The Employment of Personnel: Minority Groups

The only sizable racial minority group in the WAC was that of the Negro, although a few women of Puerto Rican, Chinese, Japanese, and American Indian descent were also enlisted. Members of most of these groups, except the Negro, were very rarely recruited, and were not segregated, but scattered through ordinary WAC units according to skills.

One exception was the group of Puerto Rican Wacs, who were enlisted, trained, and assigned as a unit. It had been intended to integrate them into other WAC units, but language difficulties made this step impractical. The women presented no notable problems except that of language, which possibly prevented them from receiving assignments commensurate with their intelligence.1

Considerable numbers of nisei recruits had been expected when, in 1943, the Army began to admit Americans of Japanese descent. In this hope, the Director's staff went to some pains to publish the necessary waivers on height and to request small-sized uniforms. Some five hundred nisei recruits were wanted for employment as translators, but in spite of visits of WAC recruiters to relocation centers, only thirteen could be obtained in the first six months of enlistment, and negligible numbers thereafter. Parental opposition to military service fir women was believed to have been the chief deterrent, as well as the fact that the women were by this time permitted to leave the relocation centers for other employment.2 Somewhat later, the Military Intelligence: Language School was able to locate and enlist a few more women who agreed to enter specifically for service at the school. Four more such women, especially enlisted in Hawaii for the language school, were appropriated by the Office of Strategic Services in Washington. There was sometimes a tendency to expect that all nisei Wacs could be assigned as translators, although in actual fact some of them proved to know no more of the Japanese language than any other American. 3

Negro Personnel

Even before the passage of the first WAAC legislation, the War Department


announced that the new Corps would follow Army policy by admitting Negroes to basic and officer candidate training, and that two of the first eight companies sent to the field would be composed of Negroes. Forty of the WAAC's first 440 officer candidate vacancies were allotted to Negro women.4

Equality of treatment was also required by the confidential official policy which was formulated and approved shortly afterward and which stated:

On posts where these companies are stationed it should be fundamental that their reception and treatment should be an exemplification of the rights and privileges accorded officers and soldiers of the United States Army .... There will be no discrimination in the type of duties to which Negro women in the WAAC may be assigned . . . . Every effort will be made through intensive recruiting to obtain the class of colored women desired, in order that there may be no lowering of the standard in order to meet ratio requirements.5

The WAC, like the Army, was directed to accept 10.6 percent of its strength in Negro recruits. In accordance with the policy for men, it was deemed most desirable for adjustment to assign units to posts where a number of Negro troops were stationed, or where there was a large Negro population in nearby cities. Assignment overseas was also approved, contingent upon the request of the overseas commander.6

Reports from the first Negro trainees indicated that these prohibitions against discrimination were being upheld to the satisfaction of national Negro organizations. At the request of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune of the Federal Security Agency, a Negro lawyer in the city of Des Moines questioned the Negro officer candidates closely to see if they could not recall some evidence of discrimination, and found none:

Question: Are Negro girls made to feel that a special concession is being made to them in permitting them to attend this school?
Yes. The white girls are made to feel the same.7

General Marshall himself watched closely for compliance with these directives, and reported with satisfaction to the War Council that a reporter from the Pittsburgh Courier had inspected the Negro candidates and after urging them to make complaints could find none. All Negro Waacs assured the investigators that no school subjects were denied them, or jokes or sly remarks made. Some discrimination was noted in the city of Des Moines, but none among the other women, particularly those from the South, of whom Secretary Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) asked, "When is Des Moines in general going to become as democratic as the white Waacs from the South? 8



While thus approving other provisions, Negro organizations and investigators without exception objected to the segregation of Negro personnel, in which the WAAC had been directed to follow the Army policy. During the Corps' first months, numbers of Negro and white investigators arrived at Des Moines to search for bad results of segregation. The NAACP, after a visit by its representatives, wrote both the Secretary of War and the Director to protest the restriction of Negroes to separate barracks, separate tables in mess halls, and different swimming pool hours. Secretary White of the NAACP also repeatedly called at WAAC Headquarters in person to protest the Corps' action in following the Army policy on segregation. The National Board of the YWCA also investigated and wrote the Director to protest segregation. The Boston Urban League did the same. The Julius Rosenwald Fund sent a committee to Des Moines and concluded that segregation in housing would cause a falling off in Negro applications for enlistment.9

