The Employment of Personnel: Enlisted Women
In all Army commands and overseas theaters, the experience of the war years produced very few Army-wide policies or restrictions on the job assignment of WAC personnel. The very considerable freedom that field commands had enjoyed in this respect seemed due in part to the small numbers of WAC personnel. Studies for the use of a million or more Wacs all indicated that hard and fast rules would have been required for this number, with explicit War Department directives to the field as to exactly what categories of jobs, or what entire organizations, would be staffed by Wacs.1 In actual practice, with never more than 100,000 women to assign, a far more informal system remained possible, with women merely sent as casuals to field commands, and with little limitation on the types of jobs or organizations to which they might be assigned.
War Department regulations on the WAC allowed women to be assigned to "any suitable noncombatant overhead positions" or even to a combat unit organized under a Table of Organization, provided that the job itself was noncombatant and located in a "fixed administrative headquarters or installation." No limitation was placed upon a commander's discretion, except that men must be replaced one-for-one, that the duties must be within the strength and endurance of "the average woman,'" and that the environment and working conditions must be suitable for women. Commanders were enjoined to remember that "procedures for the utilization of Women's Army Corps personnel both in their living and working conditions will vary from the procedure for utilization of male Army personnel,"' especially with respect to "hours of employment . . . number of women needed to perform heavy tasks . . . provision for safety and security . . . general standards of discipline . . . insurance of suitable recreation, education, and morale provisions." There was also, of course, never any wartime relaxation of the requirement that women be assigned in units of fifty or more, under the immediate command of a WAC officer.2
That such a lenient system was by no means inevitable was demonstrated by the Navy's dissimilar system. Here, the Bureau of Naval Personnel reported that it "kept full control of the detail of WAVES, enlisted as well as officer," primarily because it "did not have confidence that its
directives on housing and placement policies would be observed by the District Commandants." Although the WAVES director and field agencies desired to assign women to any job for which they were qualified, the Bureau of Naval Personnel arbitrarily limited assignments to certain approved jobs, noting:
The Women's Reserve had originally fought to have all rates open to women, but the Bureau rejected this contention .... Field activities, with a commendable desire to give the enlisted women similar opportunities for advancement to those open to men, for a time permitted Waves to strike for a wide variety of rates which had not been officially opened to them; and it became necessary for the Bureau to issue firm instructions.
The Bureau also determined that certain jobs such as control tower operator would be largely taken over by women, and trained and shipped personnel accordingly.3
The Army's policy, on the other hand, began at the time of the conversion to Army status with almost no limitation upon the station commander's power to determine WAC jobs, and added restrictions only as they were proved essential by experience. By the end of the war, the limitations that had grown up could almost be numbered upon the fingers of one hand.
Restrictions on Nonmilitary Assignments
Of these restrictions, the most important grouped themselves about the always uncertain distinction between military and civilian jobs, which for women appeared to present a special problem, particularly since assignment to civilian vacancies had been permitted in early Auxiliary days.
The issue did not, as it frequently did in the Navy, concern the replacement of Civil Service personnel, which in the Army was absolutely forbidden, and for which Congressional critics remained always alert even had the Army grown lax. Paradoxically, Congress did not object to the practice in the Navy. The Bureau of Naval Personnel noted that it secured a "gentleman's agreement" from the Naval Affairs Committees that it might use Waves when it could not get Civil Service personnel for jobs in the Washington area. As a result, as much as one third of the WAVES' entire corps was assigned to civilian work in Washington, the bureau protecting itself by certification "that civilians could not be found to fill any given jobs for which Waves were requested by a Washington office." Such assignment did not prove wholly satisfactory, the bureau noting later that "use of WAVES for essentially civilian work soon became a morale problem and a detriment to procurement .... Many of the women could see that they were not directly replacing men." 4
For the Army, the question concerned only the non-Civil Service jobs on field stations.5 It was ordinarily forbidden to use soldiers in civilian-operated laundries, as post exchange sales clerks, as waiters in officers' messes (except as extra paid employment), and in other more or less
menial tasks not essential enough to merit military personnel. Before the conversion, however, inspectors discovered on field stations a common practice of assigning Waacs to a station's nonmilitary work, generally of menial character, to which soldiers could not be assigned and which civilian women could not be persuaded to accept. In part this practice appeared to result from the anomalous nature of the WAAC's status under its separate T/O, which seemed half-civilian, half military, in character. In part it was ascribed to traditional ideas of the proper work for women.
Classification survey teams noted that while this practice was not universal, it was exceedingly widespread. At many stations Waacs were found assigned as personal orderlies by both Army and WAAC officers, and at several others they were used to fill low-grade civilian jobs in laundries. At Fort Knox, school teachers and college graduates were found assigned as dining room orderlies, food cart pushers, and garbage rack details. At Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, five Negro Waacs, described as "well-educated," were assigned to sweep out warehouses, while fifteen others worked in the service club and thirty in a civilian-operated laundry. At Valley Forge General Hospital, four women were assigned as unskilled orderlies although, inspectors reported, "Two are really clerk-typists, one a graduate cook, and one a classification specialist with an ACCT off. 3 % and college degree."
