Establishment of the WAAC

From the date of Pearl Harbor onward, plans for a women's corps moved with a speed unequaled in the past decades. The Secretary of War sent his approval of the WAAC bill to Congress on Christmas Eve. By the last day of 1941 Mrs. Rogers had incorporated the War Department's proposed amendments into the bill and reintroduced it as H.R. 6293. The Navy Department occasioned some delay while it tried to persuade the War Department not to sponsor the corps. Finally the Assistant Secretary of War in person succeeded in persuading the Navy to withdraw "their objections to our endorsing it." Navy personnel chiefs flatly refused to make the project a joint one, informing Colonel Hilldring, "You are going to take a beating and we'll wait to see what happens." 1

Congressional consideration was rapid but rough. "It was a battle;" said General Hilldring later. "In my time I have got some one hundred bills through Congress, but this was more difficult than the rest of the hundred combined." 2  Opposition was felt more on the floor of the House, and in the cloakrooms, than in the Committees on Military Affairs. At the committee hearings Mrs. Rogers emphasized the protective and disciplinary aspects of the measure.

The only real issue at these hearings was that of militarization versus civil service. Army spokesmen offered reassurance that Waacs would be used only where civilians were unobtainable, or where security required military personnel, and would never under any conditions displace a Civil Service employee. One powerful argument was advanced by the Air Corps, which asserted that twenty-four-hour daily security in the Aircraft Warning Service could not be achieved with civilian volunteers and that, unless Waacs could be obtained, there would be actual danger to the east coast, especially the capital.3

Much of the work of steering the bill was personally handled by Col. Ira P. Swift of the War Department. The committees moved with what Mrs. Rogers felt was unprecedented speed. The House hearing on 20 January was followed by the committee's approval on 28 January, by


Senate hearings on 6 February, and committee approval on 9 February. There were no really angry remarks, although there were a few such as "You are going to have a few generals, aren't you? . . ." "No, the women 'generals' will remain at home"; or "Are you going to start a matrimonial agency?" Eventually the hearings ended in a blaze of gallantry on the part of the Southern senators.

Next, the bill stuck in the House Rules Committee for some days. General Hilldring said later: "In all my experience with legislation, I had never before had a bill stick in the Rules Committee, but they refused to report it out. I spent three hours talking to them; I never confronted a colder audience." Mrs. Rogers added, "The Rules Committee was rough." Its members eventually yielded, stating that they dared not oppose their opinions to the Chief of Staffs on the matter of measures required for the national defense.4

When the measure finally reached the House floor the real opposition developed. Members argued that a soldier would go forward in battle even if his buddy was shot down beside him, but if his buddy was a woman he would stop and render first aid. Others declaimed, variously:

I think it is a reflection upon the courageous manhood of the country to pass a law inviting women to join the armed forces in order to win a battle.
Take the women into the armed service, who then will do the cooking, the washing, the mending, the humble homey tasks to which every woman has devoted herself?
Think of the humiliation! What has become of the manhood of America? 5

It was General Hilldring's opinion that the bill was saved from immediate defeat at this time only by the personal support and prestige of the Chief of Staff. The Secretary of War likewise threw his support behind the measure. Nevertheless, it eventually became clear that, at best, passage would be delayed for some weeks while other more important war measures took precedence. 6

The Appointment of WAAC Pre-Planners

Meanwhile, War Department planning was racing to keep ahead of the bill's estimated rate of progress. Forty-five days were lost in December and January before it was decided to secure an officer with wide experience and acquaintance in the War Department to establish and guide the new corps. He was to have the title of Pre-Planner, WAAC, and was to operate from a floating position in G-1 Division in order to secure necessary action from all other agencies. Such an officer was not immediately available in the War Department, and G-1 brought in from the field and temporarily assigned Lt. Col. Gilman C. Mudgett, ordering him to "build a fire under WAAC planning." 7 Colonel Mudgett was a Cavalry officer with twenty years' experience in the Regular Army, and an expert in Advanced Equitation. Most of his experience had been as a squadron officer with mounted units and as an instructor at the Cavalry School; he


had never been assigned to the War Department until two weeks before he became WAAC Pre-Planner.8

Colonel Mudgett found that very little information could be furnished him by the War Department, most of that outdated. 9 Except for copies of the legislation, he. was provided with little more than a statement that civilian employees were hard to get in such places as Pig Point, Va., and Matagorda Island, Tex. 10

The problem at the time looked deceptively simple: The WAAC was to be a small organization, developed slowly. A director, and perhaps five assistant directors, and one hundred officer candidates would be appointed. Colonel Mudgett called the local YWCA to locate one hundred rooms for the officer candidates, who would attend a leisurely three months' course before enlisted women--called enrolled women or auxiliaries-were admitted. The War Department proposed to get its first enrolled women from among volunteers already working at Aircraft Warning Service stations, placing them in uniform and paying them for their rations and quarters so that they could continue to live at home-thus, incidentally, repeating the first mistake that British services had made. After the Aircraft Warning Service companies were filled, it was thought there would be ample time to consider the ten other companies which were to go to corps areas. 11

