over 5 percent of the enlisted strength-and 80 WAC officers were eventually employed in ten Ordnance installations in the United States, including five depots, two arsenals, two Ordnance districts, and the Office of the Chief of Ordnance. Other requisitions met with less success in that they sought Wacs to replace civilian employees, who "require fixed and steady hours of work" and would not accept undesirable shifts. 63
The first official reference to Corps jobs at these installations concerned a controversy over the size of trucks which women might properly drive. WAAC Headquarters wished to set this limit at one and a half tons, but, upon the objection of the Army Service Forces and the reassurance of The Surgeon General, the limit was raised to two and a half tons. This provoked further objections from Aberdeen Proving Ground, which stated that the odd types of vehicles being driven and tested by its Waacs could not best be judged by tonnage. The Chief of Ordnance therefore asked an exception for this installation, which was concurred in by WAAC Headquarters." 64
In the ballistics testing laboratories where ordnance equipment was examined, Wacs were employed in computing the velocity of bullets, measuring the weight of bomb fragments to determine the degree of fragmentation of bombs, mixing gunpowder, and loading shells. They also worked as draftsmen, mechanics, and electricians, and received practical training in ordnance engineering. A good percentage of the women were employed in ordinary clerical duties. Reports from overseas theaters revealed that Ordnance Wacs were found especially valuable in handling the complicated stock records of ordnance equipment, its procurement, storage, and shipments.65
Ordnance Department also expressed itself eager to employ WAC officers in highly technical skills-engineers, mathematicians, analysts, designers, artists, statisticians, lawyers, and physicists. Unfortunately, the WAC Officer Candidate School was designed for troop officers and turned out very few such specialists, most of them considerably below the desired qualifications.66
The Quartermaster Corps
Contrary to the general impression, those units and installations under the
control of The Quartermaster General did not offer particularly suitable conditions for the employment of Wacs.67 An early survey by the Office of The Quartermaster General pointed out that it was not advisable to use Waacs in graves registration companies; they could not replace men in salvage collecting companies because personnel had to be armed and had to perform heavy work in battlefield cleanup; they could not be employed in laundry battalions, companies, or platoons because these were mobile units operating in combat areas. It was suggested that Waacs could be employed in fixed laundries in the continental United States, which normally employed 89 percent women, but these were civilian job vacancies. As for bakery units, it was decided that bread-baking was definitely a man's assignment because of the strength required. It was not felt that Waacs should take over operation of light motor vehicles, which were used to train men for combat areas.68
Furthermore, as in the Signal Corps, employment was restricted by the requirement that enlisted women be assigned only in units. Most quartermaster depots employed only a small detachment of enlisted men, and in many depots only civilians were employed. The Office of The Quartermaster General stated that, if civilian replacement and use of small numbers were authorized, Waacs might be used in places where civilians were scarce, or to take night shifts and other work that civilians would not accept. The Quartermaster General did not particularly recommend such assignment, pointing out that provision of suitable housing and messing would be a problem for small numbers, and that it would be undesirable to mix Waacs and civilians because of the difference in pay and privileges.69
Therefore, by the time of the conversion to Army status, the Quartermaster Corps employed only one WAAC unit, located at Camp Lee, Virginia, where the women worked in the Quartermaster School and the ASF Training Center. Although The Quartermaster General assured Director Hobby at this time that "On the whole the girls are pleased with their assignments and are performing them in a satisfactory manner," the unit at Camp Lee suffered more than usual losses at the conversion. One possible explanation was The Quartermaster General's admission that some 20 percent of the women had at that time not yet replaced men. The women at Camp Lee eventually came to be employed also by the Quartermaster Board and the Quartermaster Replacement Training Center at that installation. Only one additional unit was recorded-that of the Fort Robinson Quartermaster Depot.70
The employment of WAC officers, who could be scattered about in small numbers, was more suitable to the Quartermaster Corps than that of enlisted women. In early 1944 the Office of The Quartermaster General stated that "within the next few weeks a shortage of QMC officers will develop. A number of units are scheduled for activation and demands for over-
seas requisitions are heavy."71 Accordingly, it was suggested to depot commanders that they requisition Wacs, and a combined requisition for 340 WAC officers was placed with the Army Service Forces, which by mid-1944 had netted some 100 WAC officers. These officers ordinarily required no training other than a brief orientation course, although some were admitted to the depot course at the Quartermaster School and at the Columbus ASF Depot. A WAC staff director, Maj. Laura Asbury, was eventually employed.