Very few stations were entirely free from such practices. For example, in the Fourth Service Command alone, inspectors found Waacs waiting on officers in clubs and messes at Camp Forrest, Forts McClellan, Jackson, and Benning; Waacs were replacing civilians as post exchange clerks at Fort Jackson and at the Charleston Port of Embarkation; Waacs at Fort McClellan were performing "menial tasks far below their highest ability." The women so assigned included radio operators, cryptographers, dietitians, linguists, and others with useful skills.
Soon after the conversion to Army status, General Faith's Field Inspection Service brought in repeated evidence to the effect that female military personnel was still being considered especially suitable for assignments in post exchanges, laundries, canteens, service clubs, restaurants, and officers' clubs and messes. General Faith noted that all such assignments which did not result in filling a military job were "not very successful," and invariably caused resentment and low morale.6
As a result, in August of 1943 and again in October, Colonel Hobby recommended publication of a regulation specifically forbidding assignment of Wacs to jobs not authorized for soldiers. She added:
The sole source of personnel for the Women's Army Corps is by voluntary enlistment. Applicants are informed by recruiting officers that they will release soldiers for combat. The use of women, so recruited; as sales clerks in post exchanges and as laundresses leads not only to dissatisfaction but to reduced numbers of recruits. No objection is offered to the use of enlisted women in administrative [military] positions in Post Exchanges and laundries.
Over the Army Service Forces' objections, G-1 Division therefore placed a restriction in the first WAC Regulations against the use of Wacs in any civilian jobs, but with specific prohibition only of jobs in
restaurants or cafeterias in service clubs, guest houses, and officers' clubs or messes.
Shortly afterward, Director Hobby again appealed for a more specific prohibition on jobs in laundries and post exchanges. She also asked a written definition of the basis by which Wacs might be employed as orderlies, since "abuses in the field" had caused her to believe that Wacs should not be assigned as personal orderlies to male officers, even when, as rarely, a military allotment was provided, and that they should not even be permitted to accept off-duty paid employment as orderlies except with female officers. Again the Army Service Forces objected, concurring only in specific prohibition of nonmilitary assignment in laundries. This was published in late 1943. Nothing specific was ever published on the subject of employment in post exchanges or as orderlies, with the implication that such assignment was permissible if a military allotment could be contrived.7
Although inspection teams arriving before these publications found many women in unmilitary work and service commands most reluctant to remove them, teams arriving after publication found that many stations had just reassigned Wac waitresses and cooks from officers' clubs and messes. Other stations did not comply with the circulars until they heard that the teams were coming; still others agreed to make the corrections on the spot while teams were at the station.8
These prohibitions, however, did not actually constitute restrictions on the use of Wacs other than those already placed on the use of soldiers; the only difference was that the prohibitions were specifically restated for women as a result of numerous abuses.
Restrictions on Permanent Kitchen Police Duty
A similar problem concerned the assignment to kitchen police (KP) duty, which was authorized for military personnel, but not as a permanent job. It was considered unsuitable to use the duty for punishment or to assign any soldier to perform it continuously. WAC inspectors therefore expressed some surprise in discovering that this rule was more frequently ignored for women than for men, with a few Wacs at a number of stations being assigned the duty on a permanent basis. Upon investigation, the violation was readily understood: the number of men at any station was ordinarily so great that the duty could be handled on a roster basis without falling too frequently upon any one individual, while in a unit of 150 women the duty occurred once or twice a month. The difficulty was redoubled when Wacs began to receive ratings, since by Army custom noncommissioned officers and key office personnel were exempt from the KP roster. In the small WAC
company such exemption caused the duty to fall even more frequently to the remainder of the women, sometimes as often as every two or three days. The reaction of Army section chiefs was almost unanimous. As one staff director reported, "The Army officers said it was impossible to let them do KP. Offices had let men go and could not spare the girls even for a halfday.9 The usual field solution was to assign a few members of the company on a permanent basis to do KP and other menial roster duty for the office workers.
This solution was not acceptable to Director Hobby, who noted:
With the new standards for recruiting, it would be unfair to have permanent kitchen police .... From now on we are not going to get the people who are suited for permanent KP's unless there is selective service for women.
Even if low-grade personnel was accidentally admitted, it was her opinion that American citizens who were induced to volunteer for military work should not find themselves forced to perform menial nonmilitary services for other volunteers. The Director stated:
We are in danger of building up a caste system in the WAC, whether we like it or not . . . . [It] is undemocratic and unfair to the women.
This view was supported by Deputy Director
We need to build in the company a spirit of respect for the job no matter what the job is. Everyone should take her turn at KP.10
The Navy reported art identical problem among the WAVES, and attempted to solve it by recruiting women as seamen (utility) expressly for this work, but this failed when "morale was chronically poor . . . too few would volunteer to enlist therein and those who did became dissatisfied when they discovered the nature of the work." Finally the seaman rating had to be dropped, and the work returned to a roster basis.11
As the only remaining solution, Director Hobby therefore asked publication of a circular requiring WAC; noncommissioned officers, who were ordinarily exempt, to share KP with the other women in order that no woman would be too frequently absent on this duty. This recommendation was not favorably considered by Military Personnel Division, ASF, since "The privates cease to regard the noncoms with the respect which they are due if the noncoms are forced to work in the kitchen side by side with them." 12 General Dalton's opinion was not concurred in by the Director, who held the view that, except for the few command cadre positions, there was no reason why a truck driver should regard a stenographer with respect, or one member of the company be afforded more privileges than another on the grounds of superior education or skills. British services had entertained the same opinion, and had gone so far as to make a training film in which a rated office worker was reprimanded by
her company commander for a snobbish attitude toward a scrubwoman, and was informed that in winning the war the contribution of every member was equally important.