This concentrated activity within the space of a few weeks caused considerable concern to the WAAC staff. However, it was finally concluded that any new agency would probably receive similar visits, and that Negro organizations, like almost everyone else, did not realize that the WAAC was not an independent command in policy matters. One adviser reported to the Director:

The War Department, WAAC included, is gradually being maneuvered into the position of being forced to make decisions relative to racial matters which the government and/ or the citizens should have made long ago, by legislation and the establishment of a different policy .... The Director is going to be in a better position if she allows the Army to care for the things that they normally do. Housing is one of them and it is the camp commanders' problem.10

All requests to the WAAC for independent action were necessarily referred to the War Department for consideration, as part of the Army policy. In November of 1942, officers' housing and messing at Fort Des Moines were merged, and also service club facilities, and officer candidate companies became nonsegregated, there being precedent for these steps at some men's schools. On the average Army station, no change in the Army policy was deemed possible, since there was ordinarily only one WAAC unit on a station and its housing was of course segregated regardless of the race of its members. 11

In attempting even a limited relaxation of segregation at Des Moines, a women's corps dependent upon voluntary recruiting proved to be in a less advantageous position than the rest of the Army. There was some evidence that WAC recruiting soon suffered by comparison with that of the Navy women's services, which did not at this time accept Negro women. One congressman objected to the situation at Des Moines, stating of a constituent, "This fine girl along with others is now forced to share the same living quarters, bathroom facilities, restrooms, and reception rooms with Negroes." 12  Some Louisiana radio stations refused to aid WAC recruiting be-


cause a local woman, while housed on a separate floor of the Chamberlain Hotel in Des Moines, had to cat and do kitchen police with Negro women on the next floors.13  An Army officer reported:

I am hearing constant rumors as to a relaxing of segregation of Negroes at Fort Des Moines. Such rumors are horrifying to people in this section and I know are interfering seriously with recruiting.14

In any attempts to change the Army policy, a newly established volunteer corps, under orders to attempt an expansion program unsupported by selective service, obviously offered the least promising point for a beginning. Only Director Hobby's personal convictions prevented the wiping out of the steps already taken at Fort Des Moines.


Most Negro organizations alleged that the policy of segregation would deter the best-qualified Negro women from enlistment, and this possibility was recognized and provided for in the original War Department policy concerning Negro Waacs, which stated:

There is a definite reluctance on the part of the best qualified colored women to volunteer in the WAAC. This is brought about by an impression on their part that they will not be well received or treated on posts where they may be stationed. This could be overcome by an intensive recruiting campaign with the idea in view of interesting the desired class of colored women in this project and arriving at a thorough understanding of their rights and privileges while in the service . . . . An eminently qualified person, preferably a Negro recruiter, will be sent out to colored colleges in order to secure the proper class of applicants.15

Definite instructions requiring the acceptance of Negro applicants were sent out to recruiting stations. Noncompliance was discovered in only five cities and was corrected by telegraph in the WAAC's first week of recruiting.16  One of these cases, in Pittsburgh, caused the editor of the Pittsburgh Courier to demand that a woman from his staff be assigned to the Director's Office, since "We wouldn't want the public to deceive itself with the notion that what happened in Pittsburgh was due to the fact that the Director of the WAAC is a white woman from Texas."17  The demand for such an adviser became a nationwide campaign with as many as thirty-five mimeographed letters being received from one small Virginia city.18  However, the work of checking on such complaints was instead given to one of the first Negro officer candidates. Lt. Harriet West of the Director's staff, a former assistant to Dr. Bethune. Later charges of recruiting discrimination were investigated by Lieutenant West. In most cases records revealed that identical recruiting standards had been used, although rejected Negro applicants sometimes tended to blame discrimination rather than their own failure to pass aptitude or physical tests.19