The only available strength figures indicated that the Quartermaster Corps eventually employed at least 250 enlisted women and 125 WAC officers on its own installations. An unknown number, probably much larger, was also employed on posts, camps, and stations by local quartermasters in offices, warehouses, and sales commissaries-these being under the jurisdiction of an air or service command or overseas theater, and not counted apart from the rest of the overhead. In 1944, The Quartermaster General stated:
Personnel of the Women's Army Corps have become an integral part of this [QM] organization, and we now have unfilled requisitions from QM installations requesting more WAC personnel.72
The Transportation Corps
Early pessimists feared that ports of embarkation were no place for Wacs, who would undoubtedly be invalided by the rough physical work or seduced by the transient combat troops. Actually, the Transportation Corps proved second only to the Medical Department among Army Service Forces agencies in the number of Wacs employed, and first in the number employed on its own Class II installations. With a peak strength of over 5,000 women, some 6 percent of its total enlisted strength, the Transportation Corps was able to maintain large WAC detachments in the eight major ports of embarkation New York, Boston, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and New Orleans. Each port had one or more WAC detachments and its own WAC staff director, whose work was co-ordinated by a senior staff director, Lt. Col. Mera Galloway, located in the Office of the Chief of Transportation.73
These 5,000 women were obtained by the Transportation Corps by means of enthusiastic pursuit along every possible avenue of recruiting. Since most ports were in labor-short areas, they were hard hit by the ASF's directives that general service men be replaced by Wacs and civilians. Civilians were scarce, and 4Vacs were at once requisitioned for every manner of duty. Some of these uses were approved, while some; involving shipboard service, were at the time considered too unusual.74
The number thus acquired proving insufficient, other women were obtained by transfer from commands which found
them unassignable because of low aptitude or lack of skill; the Transportation Corps was confident that it could assign and use any sort of Wac. Puerto Rican Wacs, whose possible language difficulties were feared by some commands, were requested and successfully employed. When WAC training centers were forced to relinquish their bands in the interests of personnel economy, the Transportation Corps acquired the musicians. When at last station-and-job recruiting was authorized, the Transportation Corps used its own recruiters to conduct such a lively campaign for Port Wacs that it, like the Air Forces, had to be restrained from implying that a new corps had been set up.
Transportation Corps Job Assignments
The women assembled by these means were assigned to a variety of duties. Some 700 of them, in New York and San Francisco, were assigned to postal battalions where all V-mail letters were processed. Wacs opened the letters, checked for correct form and for rips and tears, and sent them to the commercial company that photographed them; incoming letters were likewise processed, with Wacs operating the machines that put each letter in an envelope. This work proved extremely monotonous, calling for 24-hour duty on several shifts, and was successfully performed for over two years.
Large numbers of Wacs, both enlisted and officer, also worked on the piers at every port, assisting in the staging of troops for overseas and the reception of returning troops. This type of assignment began in a small way when Wacs were tentatively assigned to assist in staging female personnel-civilians, nurses, and Wacs. More than a hundred Red Cross women thus staged wrote to the commanding general:
It is our unanimous opinion that we have never been in an area where everything functioned more smoothly. There has been none of the confusion or discomfort which we had come to consider a normal part of the embarkation process.75
The use of Wacs in staging was soon expanded to include all types of personnel embarking or landing. WAC checkers on piers and ships processed not only outgoing personnel, but an estimated 800,000 items of supply for overseas forces. For example, in the San Francisco Unit Supply Office, Wacs not only kept records of the types of guns, the proper ammunition for each, and the type to be issued to each man according to his destination, but they also actually handed the gun to the man. One Wac said, "The soldiers come in unarmed and go out with a gun, and it gives me a pretty good feeling." As the men began to return from overseas, all-WAC bands in New York and San Francisco went out on small craft to meet the ships. As men came down the gangplanks, all WAC teams met them for roll call and routine checking, after which other Wacs led them onto the proper train. Incoming officers also reported to a Wac's desk to receive any changes in orders. In this reception process, male military personnel were ordinarily employed only to check heavy baggage. The women generally reported no particular difficulty from the troops. One port noted, "Directions given [by Wacs] to troops debarking were cheerfully obeyed for the men `just wanted to hear them talk."'