Director Hobby therefore made a third appeal for a written prohibition on permanent KP for Wacs, which would force station commanders to set up the work on a roster basis. Again General Dalton objected, stating that men were never used on permanent kitchen police and that there was no need to restate the prohibition for women. However, the General Staff supported the Director's request in view of reports of numerous violations of the rule, and the policy was published in the first and all later WAC Regulations.13
From the standpoint of the physical well-being of women, the solution to the KP problem achieved by many field stations, even on a roster basis, was doubtful. Desiring to cut absences from the office to a minimum, station authorities frequently elected to put women on one long detail, from before dawn until late at night, rather than to permit two shorter absences which disrupted work on two days instead of one.
In 1944 Director Hobby requested the major commands to check on this practice, since "letters to this office, some of them Congressional inquiries, have indicated that there has been an increasing tendency in WAC units to make schedules for KP duty so that individuals draw long hours and sometimes arduous continuous details. 14 Investigations revealed some cases of 14-hour details without rotation from heavier to lighter tasks. Many Wacs were found to prefer one long day of KP rather than several partial ones, although admitting that the resulting aches, pains, and strains caused additional loss of time from the office. Inspectors at every opportunity questioned the practice, but it was difficult to alter.
Even selective service for women did not appear to offer a solution to the problem, since under this system the Army did not sanction permanent kitchen police for a soldier. In overseas theaters, a solution was achieved by the use of civilian labor, thus permitting key office personnel to work as steadily as section chiefs desired. Since funds did not permit this practice in the United States, some stations gave thought to the use of prisoners of war-a system which was informally discouraged after the first Wac was court-martialed and discharged for becoming engaged to one.15 Under the circumstances, it could only be hoped that section chiefs would eventually cease to protest at allowing Wacs to fulfill their military roster duties as did other military personnel.
Restrictions on Food Service Assignments
While the WAC always ran its own messes, it never attempted to take over those of men's units. This system had not been the Corps' original intent. Women's civilian monopoly in the fields of cooking and home economics strongly suggested that the Army's entire food supply and service system, with the exception of combat units, might eventually benefit by acquiring a feminine staff: WAC advisers reported that many Army men felt that "there is nothing that the WAC might do
that would give it greater popularity with the Army or make itself more useful in the war effort." 16 This conjecture was supported by the precedent of the British women's services, which entirely staffed most officers' messes and many general messes.
For the American WAAC's first year, Director Hobby and her advisers therefore contemplated the eventual formation of mess companies, although deferring these in order to meet the shipment schedule for the standard Table of Organization companies. As late as June of 1943 WAAC Headquarters went on record as approving the establishment of WAC mess companies to operate men's messes. The action in fact appeared essential at this time, since the collapse of recruiting plans had left the WAC with a surplus of cooks, trained to staff WAC companies that had failed to materialize. However, before this personnel could be organized into mess companies, a requisition was received from the Army Air Forces to assign the cooks to its hospital diet kitchens to prepare food for patients. Since the need of the sick appeared worthy of priority, the women-some 700 in all-were assigned to the Air Forces and, under its flexible assignment system, added to existing WAC units at stations having hospitals large enough to require them.17
With the establishment of higher recruiting standards, no such surplus of cooks ever again accumulated. The number of recruits skilled as cooks and home economics specialists was never greater than could be employed in WAC units and hospital diet kitchens. At the same time, several developments convinced the War Department that no steps should be taken to stimulate the enlistment of WAC mess personnel. One important consideration was the working environment, which appeared unsuitable except in the larger messes where an all-WAC mess company could be employed.18
Also, many duties in an Army mess proved to be beyond a woman's strength. Even in the small WAC unit messes, some assistance from men was often required in unloading hundred-pound cartons or in lifting garbage and grease containers. In the larger messes the kettles and other cooking utensils, when filled, were sometimes too heavy for women to lift, while few women could for many months sustain even such duties as large-scale meat-cutting and baking. Obviously even an all WAC mess company would necessarily be confined to skilled cooks and mess sergeants, unless troop allotments could be expanded to allow two women for one man in heavier work. Under the circumstances. Colonel Catron informed the War Department at the time of the conversion that priority would be given to WAC messes and hospital messes, and consideration of running enlisted men's messes postponed until these needs were satisfied.19
This priority was never to be reversed. Not only were recruits too few to fill more urgent needs in offices, but the results of recruiting surveys indicated that any public awareness of the use of Wacs in cooking duties constituted a severe drag upon the recruiting of skilled and capable women. Even the limited use already undertaken had shown adverse effects, and after a receipt of one Gallup report to this effect,
Director Hobby urged staff directors to "discourage as much as possible" pictures of women in the kitchen, particularly since these usually showed a background of oversized ladles, monumental cooking pots, and wholesale quantities of food.20
There was never to be any conclusive explanation of why the expectation of cooking duties should drive recruits away by the thousands, as it was well known to do. Classification experts were of the opinion that women with other skills feared, in spite of all job guarantees, that they would be forced into kitchens. Psychiatrists noted that many recruits wanted to do a man's job, and felt that kitchen duty was not particularly military. Possibly the best explanation came from civilian social analysts, who noted that domestic service had been steadily dropping in popularity, with "reluctance of workers, in the face of growing opportunities in factories and shops, to enter a field with low standards of work and wages and inferior social status.21
This hypothesis was confirmed by the example of the British women's services, which indicated not only that well-qualified women would not enlist for mess work, but that they would not enlist in, and wear the uniform of, a corps that earned a reputation for specializing in mess management.22 In the WAC, it was noted that "those in charge of recruiting found that it was almost impossible to recruit office workers so long as the general public believed that women in the armed forces were used largely as cooks, waitresses, etc.23 Only selective service had ever enabled any women's service to get numbers of skilled "white-collar" workers and mess personnel in the same corps.