Although Negro WAAC recruiting officers were sent to the field as soon as the first class graduated, Negro recruits from the first months failed to come up to expectations in either quantity or quality. An early check made by the Recruiting Service indicated that there were plenty of Negro applicants but that in some localities as many as 85 percent failed the various tests. Also, skills were scarce, and the whole Second Service Command reported that in several months it had been able to secure only one qualified typist and one clerk against its quota.20

During the first months of 1943, when standards for all recruits were unwisely lowered to meet expansion quotas, Negro recruits quickly presented a special problem, in that most of those who met enlistment standards tended to meet only the minimum requirements. As soon as educational standards were restored, in April of 1943, this condition became less common, but meanwhile the assignment problem for Negro women had become acute. A Negro training company in this month contained 225 members of whom 192 had no usable military skill. In the same month, the pool of unassignable women contained 180 whites and 776 Negroes.21  The only available comparison of test scores showed that, of a May 1943 sample, 66 percent of Negro recruits were in the two lowest ACCT groups, IV and V, as against only 15 percent of white recruits: only 6 percent of Negro Wacs were in the two upper brackets. I and II, as against 43 percent of white Wacs.22 The WAAC Control Division commented that the problem was one of the Corps' most serious, and would become worse when the women reached the field. 23

Attempts were made to discharge the most hopeless cases, and it was believed that the higher enrollment standards just adopted would prevent similar future difficulty. As for women who could not be discharged. Capt. Harriet West, after an inspection, recommended that they be formed into companies for unskilled work in hospitals, messes, and salvage depots. However, this could not be done because of the War Department policy that Negroes would be assigned to the same type of units as whites, and because most allotments for such jobs were civilian. To ease the situation at Des Moines, a number of the women were shipped to the Fourth Training Center at Fort Devens for general use about the post and for training in motor transport. After about three months, Fort Devens closed out and they were shipped back to Des Moines.24

The situation quickly became highly embarrassing to the War Department. Although white women with equal lack of qualifications were equally unassignable, it frequently appeared to Negro organizations that race rather than ability was the determining factor in Army job assignments for Negro women. Every possible solution appeared tinged with discrimination. The WAAC Table of Organization unit had only seventeen vacancies for unskilled women, so that to form such companies of the Negro women was impossible, yet to devise a different T/O for Negroes, entirely composed of menial workers, would have been actual instead of apparent discrimination. Attempts at


specialist training were equally futile. For Negroes only, the requirements for motor transport school were waived, and technical subjects removed from the course, but even with this assistance very few qualified drivers could be produced.25

In April of 1943, the Secretary of War's civilian aide, Truman Gibson, sent the War Department a complaint that the failure to give Negro women radio and other specialist training represented manipulation of test scores rather than the women's inaptitude; this was formally denied by training authorities. In May, representatives of the NAACP called on Colonel McCoskrie at Des Moines with the same and other complaints, and were again informed that women's alleged qualifications for radio and other training did not show up on tests.

In September of 1943 the civilian aide to the Secretary of War again complained that Negroes were being sent only to cooks and bakers school instead of to higher technical schools, and that white women were being assigned to field jobs while Negro women were not. The Director replied that Negroes could and did go to every specialist school upon the same basis as other women, and in fact had received more educational attention than white women in an effort to make up their deficiencies and permit their assignment to military jobs. The Secretary of War's civilian aide also objected to the fact that Negro women in the pool of unassignables had been allowed to go home on furlough while assignments for them were being sought; this, he charged, was also discrimination, in that white women did not get such furloughs.26

Especial protests concerned the recruiting situation, in which it was felt that the Army was not making every effort to recruit more Negro women. The basis for such complaints was the fact that, in July of 1943, Negro WAC officers were withdrawn from recruiting duty and returned to training centers, in what was announced as a move to provide instructors for unassigned Negro women in order to get them assigned to the field as quickly as possible. Under the circumstances, it appeared to the Negro press that the Negro recruiters were being blamed for the low-grade women admitted, or that the move was a prelude to refusal to admit Negro recruits. In spite of this protest, the Negro recruiters were not returned to duty, since a check revealed that their absence had caused no decline in the numbers of Negro recruits.27  It was known that the presence of Negro recruiters had caused situations prejudicial to white recruiting; in Sacramento, California, intelligence operatives reported a serious situation caused by Negro WAC recruiters who "appeared in public places giving public speeches.28