In addition to postal and pier work, Wacs were employed in many other duties
which differed little from those of other commands. At a typical large port, the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, it was reported:
Though pier duty had priority over all other WAC assignments . . . [there were dozens of other jobs in water, rail, motor vehicle, and mechanical maintenance, machine records, salvage, communications, photo-laboratory, mess, and supply . . . . The Wacs key-punched tons of manifests, cargo loading reports, convoy recaps, and what not . . . proofread passenger lists one inch thick, which were checked and rechecked. . . There were 45 MOS numbers: butcher, sales clerk, auto-parts clerk, multigraph operator, quartermaster supply technician, tailor, photographer, movie projectionist . . . .76
At some ports, WAC medical companies were also assigned to administer shots, assist in processing, and keep records. During debarkations from hospital ships, these women were withdrawn from regular duties to act as guides, type admittance cards, and help in the Finance Department. On their own time, the women were discovered to be running errands and shopping for their patients, and carrying home the men's newly issued uniforms to iron. Most ports were deliberately striving to make wounded men feel that their country gave them a grateful and personal reception, and it was found that Wacs excelled in this effort. The effect on the women's morale was likewise good, as they felt less disposed to make known their own gripes when observing the greater discomforts of the wounded.
The chief difficulty encountered in the administration of Transportation Corps women concerned the fact that they often worked long hours and on night shifts as well as on monotonous duties, anti were thus extremely susceptible to fatigue, nervousness, improper sleeping and eating habits, and impaired health. To combat this situation effectively, it was necessary for the cadre to maintain long and irregular hours. One commander of a postal battalion stated that for months she habitually slept for only two or three hours at a time, since the only time to discover the women's needs was when they were relaxing, talking, and eating after completion of their work shifts. As a result, where health and morale were maintained it was at the expense of the company officers, who wore out quickly. 77
Later Experimental Assignments
As the Transportation Corps gained in experience in WAC administration, it began to show propensities, comparable only to those of the Air Forces, for experimentation with new and unusual duties. Soon after the invasion of Normandy in 1944, the all-WAC 29th Traffic Control Group was hand-picked from experienced Port Wacs and sent overseas. This. group omitted the usual WAC overseas training at Fort Oglethorpe, and was entirely trained and equipped at the port, with such success that the European theater WAC staff director pronounced it the best trained WAC group ever sent to Europe.78
Shortly afterward, to cope with the huge backlog of supplies for Europe which developed after the invasion of France, the Transportation Corps in September of 1944 organized a flying squad of approximately 100 Wacs, who were rushed to help clear out the jam at the Elmira Holding
and Reconsignment Point. Here the Wacs found warehouses and a large open storage area crowded with an apparently hopeless assortment of boxcars, tanks, and other equipment. Much top-secret paper work was found to be involved in sorting manufacturers' lists and routing supplies to proper destinations. WAC clerks, checkers, and drivers worked outdoors for most of the winter, in three around-the-clock shifts, even operating the heavy lifts which moved and sorted supplies, and sleeping in the gymnasium of a local college. WAC officers later were of the opinion that the work involved had been too heavy for women, but no men were available to the Transportation Corps for the assignment and women performed it successfully.
With the end of the war and the resulting load of returning shipping, the Transportation Corps took a step not shared by any other zone of the interior agency, and set up rest camps similar to those used in combat areas. WAC camps were established shortly after men's camps were set up, one located near Camp Stoneman, California, and one at Vassar College. The idea proved extremely successful in combating fatigue, particularly for postal battalions and others in tedious and confining work.
Toward the end of the war, the Transportation Corps also achieved its previously thwarted objective of employing Wacs on shipboard. Earlier WAC objections to placing five or six enlisted women and a WAC officer on shipboard were based on. fears that the women would either require expensive special provisions or would have none, since they could not use the men's recreational and living areas. Late in 1944 the Transportation Corps again requested Wacs for such duty, stating that "an urgent need exists for radio technicians for troop and hospital ships.79
WAC radio operators were by this time as scarce as male ones, and could not be provided by the Signal Corps, but the nature of the idea appealed to the Air Forces, which voluntarily furnished Wacs who merited reward for long and superior service in radio instruction in AAF schools. Three or four enlisted women and one WAC officer were assigned to each of several hospital ships, where they proved successful; one reported later, "It has been weeks since we have been referred to as experiments." 80 With the success of the WAC radio operators, other Wacs came to be employed on shipboard as clerical workers and as medical technicians to assist the nurses.
Quarters for such women did not prove a major problem, since they were usually housed in a cabin with its own toilet facilities, or with the nurses. As feared, the life proved confining and lacking in provisions for recreation for women. Enlisted women were not permitted to fraternize with passengers of either sex or with crew members of the opposite sex. On hospital ships, women not on duty were allowed to visit with patients, which proved of some morale value to both. One Wac reported: "Most of them are anxious for a game of bridge or just talking . . . it makes us feel that our job is worth while if we have a small part in helping to bring them home safely."