For this reason, no recruiting campaign to organize WAC mess companies was ever sponsored. Early in 1945, Director Hobby obtained publication of a War Department circular forbidding the assignment of Wacs to men's messes, except in hospitals and except when Wacs ate in consolidated messes and furnished a proportionate share of personnel.24
Other Questions of Proper Employment
Thus, the only two major policies on WAC jobs ever to be adopted by the Army centered around the decision that Wacs would perform only military duties, and that the Corps would continue to specialize in office work rather than food service. Of all other questions concerning proper employment, most were satisfactorily settled at a field level; only a few ever received War Department attention.
In the field there seemed to be some impression that a list of other prohibited duties did exist, or should, and in its early days WAAC Headquarters constantly received queries concerning the maximum size of the trucks women might drive, the weights they might lift, and similar matters. Such inquiries continued to be so frequent that WAAC representatives worked long and painfully with Military Personnel Division, ASF, to compile a list of prohibited duties, which would have included some 150 occupations such as blacksmith, boilermaker, and bath attendant. The attempt seemed more amusing than useful, and was finally abandoned, as it appeared
somewhat unlikely that anyone would assign women to such work in any case.25
One minor question, which arose at many stations lacking central heating in barracks, was whether the women could fire their own barracks furnace on roster duty as did most men's units. Since the answer varied according to the size and nature of both the furnace and the Wacs, the Director believed that the matter should be left to the discretion of Army stations.
For example, the Second Service Command reported to the Director an "acute problem" at Camp Upton, New York: the women's health was affected because they had to fire furnaces, while Waacs at nearby Fort Dix had such work done for them. The service command asked that the Director set a uniform policy. In reply, WAAC Headquarters refused to try to set a policy, stating that the matter was one of command, and that its only policy was that Waacs should not do work that overtaxed their strength. Colonel Clark write:
If the work of manning furnaces at Camp Upton is reasonably beyond the physical capacity of women, manifestly they should not be required to do it. It is believed to be purely a matter within the province of the Post Commander, who will undoubtedly take such action as is deemed necessary, upon the request of the WAAC Company Commander.26
In most instances local commanders solved the problem with considerable common sense. Were one post service detail did this job for men's barracks, the Waacs' could easily be included. If each barracks did its own, the WAC commander was usually able to arrange for the duty to be assumed by women of suitable strength, who often preferred it to kitchen police. If the unit contained no such strong women, or if section chiefs refused to release office workers for the task, civilians or male service troops were given the detail without causing any great comment.
This local-option view was not shared by the Chief of Engineers' office, which informed the field, without consulting the Director WAAC:
With proper training, the members of the WAAC can operate furnaces and water heaters in the same manner as enlisted men. No change is contemplated in the established policy that such equipment be operated by the personnel occupying the quarters in which it is installed.27
When it was discovered that the commandant at Fort Oglethorpe was using labor troops to fire furnaces and heaters for the whole post, rather than drawing details from Wacs for this purpose, ASF headquarters took these men from his allotment and stated, "War Department policy does not contemplate the use of station complement personnel to fire small heating units.28 During the following winter, Fort Oglethorpe was subject to severe Congressional and public criticism for repeated cases in which recruits reported to cold barracks, and spent much of their so-called basic training period in firing furnaces, with a resulting high rate
of hospitalization and disability discharge.29
The WAC was not in a position to argue with Army-wide policies on furnace firing, but field inspectors found in some cases that any economy resulting from Wacs doing the work was indeed doubtful. WAC office and hospital workers suffering from sprained backs were frequently hospitalized and absent from their duties following furnace-firing detail. A large-scale study by the Army Air Forces showed that respiratory disorders were increased by the duty; with corresponding loss of time from work. Furthermore, at several stations the heating equipment suffered expensive damage from the unskilled ministrations of the Wacs. At one station steam instead of water emerged from certain fixtures in the WAC latrines, and geysers erupted on the post grounds. At one training center, women in the latrine were quite seriously scalded in a way that made desk work impossible for weeks.