With the end of the T/O system, it became possible to ship to the field a unit chiefly composed of unskilled personnel, and the pool of unassigned women gradually diminished. The difficulty was, however, merely shifted to Army posts. An Army inspector reported that station commanders were quite at a loss as to how to assign the women without putting them into civilian jobs in laundries and service clubs. For example, one Negro unit in the field complained to an inspector of wom-


en's assignments, but it was found that only three women of the 135 were above Grade III on ACCT score, while 108 were in Grades IV and V. Their average civilian salary was $13.16 per week, and in civilian life they had been maids, waitresses, laundresses, and housewives. Nevertheless, they said that recruiters had told them that they would be trained to do skilled jobs and promoted at once to the grade of sergeant. Three in the company were described as "agitators," who threatened the other women for refusing to strike against their jobs.29

All attempts to place such low-grade women in Army jobs met with opposition. In 1943 and again in 1944 The Surgeon General's Office refused to accept them even as ward orderlies, saying:
No suitable assignments exist for such personnel upon completion of training and further accumulation of surplus colored 1NAC enlisted women thus trained would constitute an increasing embarrassment to the service.30

At the same time The Surgeon General's Office also refused to accept Grades IV and V white women.

The unassignability of unskilled Negro recruits merely served to reinforce a discovery that hardly needed reinforcement: that the Army had few jobs for unskilled and untrainable women of any race, and that to recruit them was invariably ill-advised. For skilled Negro recruits, the situation was considerably different. Negro women who met the intelligence requirements were successfully given specialist training including that of medical and surgical technicians, as well as laboratory, X-ray, and dental technicians; these women proved able to complete the regular course on the same terms as other Wacs.31  Army posts and air bases where Negro troops were stationed expressed a consistent eagerness to obtain Negro WAC units containing stenographers, typists, and other office workers.

Skilled Work Done by Negro Wacs

Scattered reports from Negro WAC units at Army stations showed successful performance by Negro Wacs of a wide variety of administrative and technical work. At Fort Jackson, a Wac sergeant was medical stenographer to the chief of general surgery. At Fort Bragg, a Wac T/5 taught arts and crafts to soldiers in the recreational therapy shop. At Fort McClellan, fifteen Wac clerks staffed the locator section of the post office, forwarding wrongly addressed mail and packages and keeping locator card files for the post. At Fort Riley, members served not only as ward orderlies but in the more skilled jobs of physical therapy aids, laboratory technicians, X-ray technicians, and dental technicians. At Fort Sheridan, Illinois, the women worked at graphotype machines, processing soldiers' records. At Camp Knight, California, 105 Negro Wacs performed clerical work in the overseas supply division.

In the Army Air Forces, whole units, such as that at the Walla Walla air base, were reported as succeeding in the same type of clerical and other duties performed by white Wacs. At the Sioux City Army air base, Negro Wacs worked in the tech-


nical inspector's office. At Douglas Army Airfield, the women were assigned to aircraft maintenance, the flight line, and laboratory work; one also served as photographer in the post public relations office. In the Air Service Command at Fresno, two women served in map and editing work in the war room.

Other duties noted at different stations were those of teletype operators, motion picture projectionists, parachute packers, drivers, cooks, chaplains' assistants, and librarians.32  The commanding officer of Fort Huachuca wrote, "These young women are showing marked ability in taking over essential jobs . . . . The performance of the Wacs has been very satisfactory in every respect." 33 The commanding officer of Douglas Army Airfield stated, "I've found them cooperative at all times, and their enthusiasm, industry, attention to duty and conduct make them a real asset to this post." "In several cases," Colonel Bandel reported later, "their efficiency and spirit were highly praised by airbase commanders." 34

Negro WAC officers served not only as troop officers and instructors but in operational jobs, a number also being graduates of the Army's Quartermaster School at Camp Lee.