Colonel Mudgett had one assistant, Mrs. Marjorie Fling, selected by Civilian Personnel Division because of her familiarity with War Department procedure and her desire to join the WAAC when it was established. Mrs. Fling set to work at once to compile WAAC Regulations; based on CCC Regulations and Canadian and British WAAC Regulations. 12

On his first day of operation, the WAAC Pre-Planner, as directed by the War Department, distributed WAAC planning among the various staff agencies of the War Department, informing each of its responsibility:

To The Adjutant General's Office: WAAC recruiting. All administrative functions performed for the Army.
To The Quartermaster General: WAAC
uniform, design, and procurement. WAAC insignia. WAAC equipment.
To the Judge Advocate General:
Disciplinary regulations.
To The Surgeon General:
Medical treatment for women.
To the Chief of Finance:
Fiscal responsibility.
To G-3:
WAAC training and warning regulations. WAAC organization.
To G-4: Housing and supply policy. Tables of Basic Allowances Burial.
To the Air Forces:
Organization and training of Aircraft Warning Service units.

Each of these agencies was asked to designate a representative for WAAC planning. The instructions to these agencies did not specify their relationship to any future WAAC headquarters or who would have the final word in disputes. 13

On the same day corps areas were asked


to plan for the use of one WAAC company each, and chiefs of branches were asked to comment on the possible later use of Waacs at their service schools. Letters to these commands included a statement on which the War Department was later to reverse itself: Waacs could be assigned to replace not only enlisted men but "civilian employees not in the Civil Service now used for purely administrative or housekeeping duties." 14

It was not yet decided whether Waacs counted against a station's Troop Basis, or its civilian allotment, or both; most stations understandably assumed that Waacs constituted some sort of happy bonus. Also, the previous decision that the Army needed a small elite corps with high clerical skills was nullified by the authorization to use Waacs to replace non-Civil Service civilians, most of whom were unskilled. Consequently, corps area requisitions later that month asked for Waacs not only for skilled clerical and technical work but also for work that it was difficult to get civilians to accept: jobs as maids, charwomen, janitresses, cooks, mess attendants, messengers, hostesses, mail orderlies, housekeepers, and hospital attendants.

As a result of the double misunderstanding-that Waacs would be recruited for unskilled menial duties and that they would not count against personnel allotments-not too much significance could be attached to the corps areas' enthusiasm in at once requesting not ten but twenty-four WAAC companies. On the other hand, all of the chiefs of branches, including infantry, cavalry, and artillery, replied that they wanted none: "Strongly advise that they not be assigned." The Chief of Engineers asked to be excused from taking a unit. The Surgeon General refused to use Waacs in hospitals, saying, "Can see no use for a WAAC unit without displacing Civil Service employees." 15  No attempt was made to force a unit upon any reluctant command, since there would obviously not be enough Waacs to fill even the current requisitions.

In only a few days WAAC preplanning had the requisite fire under it. Uniform designs were being prepared by The Quartermaster General; The Adjutant General was converting Army blank forms and records for WAAC use; the judge Advocate General was preparing tentative disciplinary regulations; the Signal Corps and the Air Corps were planning Aircraft Warning Service companies. Colonel Mudgett suggested that a female director and staff of three male officers be appointed at once, and action to secure these was begun by G-1. Within another ten days Colonel Mudgett had obtained rough drafts of WAAC Regulations, was working with G-4 on barracks plans, had consulted the Office of The Surgeon General on the enlistment physical examination, and had planned recruiting with The Adjutant General. In four more days he had made plans for press releases on the appointment of the Director and had secured G-3 approval of a training center Table of Organization.16


Planning could not await the appointment of the Director, WAAC, and in fact planners deemed it wise "to be able to present [completed plans to the Director, when appointed, in order to avoid the initiation of plans based entirely on the viewpoint of one individual." By 23 February 1942, when the future Director was added to the preplanning group, many plans were too far advanced for much change without controversy with the planning agency. By this date the WAAC Regulations were already written and approved by G-3 Division, as was the outline of instruction for the officer candidate school. Budget estimates had already been forwarded to the War Department, and the Finance Department had virtually completed all fiscal rules. A Table of Organization had been drawn up for WAAC Headquarters, showing the numbers and grades of persons required, as had similar tables for WAAC companies and platoons. The Army Recruiting Service believed itself prepared to conduct recruiting. G-4 Division was convinced that WAAC housing would present no great problem. Finally, a request had been submitted for the assignment of an experienced Regular Army officer to act as school commandant.17

Other matters awaited the Director's action. No location had been found for a training center; no uniforms or other clothing had been procured; no actual recruiting machinery was set up, although it was suggested that the Director make a transcontinental tour and personally select the first one hundred officer candidates. The future WAAC Headquarters had not been organized, although a major and two lieutenants had been ordered in for immediate assistance. 18

All of the Pre-Planner's work, complete or incomplete, suffered from being based on the War Department's assumption as to the WAAC's future size, which was to be discarded later in the summer when manpower problems began to appear. It was supposed that the Corps would, during its first year, train only 10,600 auxiliaries and 340 officers-a miscalculation of some 600 percent. Most of the plans, therefore, shortly had to be revised or abandoned, but, as General Hilldring later noted, they were not without value, being in the same category as all military "anticipatory planning." 19

Selection of a Director

G-1 Division demanded that all candidates for the position of WAAC Director be healthy, of an active temperament, between the ages of 30 and 50, with executive experience involving the successful management of both men and women assistants, and, most important, they must have had no previous affiliation with any "pressure group."