The Army Air Forces achieved a partial solution to this problem by rescinding directives that required unit personnel to fire their own furnaces, thus leaving the post commander free to take any steps deemed necessary to prevent the absence of key office personnel, male or female. :No similar Army-wide solution was ever promulgated.30
Use of Weapons
Another minor job-assignment question was that of the use of weapons. Although Wacs were clearly labeled noncombatants, and thus supposedly not concerned with the use of weapons, it soon developed that in their private lives a few were good marksmen, and that Army men took a friendly interest in instructing them and allowing them to qualify on firing ranges. The War Department judged the matter unimportant because of the few cases concerned. However, in this it reckoned without the newspapers, which shortly spread one or two pictured instances nationwide. There resulted what WAC advisers called "a serious public relations problem," with semihysterical accusations from many citizens (1) that the country was in such bad shape that women were about to be sent into combat, or (2) that Wacs were not needed and were obliged to while away their time in this manner, or (3) that Wacs were wasting the powder which munitions workers sat up nights to manufacture. Even a case in which Wacs were photographed drilling with wooden guns provoked condemnation when published in a blurred newspaper version.
Accordingly, Director Hobby requested and secured a stringent prohibition on the use of weapons, which stated sweepingly that "no weapon or arm, nor any replica or imitation thereof, will be used or carried by any member of the WAC, nor will any training in the use or firing of any weapon be afforded any member.''
Almost immediately the regulation proved hampering to field commanders charged with assigning Wacs. Certain Air Forces women instructors had been accustomed to use gun-shaped training devices. Fiscal authorities protested that the ruling would require the removal of WAC officers from duty as disbursing officers. WAC officers attending the Army Finance School were unable to receive the same training as male students. Certain emi-
nently suitable signal and communications duties were also jeopardized, since regulations required that a revolver be kept in the code room. In overseas areas there were also usually regulations which prevented taking out any vehicle without arms.
Director Hobby admitted that tier original recommendation had been over-stringent, and asked that the prohibition be reworded to permit women to carry such weapons as were required by their specific assignment, if the assignment was otherwise suitable and noncombatant, and if the women had suitable training. This request was refused by the Director of Personnel, Army Service Forces: "Not favorably considered in view of War Department policy that members of noncombatant branches will not be trained in the use of weapons."
Since the WAC was the only noncombatant branch assigned to duties in fiscal and other work requiring firearms, this restriction continued to prove most unpopular with the field, and Director Hobby, after her move to G-1 Division, continued to ask that it be rescinded. As a result, G-1 Division soon published what was believed to be a discreetly worded circular which allowed commanding generals to grant exceptions, for specifically named individuals only, provided that the duties were suitable and the women properly qualified.
Within six months, this authority was so extensively abused by field commands that G-1 Division rescinded it, stating that, with the circular as an excuse, "WAC personnel are being required to drill in the use of arms and at some localities there is wholesale participation by WA( a personnel in familiarization courses in the use of weapons and arms." Since Colonel Hobby did not wish to impose another absolute prohibition on such field assignments, G-1 merely rescinded the authorization, thus leaving neither approval or disapproval in the regulations, except for a passage which stated that "the wearing of badges representing qualification in arms by Women's Army Corps personnel is prohibited." This also did riot prove too popular with Wacs, who felt it peculiar that they should be allowed to qualify but not to receive the badge. British precedent indicated an eventual solution of the problem only if future emergencies should make home defense as acceptable a female occupation as it had once been in pioneer days.31
Use in Public Theatricals
A more serious and frequent question was that which concerned the duty assignment of Wacs to theatrical performances designed for public entertainment. This question was entirely apart from that of participation in camp and company shows and skits, which had always been encouraged, although requests for Special Services material for this purpose were refused by the ASF for two years. Not until July of 1945 was there published a booklet of all girl skits and other entertainment material suitable for WAC company parties. Such camp shows were done on the individual's
own time and offered no question concerning duty assignment. 32
On the other hand, many talented Wacs-writers, musicians, actresses, singers-had obviously hoped to use their talents on a full-time basis in the war effort, with Army sponsorship. The question of whether or not they would be allowed to do so first arose at Daytona Beach, where Waacs wrote and produced a show called On the Double, with dances directed by a former Broadway teacher and costumes by a former professional theatrical costumer. The production was such a success that firemen had to be called to turn away hundreds of curious civilians. Posts in the surrounding area requested that the show go on tour, and its WAAC sponsor wrote the Director, "We feel that this show would definitely be one of the greatest recruiting factors that the WAAC could have if it were possible for us to put it on in other places than Daytona Beach." 33
After some consideration, Director Hobby disapproved the idea of a tour, and asked ASF to inform the service commands that it was improper to use Wacs for "singing and dancing in connection with any presentation put on for the public on behalf of recruiting.34 There was considerable indication that the value of such expensive productions to recruiting was small, and at times actually negative. Thus, the successful Daytona production received newspaper "praise" calling it "the Amazon's answer" and stating, "Hold your hats, fellows-there's a striptease act so good the MP's have to break it up." 35 Even if such publicity was considered desirable, there remained the problem of expense. In one case in which the First Service Command tried such an experiment on its own authority, it was soon obliged to report that recruits obtained by this means cost $1,200 more apiece than ordinary recruits.36