With the higher enrollment standards, recruiters experienced increased success in obtaining qualified women. A survey of skills in 1944 showed that about one fourth of Negro recruits had clerical and professional skills, as against one half of white recruits. In addition, about 30 percent of the Negro recruits, as compared to 34 percent of the whites, had experience in skilled or unskilled trades.35  Although thus not as good as the WAC average, the Negro Wacs appeared to be considerably superior in skills to the average for Negro civilian women workers in the United States. Here, more than 64 percent of civilian women were reported to be in service occupations, as against only 35 percent of Negro Wacs with this background .36

In employing higher skill and aptitude standards, recruiters were never able to reach the desired goal of 10 percent of the Corps' strength.37  The peak strength of Negro WAC troops was reached early in 1945 and totaled approximately 4.000 or about 4 percent of the Corps.38  These women were assigned to some twenty stations in the Army Service Forces and ten stations in the Army Air Forces. The Army Ground Forces employed no Negro Wacs,


since most of its troops trained on stations administered by the Service Forces.39

Problems of Negro Units

There was little indication that, with a few exceptions, the problems experienced by these Negro WAC units in the field were greatly different in nature from those of other WAC units, but in some cases the normal difficulties of women in the Army were apparently intensified. Unskilled women of any race had been found harder to assign and harder to discipline. Thus, the Negro company officer frequently faced a more difficult command situation than did the average WAC company commander, in proportion as her unit contained more than the average of such women. The post commander at Fort Huachuca noted that the enlisted women were prone to develop "jealousies and cliques"' and "bickering which seem to date back to school days at Des Moines . . . with various kinds of personal gossip about each other.40

Unit members also showed a tendency to complain to inspectors about the education and ability of Negro company commanders, who were in fact as well educated and trained as the average WAC commander. To deal with such units frequently required a skill and a degree of leadership highly taxing to the company officer. Some Negro WAC company commanders were reported to have met the challenge with an ingenuity, energy, and sense of humor seldom equaled among other WAC commanders. On the other hand, some were found to share their women's deficiencies; an intelligence report from Fort Des Moines found that jealousy and rivalry had arisen among Negro WAC officers, resulting in a "heated argument" and "emotional display" in the presence of the commandant.

Negro WAC officers also had an especial problem of loneliness on many stations; the WAC policy was to have Negro company officers for Negro troops, but many male Negro units had white officers, so that the WAC officers were apt to be the only Negro officers on a station.41

While all WAC units had at first encountered some degree of skepticism concerning their mission in life, this difficulty was apparently intensified for Negro Wacs. The first requisition from the European theater, rejected by Colonel Hobby at the time of the Corps' formation, had been so plainly for "morale purposes" that the Secretary of War's civilian aide, William H. Hastie, protested that "the assignment of units of the WAAC to afford companionship for soldiers would discredit that organization" and was "contrary to its whole plan and purpose." 42

The first units at Fort Huachuca encountered an exceptionally difficult situation in this respect during the early weeks.43 While such impressions on stations of assignment could be remedied only by time and demonstrated military behavior, every effort was made to avoid exposing the women unnecessarily to situations that encouraged the misapprehension. Thus, when the inspector general at Sioux Falls suggested that large groups of Negro Wacs be brought by truck from Des Moines to make up for the recrea-


tional deficiencies of Negro men at that air base, Colonel Hobby replied with some emphasis that one of the War Department's invariable policies was that Wacs, regardless of race, would not be removed from their jobs to be "social companions." 44

Negro WAC units also experienced a special problem outside their control in that in some cases a serious race problem had already arisen in certain areas before their arrival, including what was described as "race riots," "unrest," "inflammatory gossip," and "rumor of a nature to incite the men."45  Not only did such emotions prove contagious, but the sentiment in neighboring civilian communities was also sometimes anything but favorable toward the women's arrival. When it was planned to send a unit to Gardiner General Hospital in Chicago, where a strained situation already existed, protests were received by the Army from four suburban civic groups, to the effect that stationing the women in a restricted white residential area, near a white bathing beach, might cause "incidents" and race riots. Although the Army ignored these protests and successfully stationed the unit at Gardiner General Hospital, such a community reaction obviously presented an adjustment problem to unit members.46