Mrs. Hobby, then of the Bureau of Public Relations, was asked to recommend women who met these requirements. She submitted a list of nine that included some of the nation's most successful career women -an advertising executive, a business manager, a bank president, several educators. Social and political leaders were not included. Congresswoman Ropers was also asked to recommend


candidates; she submitted only one name- Mrs. Hobby's. G-1 Division likewise submitted its own list of candidates to the Chief of Staff, and this included three names, headed by Mrs. Hobby's. Colonel Mudgett also approved of the recommendation, commenting later: "I have never known a finer executive, man or woman.'' 20

Biographical data compiled by G-1 added that Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby was at this time 37 years old, the wife of former Governor William P Hobby of Texas, and the mother of two children. She had served for several years as parliamentarian of the Texas legislature, and, after her marriage, as newspaper and radio executive, publisher, lawyer, writer, president of the Texas League of Women Voters, and civic worker in numerous state and city organizations of both men and women. As of this date she had been for almost a year the chief of the Bureau of Public Relations' Women's Interests Section, which she had initiated and organized.

For a number of reasons the War Department's final choice fell upon Mrs. Hobby. She had the advantage over all other recommended candidates of already being familiar with WAAC plans and with War Department organization. Officers of G-1 Division wrote: "She has ability, vision, and is broad-minded enough to assemble a staff of capable assistants around her. [She is] already known to most of the key people in government and War Department circles." 21

All acquaintances noted her personal energy, magnetism, sincerity, and idealism, and observed that a very considerable diplomatic ability on all matters was combined with a certain stubborn determination in pursuing major issues. Another asset, from the Army viewpoint, was that Mrs. Hobby was not a representative of any pressure group, as it was deemed essential that the Director owe allegiance only to the War Department. The Chief of Staff informed the Secretary of War that Mrs. Hobby was his choice for the position of Director solely because of her brilliant work in the Bureau of Public Relations and in negotiations for the WAAC bill, and that "I had never seen, or even heard of, Mrs. Hobby prior to this time, and she had no prior knowledge of the bill." He added:

In all of these duties she displayed sound judgment and carried out her mission in a manner to be expected of a highly trained staff officer. She has won the complete confidence of the members of the War Department Staff with whom she has come into contact, and she made a most favorable impression before the Committee of Congress.
. . . This Corps can be of great assistance to our military effort, and it can easily be a great embarrassment to the War Department. I therefore urge the appointment of Mrs. Hobby; with the request that the decision be made in advance of the completion of the legislation in order that the War Department can anticipate the burdens of organization so far as possible.22

Mrs. Hobby was not considered disqualified by the fact that she had children, since women with children were to be accepted for immobile units like the Aircraft Warning Service, where they could live at home. 23


Meanwhile, a number of prominent political figures, including members of Congress, had acquired their own candidates, 24  and G-1 Division urged speed in the appointment of a director, since "efforts will be made by certain pressure groups to influence the Secretary of War in his appointment of the Director." 25

At the end of February, when no announcement from the Secretary of War was forthcoming, the Chief of Staff took upon himself the responsibility of moving Mrs. Hobby from the Bureau of Public Relations to join the WAAC Pre-Planners, although in view of her lack of official status all planning done by her was subject to reversal later if another candidate was selected by the Secretary of War.26

Organization of Director's Headquarters

Mrs. Hobby now found herself in a strange status; she was the unannounced head of a nonexistent office which could not become WAAC Headquarters until passage of legislation at an uncertain future date, but which meanwhile must perfect very complete plans requiring the formal co-ordination of many War Department agencies. Her "staff " was one Cavalry lieutenant colonel and one civilian woman assistant. This little group began meeting in a corner of the Miscellaneous Branch of G-1 Division, but later in March acquired several rooms and a telephone in the wooden Temporary M Building.