Therefore, although members of the press applied some pressure on behalf of talented WAC friends, informing the Director that she was making a "great mistake," she nevertheless proposed and secured publication of a War Department policy against the use of Wacs in theatricals for the civilian public. Wacs were allowed to appear only in those shows performed at home stations for soldiers and their families, which did not take them off their jobs and for which no admission was charged except to defray costs. This rule was published in July 1943, and with minor modifications remained the WAC's policy for the rest of its career.37
This prohibition often appeared unreasonable to stations in the field, since male military personnel were frequently used in traveling productions such as This Is the Army. There was every evidence that the regulation was frequently violated. Nevertheless, no change in ruling was ever made by the War Department. The distinction in such assignments for men and
for women was based partly upon the opinion that
. . . members of the public, not yet convinced of the advisability of having women in the military service, were prone to think, if they saw women in theatrical performances, that the Army had no real need for them.38
For men, especially where returned combat heroes were used, there seemed to be a more favorable public impression that singing and dancing assignments were only a brief interlude in combat. Eventually even this tolerance was at times overstrained, and the Director's staff noted that "the Bureau is having the same type of trouble with men participating in theatricals." 39 A great many such projects for men came to be refused, "because of the critical manpower situation and the present need for all available military personnel.40
For the WAC, the problem continued to be one not merely of economy but of public acceptance. Director Hobby stated, as one of the Corps' major principles:
It is contrary to policy to . . . sanction appearance in public where this might give the impression of frivolity or lack of serious purpose or occupation . . . . It is also contrary to policy to move WAC units over considerable distances except for necessary and official purposes.41
As the Army's practice of fostering home-talent post shows grew, the War Department, at the request of field stations, permitted Wacs to appear in such shows even when they journeyed to nearby stations, provided that their absence from home stations was not more than twelve hours and that they were accompanied by a WAC officer. Later, at the request of Miss Sarah Blanding of the Secretary of War's Recreational Committee, this ruling was extended so that commanding generals might authorize a longer period of absence from duty for performances before audiences composed entirely of patients in Army hospitals.42
There was no equally successful solution to the demand for WAC units to appear in civic parades and other celebrations. Military posts were accustomed to contributing a company to grace patriotic occasions in nearby communities, but could ordinarily divide the honor among a number of companies. Since the WAC ordinarily had only one company at a station, and was in great demand as a curiosity, its members were frequently forced to augment their military schedule with long marches in local parades, often with the loss of most of a working day. Colonel Hobby stated forcibly to WAC staff officers her opinion that "they must not be pulled off their jobs because somebody wants to see a parade." 43
Post commanders ordinarily agreed heartily and did what they could to check the practice. Unfortunately, civilian patriotic groups were numerous and their requests not only incessant but difficult to refuse diplomatically. For example, in one brief period in one city, Masonic and Eastern Star groups asked for "from 60 to 100 Wacs to participate in a pageant"; the Confederate Memorial Committee asked
for members to "display a banner in our procession"; and the American Legion asked for "such units as may be available" for their annual convention parade.44
Refusals of such requests were frequently appealed from a post commander to a service commander and even higher. Thus, Colonel Hobby on one occasion received a telephoned request-which she was of course unable to grant-that she "force" the Commanding General, Second Service Command, to ship his WAC band from New York to Philadelphia, at Army expense, for the bond parade sponsored by the Philadelphia War Finance Committee. In other cases, civilian groups, refused by the commanding general of a service command, appealed to Congressmen who forced the commanding general to yield. No reasonable compromise solution to the problem was ever discovered.45
Only one restriction was necessitated concerning transportation orders for women. Conditions of shipment were the same for men and women-troop trains for whole units, and travel of individuals or smaller groups by coach for short trips and Pullman for overnight travel. In practice such standards were of course seldom met for either men or women. WAC training centers were finally authorized to use coaches regularly for trips up to 36 hours, with a WAC officer in charge of each WAC shipment.
As unit shipment declined and individual shipment as casuals increased, disturbing reports were received concerning the shipment of mixed groups of men and women-particularly in one case in which seven enlisted women were sent on an overnight trip in a coach with enlisted men, with only a male corporal in charge. At this, the Director asked that shipments of men and women not be consolidated. The Army Service Forces did not approve or publish this request, but after the Director's move to G-1 Division a War Department circular was published which required that, if it was necessary to ship enlisted men and women in the same car, a ranking member of each group would be in charge.46
Legal Restrictions on WAC Jobs
In order not to conflict with the prerogatives of the Army Nurse Corps, the WAC was forbidden by act of Congress to perform nursing duties. Nurses who had joined the WAAC could transfer to the Army Nurse Corps if eligible, but as the top age limit was 45 for nurses and 50 for Wacs, a number were not eligible and chose to continue in the WAC. Many registered nurses in this age group apparently failed to understand that they could not employ their skills under these circumstances, and some complaints were received. There was, however, no authority for discharge of such enlisted women, who ordinarily were employed as orderlies or technicians under the supervision of younger Nurse Corps officers. The same
prohibition applied to doctors, but as none of these were reported as remaining in the WAC the problem of their assignment as enlisted women did not arise.47
There was likewise no authority for transfer of members of the WAC to the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps for training. The Cadet Nurse Corps was a civilian organization organized by the U.S. Public Health Service to give free nurses' training to "cadets" who received their keep, allowances, and attractive uniforms. It possessed considerable attraction for members of the WAC, especially those in hospitals who were performing the duties of orderlies and receiving little or no useful training for the future.