Nevertheless, "hospital ship fatigue" often developed; commanding officers believed that two months' unbroken duty without shore leave should be the maximum, although some individuals were able to continue for a year or more with-
out loss of efficiency. On other ships, where members were at sea only about ten days on each trip, with stopovers in foreign ports, the restrictions of shipboard life proved less important. The only reported casualties were two WAC officers who had to be reassigned for habitual seasickness.
The employment of WAC officers, originally requested only to secure approval of requisitions for enlisted women, soon proved so successful that WAC officers were assigned to other ships. Many such officers were graduates of the Army's School for Personnel Services, and were assigned as reconditioning officer, special services officer, and related duties. They were responsible for conducting discussions in the wards concerning veterans' benefits, hospital policy, and discharge procedure, for preparing a daily news sheet, for conducting the orchestra, and for arranging variety shows in the wards.
War Bride Ships and Dependents' Shifts
With the end of the war, the employment of Wacs on shipboard expanded into a new and sometimes controversial duty: that on "War Bride Ships" and "Dependents' Ships." On Army ships bearing Italian, French, German, English, and Australian brides to the United States, one WAC officer was ordinarily assigned as assistant transport commander. This officer was responsible for stocking the ship's exchange with supplies needed by women; for the women's welfare in such matters as housing and feeding; for supervision of the nursery and diet kitchen. She was appointed liaison between the transport commander and the women, to explain his policies; she maintained regular office hours when passengers could present their personal problems, which were usually numerous; she organized discussions on the monetary system, dress and customs, prices, products, and geography. Transport commanders confronted with voluble and excitable groups of passengers soon stated that WAC assistant transport commanders were invaluable, and eventually delegated to them the additional duties of post exchange officer and billeting officer. While Red Cross women, stewardesses, and Army nurses were also on board, the essential need was for a liaison officer in the chain of command and familiar with Transportation Corps policies.81
Good results were also obtained from the employment of enlisted women on the same ships, although there were ordinarily only a handful on any one ship. These were chiefly clerks, or medical technicians employed in the formula room under the direction of Army nurses, with little contact with passengers.
A different and somewhat greater problem concerned enlisted women passengers on the same ships. Such women, like enlisted men, were already resentful of the War Department policy which caused them to be allotted worse accommodations than the foreign civilian women who had married American soldiers. Their indignation frequently overflowed when, in addition to their ordinary work details such as kitchen police and latrine duty, transport commanders repeatedly assigned them to details involving day-and-night care of babies whose mothers were seasick, unsanitary in methods of infant care, or enjoying shipboard entertainment. The problem was not alleviated when war brides were supplanted by soldiers' wives and children en route to join men stationed overseas. These families, by Army Regulation, received better accommoda-
tions than male and female replacements on the same ships, and at the same time showed a certain tendency to regard the enlisted personnel as servants rather than as fellow passengers. Again, the Wacs' special objections concerned baby-sitting and other unmilitary work details often deemed especially suitable for enlisted women. In both cases, there appeared to be no solution as long as the Transportation Corps was required to carry civilian dependents while troops were still being transported, and to give civilian women better accommodations than those authorized for military women and men.
In discussions of a permanent women's corps, the Transportation Corps requested that from two to three and a half percent of its Regular Army strength be made up of Wacs in a variety of skills, principally clerks, postal workers, stenographers, typists, and communications experts.82 Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross, Chief of Transportation, stated:
The Wacs have demonstrated thoroughly their value to the Transportation Corps. They have become an integral part of our ports, not only because of the quality of their work, but also because of the enthusiasm they have displayed and their loyalty to the Transportation Corps.83
However, with the placing of ocean transport for all services under the jurisdiction of the Navy, the Wacs on shipboard were scheduled for peacetime replacement by Waves, who had not previously been permitted to serve on ships.