On 27 February, a few days after Mrs. Hobby's arrival, the man who had been intended to be WAAC Pre-Planner, Lt. Col. Harold P Talker, arrived. Colonel Tasker was a Regular Army officer, with fifteen years' service in the Coast Artillery Corps and as instructor in mathematics at West Point. He had been retired for disability in 1939 but later recalled on limited service. Although he had never previously served in the War Department, all members of the new group stated that his outstanding ability quickly rendered him invaluable.27

With Colonel Talker came two young Reserve lieutenants, just called to active duty, who had no Army experience.28  For almost a month these six constituted the headquarters. About the middle of March the office acquired its senior member, Col. William Pearson, who was selected by The Adjutant General to be WAAC adjutant general. Colonel Pearson was the only member of the staff who had previously served in Washington. His service was not recent; he had been retired in 1936, after more than thirty-four years in the Regular Army, and had just been recalled to active duty. Shortly, four more officers arrived to complete the military staff. Two of these were lieutenant colonels who were intended to be school commandant and quartermaster, respectively, but both were replaced within a few months.29  The third was Maj. J. Noel Macy of the Bureau of Public Relations, on temporary loan to handle publicity, and the fourth was another young Reserve lieutenant.30

Mrs. Hobby also secured the services of two women advisers. Mrs. Genevieve Forbes Herrick, a prominent writer and newspaperwoman, was designated adviser


on public relations and the press. Mrs. Helen Hamilton Woods was named adviser on legislative matters, recruiting, and administration in general. Mrs. Woods, who was later to enroll in the WAAC, was the widow of New York Police Commissioner Arthur Woods, and the mother of three sons in the service. A civic leader and political worker, and a descendant of the first Secretary of the Treasury, she had had much experience with volunteer groups and had been employed by the Treasury in connection with the information program for defense bond sales.31

Assignment to Services of Supply

Planning was somewhat hampered when the little group of WAAC preplanners was immediately dropped two echelons in the War Department during the reorganization of 9 March 1942, one of the major upheavals of War Department history. At this time the entire General Staff was reduced in size and bereft of operating functions, and the many organizations reporting directly to it were swept away, leaving direct access to the General Staff a privilege of three new major commands-the Army Air Forces, the Army Ground Forces, and the Services of Supply (later renamed the Army Service Forces). Many of the chiefs of services who had formerly reported directly to the Chief of Staff-such as The Adjutant General, the Judge Advocate General, and The Quartermaster General-now were grouped under the command of the Services of Supply (SOS), which was to be the operating agency for the General Staff.

The WAAC was similarly transferred from G-1 Division to Personnel Division of the Services of Supply, and directives drafted by WAAC preplanners henceforth had to be signed by that office rather than by Brig. Gen. John H. Hilldring in G-1. Few of the transferred agencies were very happy about the change. WAAC planners in particular realized its disadvantages, since they no longer had the close guidance of the General Staff during the Corps' formative period, and could not reach it with any ideas that were disapproved by the Services of Supply. The move made it particularly difficult to work directly with the Army Air Forces or the Army Ground Forces.

The legality of the Director's assignment to this lower echelon was somewhat doubtful, since the wording of the WAAC bill made her adviser to the War Department. At the time of the move the Chief of Staff therefore directed Mrs. Hobby to come to him personally if she had any difficulty that she could not iron out by herself. This privilege Mrs. Hobby used infrequently, since she understood that the Services of Supply would scarcely be a comfortable location if she bypassed its channels whenever her proposals were disapproved.

From this time onward General Marshall was consulted only when crucial decisions were required. The new and smaller General Staff also obviously had less time to advise the planners. At one of its meetings, the WAAC was dismissed with the brief and overoptimistic note that its administration would be the same whether it was in or with the Army; the same meeting was devoted to dozens of more important matters involved in the world-wide combat situation. Nevertheless, WAAC planners united in giving great personal credit to the Assistant Chief


of Staff, G-1, General Hilldring, for the fact that in the following hectic weeks they actually did complete full plans, workable if not perfect. General Hilldring repeatedly stepped down from his echelon to give planners more of his personal time and advice than the small WAAC organization could have expected from its current importance to the war effort. 32

The Services of Supply immediately delegated WAAC planning to the various SOS divisions, in much the same way that this once had been divided among War Department staff sections. For example, the SOS's Training Division received authority to establish policies for the training of all WAAC officers, auxiliaries, and units. In actual practice, the general nature of the subsequent WAAC plans was worked out in joint conferences, put in writing by the preplanners, and approved by various SOS Divisions.33  It was not made clear what procedure would be followed if disagreements occurred.

The British Parallel

Mrs. Hobby's first step was to pause and assess the experience of the British and Canadian women's services, already well established.34 During the first days of March she visited Canada, accompanied by Colonel Tasker and the commandant elect, and was afforded the opportunity to talk to leaders of the Canadian WAC and of the Women's Division, Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as to British women officers then visiting Canada. She also later dispatched Major Macy to England to collect references and histories.

The visit did much to restore Mrs. Hobby's morale, which had been depressed by the opinion of many of her friends among older U.S. Army officers that a women's corps could not succeed. Every Canadian staff officer and post commander to whom she talked told her that he had experienced initial doubts but was now enthusiastic about employment of women in his command. British officers likewise reported the success of their women's services in spite of extensive early hardships.35

The histories of the several British and Canadian women's services presented patterns so nearly identical as to suggest a certain amount of inevitability, with the British, of course, one or two wars ahead. Before and during World War I, the British had set up a few tentative women's corps, on a civilian auxiliary basis. Manpower problems had proved so great, and the women such efficient workers, that by 1918 such groups were to be found in every branch of service. The only handicap had been the very considerable public gossip concerning the alleged immorality of women in France, which hampered recruiting and alarmed parents, although a Royal Commission of Enquiry reported after investigation that the charges were "mischievous and false."