Unfortunately, an early bulletin of the Public Health Service gave the impression that qualified members of the WAC might be released by the Army to take cadet nurse training. This was soon corrected at the request of WAC authorities, but meanwhile a number of requests for transfer had been received, accompanied by Congressional backing. To these the WAC was obliged to reply that there was no existing authority to transfer members from military service to civilian groups, since this would in effect have required discharge of all soldiers who could do better for themselves in civilian life. Nevertheless, it was months before such inquiries ceased to come in from Wacs who felt that they were being penalized fir their early enlistment before cadet training was offered by the government. In general, the problem remained merely one small facet of the larger question of national versus voluntary service for women. 48
A similar refusal was received by WAC officers and enlisted women who were qualified as pilots or as pilot trainees and who desired to transfer to the WASP (Women Air Service Pilots). Since this organization was a civilian group, there existed no authority for release of military personnel to accept flying duties. While it would have been possible to accomplish the same result by placing the WASP in the WAC, a solution agreeable to WAC leaders, this step was rejected by the director of the WASP. Again, the problem appeared part of the larger need for a clearer line of distinction between military and civilian duties and status.49
Restrictions on Assignment to Washington, D. C.
One other restriction on WAC assignments, which soon proved so unpopular as to be unenforceable, was General Somervell's early order barring assignments in the District of Columbia. Although replacement of Civil Service workers in this or any other location was forbidden, there was a limited number of fully military jobs in Washington, in which enlisted men were employed. In the Corps' first month the Chief of Staff approved the use of the first group of enlisted Waacs in the Pentagon, to monitor telephone calls for G-2 Division, but any further use was strictly prohibited.50
In view of the stringency of these orders, the General Council was surprised at the end of the Corps' first year when General McNarney demanded an explanation of
why "a number of them have infiltrated into jobs here."51 Upon investigating, General Dalton was startled to discover that the ASF had 259 Waacs in Washington. He requested explanation of how they got there, since, he said, "General S. still does not want Waacs assigned to ASF activities in Washington." 52 Actually, all proved to be properly authorized personnel who had been approved by the Chief of Staff from time to time, particularly in G-2, WAC Headquarters, and later as staff directors for the administrative and technical services.53
In spite of all resolutions, Wacs continued to filter into Washington. Almost immediately alter his protest, the manpower shortage forced General McNarney to approve an exception for the classified message center of his own office, and for Operations Division of the General Staff: At the same time a request from Military Intelligence Service for Wacs to man its message center was disapproved. Military Intelligence Service persisted, and in September of 1943 the Chief of Staff finally authorized 77 Wacs for this work; a little later it was necessary to add 22 more.54
This concession marked the beginning of the end of the policy. In November of 1943, the ban on WAC officers in the ASF in the District was removed, with the precaution that a report of the total be sent to the Deputy Chief of Staff every two months. By May of 1944, a large percentage of the enlisted personnel being brought to Washington was female, for service at the secret Signal Corps installation at Arlington Hall, or with the Air Forces at Bolling Field and the Air Transport Command at Gravelly Point. By August of 1944 there were 2,045 enlisted women in the Military District of Washington alone, and the ceiling was raised to 3,202 to permit more to enter. Just before the end of the war, the last opponent to Wacs in Washington-the Army Ground Forces yielded to the manpower shortage and asked permission to bring in 55 women for military jobs in Headquarters, AGE.55
By this time the War Department's policy had been entirely reversed; not only did it permit Wacs to work in the General Staff in Washington, but it awarded itself top priority. It was directed that War Department needs would be filled from surplus personnel, if possible, but if not, it would receive Wacs regardless of the branch that had been promised them when recruited. If this was inadequate, the Air, Ground, and Service Forces would be called upon to supply Washington's demands from field stations.56
Since all General Staff requisitions called for highly qualified personnel, they remained unpopular with field commands, as well as with many of the enlisted women, who preferred the more military atmosphere of an Army post. On the other hand, since allotments often permitted top ratings, the requisitions were more easily
filled than those of overseas theaters. Only military vacancies continued to be filled; as a result the total employment in the Washington area remained only about a fifth of that achieved by the Navy Department. Thus, the War Department priority never became the problem that was reported by the Navy, where, it was stated, "the over-riding priority given . . . cut across and upset all principles of equitable apportionment.57
Results of Enlisted Personnel Policies
With the removal of restrictions on assignment in Washington, there remained no type of fixed installation to which WAC assignment was forbidden. There was, likewise, with the possible exception of "entertainer," no noncombatant MOS to which field commanders were forbidden to assign enlisted women, although some, like food service, were restricted to WAC administration. The result of these lenient assignment policies was, as might have been expected, a rapid multiplication of the number of WAC enlisted jobs from the time of the conversion onward, limited only by the civilian skills that women were found to possess.