The women's adjustment to the Army situation was also rendered more difficult by well-meaning civilian groups in their constant watchfulness for discrimination. It was not surprising that many of the experiences that had been encountered by white Wacs everywhere, and attributed to their sex, should be interpreted by Negro Wacs as racial discrimination: these included the early malassignments, clothing shortages, malicious gossip, and other common difficulties. Possibly the most serious report investigated was one of "terrorization and mistreatment," which actually proved to be the common experience of many WAC units-a chilly initial reception, rude remarks by civilian employees, lack of enthusiasm about Wacs on the part of USO hostesses, and pranks by soldiers. The unit, except for three complaining members, was actually found to be in good morale, satisfied with its recreational facilities, and satisfactory in its duties.47

A similar situation arose when, in the last days of the war, both white and Negro units were recruited for general hospitals. Shortly afterward, Congressman Adam C. Powell informed the War Department that "Trouble is brewing at Fort Oglethorpe." Upon investigation it was found that Negro civilian employees were being given better hospital jobs than Negro Wars; that Negro Wacs worked in hospitals 12 hours a day and civilians only 8; that Negro Wac orderlies had to take orders from civilian nurses.48  These were exactly the problems currently reported from white hospital units.

An almost identical and widely publicized case of alleged discrimination concerned the court-martial of four Negro Wacs at Lovell General Hospital in Massachusetts. A summary of their grievances was endorsed by white medical technician recruits everywhere:


They don't want to scrub . . . . They want a future, i. e., training . . . they don't like the civilians because the civilians are late, lazy, and mean . . . they said they knew they weren't wanted in the beginning . . . they want promised ratings.

The conviction that racial discrimination was involved led a part of this Negro unit to refuse to report for duty even after personal pleas from the WAC staff director, two colonels, a judge advocate, an inspector general, and the commanding general of the service command, which finally caused all but four members to return to work. The court-martial of these four was declared proper even by the NAACP, which issued a statement that "We recognize that there is no right to strike in the Armed Services." Although the commanding general upheld the court-martial proceedings, the conviction was reversed by the Judge Advocate General, and the women restored to duty on the technicality that the court was improperly convened.49

Negro Wacs Overseas

The European theater was the only overseas theater to employ Negro Wacs. ETO policy vacillated. Negroes were requisitioned in 1942 with the declaration that "in time of war it is the privilege of all American citizens regardless of race or sex to serve in and with the Armed Forces." However, when Director Hobby refused to let the women be scattered in uncontrolled small field units near male Negro troops, the theater hastily canceled the requisition and stated that "colored Wacs will not be requisitioned until such time as the War Department announces that their shipment to theaters of operation is a necessity." 50

Pressure of Negro groups finally forced the War Department to direct the European theater to accept Negro Wacs. As directed, the European theater submitted a requisition for approximately 800 Negro women to set up half of a central postal directory. Declaring that these women would not fill any existing military jobs, the theater asked and expected an additional allotment of grades, but none was received.

The unit, the 6888th Central Postal Battalion, was selected from both the Air Forces and the Service Forces in order to give all women a chance at overseas service, but sufficient volunteers to fill the unit could not be found. One Negro editor had alleged that "they are heartbroken because they cannot serve overseas like their white GI sisters," 51  but this opinion apparently did not accurately reflect the sentiments of all of the women, one of whom suggested to an inspector that they ship the NAACP instead.52

The battalion arrived in Europe in February of 1945, under the command of Maj. Charity Adams, later promoted to lieutenant colonel. The unit contained 40 percent unskilled workers, as against 1 percent for white Wacs in this theater, and 40 percent in the two lowest ACCT grades, as against 10 percent for white Wacs.

As a separate T/O unit, the battalion


naturally had segregated housing and working quarters, but there was no segregation in the use of Red Cross clubs, leave areas, and schools. No particular difficulties were reported in discipline and administration. The unit was congratulated by the theater on its "exceptionally fine" Special Services program. Its observance of military courtesies was also pronounced exemplary, as were the grooming and appearance of members and the maintenance of quarters.