Nevertheless, when the British women's services were revived in World War II, they repeated the whole unhappy pattern


as far as public opposition was concerned. "Vague and discreditable allegations" were spread to such an extent that a Parliamentary committee investigation was ordered. Gossip alleged a high rate of illegitimate pregnancy, excessive drinking, and general promiscuity among servicewomen. The committee upon investigation found that the women's morality was actually better than that of the comparable civilian population, and deplored the "malicious and careless talk" that had again damaged recruiting and discouraged women members and their parents.

The British Auxiliary Territorial Services (ATS) and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) had also suffered in the first days of World War II from difficulties caused by rapid mobilization-shortage of uniforms, inadequacy of housing, improper medical attention, all intensified by the lack of trained and experienced women officers to care for the units. By 1942 many difficulties had been overcome, supply shortages had eased, gossip had been partially quelled, and the women's work had proved so valuable that their numbers had been tremendously increased and their jobs expanded from five or six to several hundred. Finally, when manpower conditions became more desperate and recruiting failed to fill needs, the British National Service Act was applied to women and female draftees were directed to fill the vacancies in the armed forces.

At the time of Mrs. Hobby's visit to Canada in March of 1942 the British services were thus well established and offered a valuable precedent to the WAAC in the United States. WAAC planners might have regarded their history with even more interest had they known that it could, without alteration, have been a summary of the WAAC's future, in all except the matter of eventual recourse to Selective Service.

One major effect of the Canadian visit upon the headquarters was that it became what its members called "public-relations conscious." All future plans came to be scrutinized in the light of their possible effect upon public sentiment, and extreme care was used to avoid any measure that might provoke an outburst of slander and gossip of the type that had hindered British recruiting and necessitated the drafting of women. This tendency was deplored by some Regular Army members of the staff, since it frequently raised the issue of whether certain established Army practices were adaptable to the WAAC.

Another conspicuous lesson in the history of the British services was that the civilian auxiliary organization was notably inefficient and friction provoking. Already two of the three major British women's services had been admitted to full military status. In Canada Mrs. Hobby noted that the Women's Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which was actually in the Air Force, had fewer administrative difficulties than the Canadian WAC, which was only an auxiliary with the Army. Most commanders heartily disliked separate command channels, separate rules, and separate status for any members of their station complements and, in fact, the Canadian WAC was to be admitted to full Army status within a few months, and the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service, just being organized, never attempted to operate without full Navy membership.36

Mrs. Hobby therefore proposed that an amendment immediately be added to the


WAAC bill before its passage, placing the WAAC in the Army and giving its members full military status and discipline. The War Department was not enthusiastic about this change and Mrs. Rogers objected also, on the assumption, which proved quite correct, that the attempt would merely delay the bill's passage and would not be accepted by Congress even after the delay.37  Nevertheless, Mrs. Hobby insisted that the amendment at least be considered by the committee, and consideration was finally agreed upon, a step that was to delay passage of the bill until May.38

Recruiting Plans

The British precedent was also quickly reflected in other plans, primarily those for the selection of officers. Mrs. Hobby and Colonel Mudgett at once discarded previous plans for her to appoint assistant directors and to select one hundred officer candidates. The number of applications now on file from individuals with prominent social, political, or military figures for sponsors indicated that, were appointments direct, the WAAC might be forced to repeat the British ATS mistake of commissioning these women in such numbers that forced retirements would later be necessary. The ATS had come to the conclusion that selection by means of officer candidate boards and schools was the best way to produce women officers able and willing to care for their troops effectively. Accordingly, Mrs. Hobby formed a basic policy from which she was never thereafter to swerve 39- that of Corps democracy: all officers, even assistant directors. were to be graduates of the officer candidate school and not direct appointees. After the first class, all officers would come from the ranks. Mrs. Hobby also decided at the same time that selection of the initial class should be by impartial Army recruiting machinery, and not by herself or any other individual. Negroes were to be included in the same proportion as in the Army. 40

Preplanners hastily prepared and sent to the printers detailed instructions for corps areas to follow in selecting officer candidates. Mrs. Hobby secured the advice of a conference of eight prominent psychiatrists, as well as that of The Adjutant General's battery of test construction experts, to determine qualifications and to help devise a method of screening. All corps areas were alerted to expect instructions and application blanks by air mail, immediately upon passage of the bill, and were given a military schedule whereby date of passage was designated D Day. The first officer candidates were to be selected and at the school by D plus 47. 41

The WAAC D Day now bore down upon the pre-planners. The WAAC bill passed the House of Representatives on 17 March by a vote of 249 to 86, authorizing an auxiliary corps only, and was sent to the Senate, which had promised to consider full Army status.42