The Adjutant General's Department
Although duties of The Adjutant General's Department were almost without exception suitable for women, that Department-like the other administrative services-did not have a number of Class II installations under its command as did the technical services, but merely provided personnel for station overhead. The AGD was co-operative in the matter of training, first admitting officers and then enlisted women to its schools at the request of the WAC. Such training was sometimes desired to qualify women for positions in WAC administration, and at other times to enable them successfully to replace male AGD personnel in various commands. WAC officers attended both the administrative and the classification courses at the AGD school and later the personnel consultants' course.84
Possibly the largest single group of AGD WAC employees was that assigned to the Classified Reproduction Section in the Pentagon, with the particular assignment of reproducing the weekly minutes of the General Council as well as other material for the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff ordinarily top secret in nature. Of this work, the Deputy Chief of Staff, General McNarney, stated in 1944:
WAC personnel were assigned to the Classified Reproduction Section in order to solve a most difficult problem. I feel that their performance has been a fine tribute to the Women's Army Corps, and I am extremely grateful for their fine work and loyal service.85
No statistics were preserved as to the numbers, if any, of Wacs on duty with the Finance Department in the service and air commands. Upon request, the Finance Department obligingly set up a quota of six for the WAC for its officers' course at Duke University, beginning in July of 1943. A little later, enlisted women were admitted to eight successive classes of the two-month enlisted finance course, to an eventual total of 305 women, of whom 266-about 87 percent-were graduated.
The only possibly unsuitable Finance duties for women were those in which it was necessary for the paying officer to wear or keep available a revolver or other weapon. Neither the Finance Department nor WAC Headquarters was able to see any reason why an otherwise qualified woman should not be allowed this privilege, inasmuch as the paying officer seldom was required to shoot anyone. However, the War Department refused to make an exception in this case to the general rule about "combat" assignments.86
Corps of Chaplains
When the WAAC was established, the Corps of Chaplains noted that there were two possible modes of utilization: that women ministers be used as chaplains for WAAC training centers, and that enlisted women be used as chaplains' assistants.87 The first of these was never seriously considered. The Corps of Chaplains reported that, when the First WAAC Training Center was established:
Quick to take advantage of the new situation were the organizations of women preachers, and a considerable amount of agitation followed .... The statutes omitted any reference to the sex of chaplains, and at that time War Department directives did not make any specific statement on the subject. However, by tradition, as well as by general Army policy, chaplains were assumed to be of the male sex.
All applications from women ministers for commissions in the Corps of Chaplains were therefore refused. Ministering to the spiritual needs of the Wacs did not prove a problem to male chaplains, who stated, "Actually, the presence of Army women seemed to make very little difference in the work of most chaplains."
The use of enlisted women as chaplains' assistants was likewise originally disapproved by the Chief of Chaplains, who felt that it might prove compromising for a chaplain to be shut up alone in his office with a female assistant, and that even if it did not, the enlisted men who ordinarily revealed intimate problems to a chaplain would not do so if a woman was present. The assignment was not forbidden, but was left to the discretion of stations in the field. Within a few months, such assignments began to take place on the initiative of local chaplains and personnel officers.
Some of the women assigned were clerk-typists and general office workers, while others were musicians, such as organists and choir directors, or organizers of church activities. The Corps of Chaplains, after some experience with such employ-
ment, reported, "It was soon found that they could be used as Chaplains' Assistants to the same degree as men in the Army."
It was observed that women in the Army played much the same part in a post's religious life that civilian women did in the average community: they attended services more readily, formed more than a proportionate share of the choir, and in general were willing to lend more support to church activities. Under the circumstances, the employment of women as fulltime chaplains' assistants ceased to excite comment. Estimates indicated that Wacs formally assigned to work with the Corps of Chaplains did not number more than a few hundred.
Only the Army Air Forces formalized the employment program to the extent of sending women to a school. Women already assigned to this duty were permitted to attend the AAF Chaplains' Assistants School for training in choir work, maintenance of records, and other necessary activities. These women represented all of the three major religious groups in the United States and both the white and the Negro races.
The Provost Marshal's Department
There was no official indication that Wacs were ever employed, in World War II, to replace male military police except at WAC training centers, where such employment was more or less necessary to avoid embarrassing male police. Early in the WAAC's existence, G-3 Division of the War Department had suggested that it was undesirable to assign men in the younger age groups "to units or activities not to be used for combat service" and that the necessary high caliber of military police be secured from older age groups, limited service men, and Waacs-the Waacs to be employed "to the fullest extent where appropriate." 88 Such assignment was never considered by WAAC Headquarters to be especially appropriate except in clerical positions in Provost Marshal offices or to assume custody of women.
Even this latter use was not realized to the extent deemed permissible by WAAC Headquarters. A request was made by Director Hobby in the summer of 1943 for WAC MP detachments at large centers of population where female absentees were often apprehended, but this was refused by the Army Service Forces because male MP's would not have been replaced.89
Throughout the war there were frequent rumors and reports that Wacs in scattered stations and overseas were being employed as military police; at times publicity photographs showed women wearing the armbands of MP's or parking guides. Upon investigation these were usually found to be office workers in a posed photograph. No employment involving the carrying of weapons was officially authorized for Wacs.
Page Created August 23 2002
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