Unit efficiency was difficult to evaluate. Before the women's arrival, the central directory operated with enlisted men and civilians and reported itself "swamped by mail" and with an undelivered backlog of over three million pieces; it also faced the necessity of a move to France, where English-speaking civilians would be more difficult to find.53  The Wacs' performance was not entirely satisfactory to inspectors, who stated that "production appeared to be low" and that "the girls relax on their jobs while mail accumulates." The women in turn believed that too much pressure was being brought to bear to increase mail output, and that they had not been awarded a well-deserved unit citation.

Some 11 percent of the detachment also had cause for considering themselves malassigned; about 10 percent were typists, and 1 percent were stenographers, and these were admittedly underutilized in a postal directory. Had not the segregation policy prevented, these could have been scattered through other WAC detachments where their skills could have been employed. The other 89 percent appeared to be properly assigned but, like most newly arrived personnel, had difficulty with respiratory disorders; they also reported considerable fatigue.

Sonic six months after the end of the war in Europe, with the departure of discharge-eligibles, the battalion had shrunk to about 300 members, arid its morale and efficiency were pronounced so "exceptionally low" by a WAC inspector from the War Department that she recommended its immediate return to the United States.54  The theater preferred not to return the unit under circumstances implying failure, which was believed unwarranted, but eventually, with the reduction in size of the theater, there was little work remaining for the women, and they were returned to the United States as a unit. The theater's conclusion was that the problems experienced by Negro Wacs in the European theater were similar to those experienced by other Negro troops and were not peculiar to women, and that the War Department's eventual solution should apply to both.

As soon as shipment was made to the European theater, Negro groups turned toward efforts to get Negro Wacs sent to the Southwest Pacific Area.55  Such action was never directed by the War Department, since they were not requisitioned by the theater, and since the end of the war intervened. Also, the difficulties currently being encountered by white Wacs in the Pacific would have been difficult to explain to Negro organizations. In any case, the percentage of Negro Wacs overseas was, on the strength of the European battalion, as high as that of all Wacs, or about 20 percent.



It proved difficult to evaluate the success of the program of employment of Negro Wacs. The second WAC Director, Colonel Boyce, when asked to comment, replied, "The Negro women in the Army are a part of the WAC. The record of achievement of the Corps cannot be attributed to any individual or to any group but to the whole Corps." 56  Training center authorities were inclined to wonder if the nuisance value of the constant civilian searching parties had not outweighed the military contribution by the women.57  In the field, comments of post commanders applied to ability rather than race: every skilled Wac was assignable regardless of race, and unskilled ones were never wanted. When the WAVES, near the end of the war, were considering admitting Negroes, a WAC authority advised them,

To speak very frankly, the problems are fundamental ones-charges of segregation, discrimination, not giving them clerical jobs . . . . Success depends in the main on (1) the caliber of officers . . . (2) intelligent assignment and utilization.58

It appeared that in some respects the Navy policy had been more successful than that of the Army. The WAVES had not admitted any Negro women until 1945, by which time the Navy had announced an end of segregation for men. At this time the WAVES accepted only 70 Negro enlisted women and no company officers. By virtue of the small numbers, enlistment was highly selective, and only women of high aptitude and skill and good personal appearance were chosen. For this reason, the WAVES were able to abolish segregation from the beginning, and to incorporate the few skilled specialists into existing units. The approval with which the Navy policy was received by Negro organizations strongly suggested that, had the WAC never set a 10 percent quota, and instead limited Negro enlistment to a few women who met the highest standards, it might not only have avoided the burden of unassignable low-grade personnel, but also have successfully abolished segregation. However, the WAC could hardly have adopted this policy in the absence of a change in Army policy.59

There was some indication that, as compared to the relative problems of Negro men in all services, the WAC had experienced lesser problems and been more highly regarded by the Negro civilian population. When asked in a nationwide survey "What are your chances in the different services?" more Negro women answered "Good" concerning the WAC than did Negro men concerning any of the armed services.60  It appeared that the armed forces' eventual decisions concerning male Negro troops would apply equally well to female troops, with the exception-which applied to women of all races-that higher-grade female personnel would continue to be required in view of the fact that women could not perform combat and heavy service duties.


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