Public interest mounted daily. Planners hid themselves away and answered the


telephone with a vague "Personnel Division," but were nevertheless plagued with telephone calls, visitors, letters, and unsolicited offers. Candidates sought guarantees of commissions because of their acquaintance with prominent people, or their dubious experience in bossing women; individuals sought to interest the WAAC in mobile laundry units or fur-lined overcoats. 43 Prospective recruits wrote, variously: "My husband is already drafted and my mother cannot afford to have me staying on . . ."; "My brother was killed on December 7"; "I have always wished that I were a man''; "I am a widow, with no dependents"; "At present I am working as a warder at the Women's Reformatory." 44

This was only a foretaste of the merciless publicity that was to haunt the WAAC from its inception. In desperation the planners ordered thousands of acknowledgment cards thanking applicants for their offers and telling them that, if the bill became law, full details would be released through local recruiting stations.45  Considerable embarrassment appeared in store if the WAAC D Day arrived before the War Department was ready with plans for it.

Search for a Training Center

For several frantic weeks it appeared impossible to find a training center. The idea of a CCC camp was considered and abandoned, since extensive additional construction and repair would have been necessary. Premature rejoicing was general early in March when the Tome School, a private institution in nearby Maryland, was found to be available. Unfortunately, G-3 Division ruled that no contract could legally be signed until the bill became law. The Army's complicated machinery of approval moved as far as it dared-budget estimates were made, an engineer survey for barracks space was authorized; acquisition of property was approved. After serious study of the relative fame of American heroines it was recommended that the school be named the Molly Pitcher School. Detailed grades were even allotted to the Third Service Command and personnel was being selected. All of these plans collapsed suddenly in the last week of March when the Navy acquired the Tome School.46

Immediate passage of the bill was now believed possible, with April occupancy of some school a necessity. Army engineers hastily surveyed Northwestern University and found it full of naval trainees; Lake Forest College had a capacity of only 400; the University of Chicago was filled by the Navy and the Signal Corps, and Ohio State by the Air Corps; Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College would not take Negroes.

As the search continued through other areas, it was found in general that all large universities were training so many Army and Navy technical specialists that even their gymnasiums and classrooms were converted to barracks; all small colleges


could accommodate only a few trainees; and most suitable resort hotels either had been taken over by the Air Forces or would have had to be condemned at a prohibitive price. Engineers as a last resort surveyed even state fair grounds, but found them either leased for government storage or not convertible. For a time the National Chautauqua Circuit at Jamestown seemed the best possibility, although isolated and in a cold climate.47

At last, in late April, the mechanization of the U.S. Cavalry made possible the use for Waacs of an old mounted Cavalry post, Fort Des Moines in Iowa. Fort Des Moines was near the geographical center of the United States, had no major defense projects in the area, would present no race and color difficulties, had suitable utilities to handle expansion to 5,000 population, and already had room for 1,000 and suitable administration, supply, and recreation buildings. Its solid red-brick barracks, needing only converted toilet facilities, surrounded an impressively large green parade ground. In addition, said the delighted planners, there were "nine large stables suitable for conversion to barracks." 48  Time was short and there was no inclination to quibble about the distance from WAAC Headquarters, the climate; or the previous equine occupants.

Immediate authority to start alterations at the post was sought, but could not be obtained until passage of the bill.49  It was at least possible to bring into the planning group nine Army officers to be indoctrinated before they went to Fort Des Moines as a nucleus of the staff. To replace the officer previously selected as commandant, G-1 Division chose Col. Don C. Faith, a Regular Army officer of twenty-five years' service. He had been a National Guard instructor and a staff officer, and later a member of the War Department's G-4 and G-1 Divisions.50

The Uniform

The most troublesome problem remaining to the planners was that of the WAAC uniform, which soon assumed a difficulty out of all proportion to its importance. Procurement could not be undertaken until passage of the bill, but it was essential to have agreement on design and number of articles so that contracts could be signed with manufacturers at the moment the bill became law. At first; the: problem of clothing only 12,000 Waacs appeared fairly simple, and The Quartermaster General, in one of the greater understatements of recorded military history-, anticipated "no unusual difficulties." 51  

Three agencies sent representatives to planning sessions: The Quartermaster General's Office, the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot, and WAAC Headquarters, although The Quartermaster General later decided that this last was a mistake, since "neither she [Mrs. Hobby] nor anyone on her immediate staff was qualified to make decisions." 52  As a matter of fact,


none of the planning agencies included any specialists in women's clothing. The Quartermaster General had been responsible for the design and procurement of nurses' uniforms since World War I, but no great quantity had been involved, and the products, although they photographed well on a dress form (male), had admittedly always looked peculiar on the female figure.

Responsibility for the WAAC uniform program was delegated by The Quartermaster General, as a part-time duty, to Col. Letcher O. trice of the Standardization Branch. Before Mrs. Hobby's arrival, Colonel trice had secured some sketches by famous designers, and had suggested that the uniform be in two shades of blue. Because of the word distinctive in legislative authorization for a WAAC uniform, Colonel trice was of the opinion that the uniform must be different in color and design from that of the Army or any other organization; even the two shades of blue must be different from that of the Army Nurse Corps. Blue was selected because New York designers informed him that blue dyestuffs would be most readily available; gray was rejected as too hard to match.