Records in the Corps' second year showed that already women had been recruited in more than 300 different civilian occupations, from gunsmith to electrical engineer, and from psychiatric social worker to horse-breaker. Almost every language skill was represented, including Chinese, Finnish, Lithuanian, and Swahili. While obviously not all of these skills could be used by the Army, by the summer of 1943 the number of military occupational specialties held by enlisted women was estimated at 155; by early 1944, at 239; by May of 1944, at 274. No final count was ever reported. It did not appear likely that the estimated possible total of 408 suitable Army jobs had been reached, but it had undoubtedly been approached within all reasonable expectation under a voluntary recruitment system.58
Under the informal assignment system, about half of the assignments were to administrative and office work, in which women predominated in civilian life. Toward the end of the war a mild trend had set in away from such work in favor of increased technical and professional assignments-at least in the United States-but office work still took first place.59
|Type of work
|30 Sep 44
|Administrative and Office
|Technical and Professional
|Supply and Stock
|Mechanical and Trade
|Radio and Electrical
As might have been predicted from the higher WAC enlistment standards, the average enlisted woman was found to be somewhat ahead of the average enlisted man in aptitude as measured by the Army General Classification Test. 60
SUITABLE ARMY JOBS FOR WOMEN. Above, Wac laboratory technician conducts an experiment at Fort Jackson Station Hospital, South Carolina. Below, two women work at a trailer repair unit, Fort McPherson, Georgia.
SUITABLE ARMY JOBS FOR WOMEN. Above, a Wac is at work in the Ordnance Section al Camp Campbell, Kentucky. Below, women pack a parachute, part of their duties as riggers, Fort Benning, Georgia.
For the same reason, in educational level enlisted women appeared even more noticeably superior to the enlisted men of the Army, with 62 percent of enlisted women having a high school education or better as compared to 39 percent of enlisted men.61
|Grammar school only
|1, 2, 3 years high school
|High school graduate
|1, 2, 3 years college
In ratings the enlisted women were nevertheless considerably behind the men of the Army. Obviously, under the decentralized system of control, women had not received the ratings that would have gone with their skills under a more formal system. 62
|Master and 1st Sgt
|Staff Sgt and Tec/3
|Sgt or Tec/4
|Corporal or Tec/5
|Pvt 1st Class
'The relative success of the decentralized and flexible system of enlisted assignments, as contrasted with the Navy's more formalized one, was difficult to determine. There were indications that the Navy suffered some wastage of civilian skills by arbitrary denial to women of certain categories of jobs, as well as what it called "misplacement and under-utilization of women, which were to have far-reaching consequences on morale and procurement." 63 However, in the Army also there was evidence that, while outright violations of regulations were few, the standard of utilization of skills was not high.
In late 1944 a War Department personnel auditing team surveyed a large sample of the Army's enlisted women and discovered that, of women who had specialized civilian skills urgently needed by the Army, 23 percent were not using them. If this sample ratio held true, almost one fourth of the Corps' skilled workers were being underutilized through poor personnel practices. It was also found that 22 percent of graduates of service schools were assigned to duties unrelated to their schooling, thus indicating that almost one fourth of the Army's specialized training of women was being wasted.64
Various inspection teams at different times also detected a notable trend toward underutilization of the higher skills. In the Air Forces, college women were pronounced "usually well-assigned," but in the Army Service Forces, only about 20 percent of enlisted college graduates were in jobs requiring their training, and 4 percent were actually in menial jobs. One team captain reported:
Women with degrees in home economics and one to fifteen years experience in food planning were working as Second and Third cooks. Women with years of photographic experience were working on one simple phase of that job. Expert linguists-German, Polish, Spanish, French, Chinese-some of whom could take dictation in the language were not using their language skill.65
Skilled stenographers were especially liable to malassignment, as civilians often occupied an office's only stenographic job. Malassignments also were found among telephone operators, typists, clerks, chauffers, key-punch operators, dietitians, and other specialists.
Everywhere women were conscious of the lack of ratings. Surveyors noted that "in some instances, promotions have been given to enlisted men rather than Wacs when an opening occurs, even though the Wac may have filled the opening .... Enlisted men resent Wacs being given ratings rather than themselves."
Survey team captains reported that the Army Air Forces generally showed a more favorable attitude toward WAC classification. Various teams stated: "Wars are very well received in the AAF, not only by section chiefs but also by enlisted men"; "The type of jobs open to Wacs was more varied in the AAF"; "AAF jobs were far more in agreement with WAC Regulations than ASF"
There was no indication that the wastage of skills of enlisted women was worse than that among enlisted men, with two exceptions: there was a general tendency to use women in nonmilitary work or lower-rated jobs, and there was also a tendency to accept as normal among women a percentage of malassignment which, for men, resulted from the necessity for combat assignments. All inspectors continued to note that failure to use their skills had a proportionately greater effect upon women than upon men, who expected eventual combat. One team captain noted, "Morale and classification seem to be almost synonymous as far as Wacs are concerned."
There was every evidence that both the Army and the Navy had pursued the correct policy in limiting their women's corps to skilled personnel who could fill skilled jobs. Survey teams reported that women with less than two years of high school education had seldom progressed well in the Army, and those who had no essential skill, particularly in the older age group, had especial difficulty in adjusting to military life. Women's lesser physical strength effectively prevented success of such women on those Army jobs within their mental capacities.
In the last winter of the war, ASF's Military Personnel Division reported itself still unable to find suitable assignments for such women, after a series of futile attempts to train them as ward orderlies, shoemakers, and sewing machine operators. It therefore recommended that the women be discharged and no more recruited. This decision obviously represented a major reversal of the ideas of a decade before-or even a year before concerning lowering of standards for women recruits. Both Army and Navy experience indicated that in future planning, and particularly if selective service was applied to women, the armed forces had good grounds for accepting only women of a skill and aptitude somewhat above that of drafted men and of the population as a whole. 66
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