The representative of the Philadelphia Depot was not summoned by The Quartermaster General until some three months of planning were past and, upon arrival, expressed some annoyance in view of the depot's opinion that research and development was its rightful province. This officer also was not a specialist in women's clothing, and expressed a sarong belief in "nothing fancier for Wacs than for combat soldiers," which threatened to leave the women equipped for office work in boots and coveralls.

The WAAC representatives at this time likewise included no clothing specialists and in any case had no authority to take action in the matter. Female members of Mrs. Hobby's staff faithfully wore sample undergarments while carrying on preplanning; male planners offered their best guesses in the matter, and the staff became accustomed, as one member noted, "to seeing Lt. F. stalk through the office with a cigar in one hand and a pair of pink panties in the other."

Mrs. Hobby at once announced her conviction that the WAAC uniform should be identical in color with that of the Army and as much like it in design as possible, especially in view of her pending attempt to place the WAAC in the Army. The battle of blue versus olive drab continued for some time and was finally resolved by the Philadelphia Depot, which wished to use olive drab and khaki material already procured, and deemed it madness to start procuring two more shades of blue. The materials, covert and barathea for winter and 8.2 khaki for summer, were also determined by depot stocks, although some, especially the khaki, were to prove too heavy for the proper fit of women's garments.

Sketches from well-known designers were considered-Mangone, Maria Krum, Russell Patterson, Helen Cookman, Mary Sampson. The jacket could be called a group product, since it incorporated desirable features from all designs-a lapel from one, a pocket from another. A belt for the jacket was on, off, and on again: it would help faulty female figures, said Mangone; it would rub holes in the jacket, said The Quartermaster General; it should be leather, said Maria Krum; cotton was cheaper, said The Quartermaster General. A rather narrow six-gore skirt was adopted after War Production Board restrictions on the use of material made


pleats impossible, although all agreed that pleats would have looked better.

Slacks had originally been a part of the outfit, but they were eliminated as too troublesome to fit; culottes were considered and rejected by Mrs. Hobby as unsuitable for mechanics. Since at this time it was believed that the only outdoor work that Waacs could perform was in motor transport, no trousers except coveralls were believed necessary. Mrs. Hobby also desired that women wear skirts instead of slacks wherever possible, in order to avoid a rough or masculine appearance which would cause unfavorable public comment.

All agreed that a shirt with tie would be more military and dignified than one with an open collar, and the regulation khaki tie was chosen, although some designers favored an ascot.

The choice of WAAC headgear involved most controversy then and later. The Quartermaster General had suggested a stiff service cap like the men's cap for WAAC officers and an overseas cap for enlisted women, with a brimmed khaki summer hat, but Mrs. Hobby called for identical hats for officers and enlisted women, as being more democratic. The overseas cap was becoming, but was then being adopted by many women's volunteer groups and private service organizations. Mrs. Hobby believed that it was essential to have a WAAC cap that could not be mistaken for that of any civilian group or, more precisely, that it was essential that the Waacs not be blamed for any misconduct on the part of the thousands of civilian women soon to be wearing overseas caps. The firms of Knox and Stetson therefore submitted designs of "miner" hats, visor caps, and berets. A majority vote of the conference selected the visor cap as one that would shield the eyes, not blow off in parades, and be both distinctive and military.

A heavy topcoat was designed by Mangone, very similar in cut to the men's overcoat. In place of the men's field jacket, a light utility coat was designed by Maria Krum, resembling a hooded raincoat with button-in lining. A handbag with shoulder strap was authorized, since women's uniforms obviously had no pants pockets, and experiments with carrying necessities in breast pockets quickly produced a rule against even so much as a pack of cigarettes in that location.

Tan oxfords, tennis shoes, galoshes, and bedroom slippers were selected. Mrs. Hobby recommended plain pumps for dress shoes, but was outvoted on grounds of economy. She also desired lisle stockings for dress, but only rayons were available; and plain cotton stockings for work were chosen instead of the novelty-ribbed cotton she preferred.

There began to be apparent at this time a significant difference of opinion as to the number and type of garments to be issued. By accepted practice, the Army was obligated to furnish its members any articles it required them to wear. This clothing, in the Director's opinion, had to be judged according to accepted civilian custom for females, but in the opinion of most quartermaster representatives could most fairly be based on the amount and type of clothing received by men. Thus, concerning what were called "foundation garments," it was noted that some women required these in order to present a "neat and military appearance," yet could not be directed to wear them unless the garment was issued-an action without military precedent. Similarly, it appeared to be discrimination against men to issue free pajamas and bathrobes. yet it was also not desired to authorize nude female appear-


ances in the various military installations that did not have connecting latrines. As for the required physical training, men received nothing similar to the seersucker exercise dress, yet it appeared undesirable for women to assemble on the drill field in nothing but panties. In this last case, it was luckily noted that Waacs, except for a few women drivers, did not receive the fatigue coveralls that men did; thus, the seersucker dress could be accepted as a nondiscrimatory substitute for men's coveralls. On most of the other items, authorization was not made until June and was withdrawn again in a few months.

The Quartermaster General reduced some of the requested allowances to the number authorized for men; the WAAC request for eight shirts was reduced to four. The request for six cotton dresses and six cotton aprons for cooks, and four coveralls for drivers, was reduced by The Quartermaster General to three, three, and two. In requesting two uniform jackets, preplanners pointed out that men received heavy wool shirts to be worn without a jacket, but that the WAAC's thin cotton shirts here designed for wear with the whole suit, and that "cleanliness, good health, and appearance" required two suit jackets. However, only one jacket was finally authorized; since men got only one.53

The Heraldic Section of The Quartermaster General's Office meanwhile had submitted designs for insignia. Designers were initially somewhat at a loss, since insignia usually portrayed the function of the corps concerned and no one knew exactly what the Waacs were to do, except that they would perform several Army jobs. A first attempt produced only a busy bee-like insect, which Mrs. Hobby pronounced a bug, adding that she had no desire to be called the Queen Bee.

Designers then hit upon the idea of a head of Pallas Athene, a goddess associated with an impressive variety of womanly virtues and no vices either womanly or godlike. She was the goddess of handicrafts, wise in industries of peace and arts of war, also the goddess of storms and battle, who led through victory to peace and prosperity.54  Accordingly, the head of Pallas Athene, together with the traditional U.S., was selected for lapel insignia, cut out for officers and on discs for enlisted women.

An eagle for the cap was also designed, less intricate than the Army eagle and later to be familiarly known to Waacs, for reasons closely connected with its appearance, as "the buzzard." Since Army buttons could not be used for an auxiliary corps, the WAAC eagle was also to be imprinted on plastic buttons. Only the insignia of grade required no planning; it was to be the same as the Army's, with a tab lettered WAAC sewed under the chevrons.55

Housing Plans

Plans for housing were less urgent, since field companies would not be ready for assignment for several months. On the basis of British experience and of her conferences with psychiatrists, Mrs. Hobby




feared that women might not react to communal living exactly as did men. While men were accustomed from childhood to the tribal living of scout camps, gangs, teams, and clubs, no one could predict the results of the deprivation of privacy on women who were at all inclined to be nervous-particularly since most men's units remained only temporarily at any camp before overseas shipment, whereas a WAAC unit would settle down in its barracks for several years.

Mrs. Hobby therefore proposed that Waacs have dormitories of the type used to house civilian women workers, with two persons to a room. She was quickly overruled on this point on the grounds of economy and feasibility; housing plans had already been made that would use existing barracks, with minor modifications, or new construction like the old.

Allocation of Units

Only one major phase of planning remained: that of the composition of units and their allocation. It was decided that post headquarters companies would consist of 147 auxiliaries and 3 officers, and that Aircraft Warning Service companies would be somewhat smaller. Any unit under 50 members was deemed uneconomical. The problem was how to devise a fixed company with one Table of Organization that would suit all stations, since not all could use the same number of typists, drivers, or other workers.

Already the Army had realized that the fixed Table of Organization Company, while excellent for combat units, was not the proper means for allotting men to stations in the United States, where no two stations had exactly the same needs. Colonel Mudgett later noted, "The bulk allotment system would have saved us many a headache on this problem." Unfortunately for the WAAC, the bulk allotment system was not yet adopted by the Army, and preplanners were forced to try to set up an inflexible T/O unit that would meet the needs of all stations using Waacs. One table for filter companies and one for operation companies was set up. For the more difficult post headquarters unit, planners hit upon the idea of having five types of platoons: clerical, communications, service, machine records, and miscellaneous. It was believed that almost any station, large or small, could meet its needs by requesting the proper assortment of platoons in its WAAC company. 56

Concerning the disadvantages of this system in eventual use, Colonel Faith said later:

Post commanders didn't have the remotest idea as to what they wanted to use women for . . . . Their recommendations were studied, integrated into a type WAC company . . . . I am amazed that we did as well as we did. We set up a semi-rigid organization based upon ideas from the field, which in turn were based on poor guess-work, which the field accepted from us as being authoritative and scientific, which it was not. These


tables provided for relatively few .jobs for women-overhead, clerical, motor transport, service.57

Corps areas that had asked for Waacs were now requested to specify the assortment of platoons desired in a T/O unit, and planners optimistically proposed to recruit skills exactly to specification, since a woman with no skill or with some odd skill would not fit into any platoon and so could not be assigned. Only skilled women were sought: it was not proposed to waste time by taking women who needed technical training-except a brief course in army driving, army cooking, or army clerical work to help adapt civilian skills to the military.

Although supposedly soothed by the assurance that no WAAC post headquarters units would arrive for some time, or until further warning, many station commanders now became extremely nervous, and it was decided that Colonel Tasker or some other representative of the group must visit each designated station to prepare it for Waacs. In carrying out this indoctrination. Colonel Tasker later found many stations in a state of virtual siege, throwing up barbed-wire entanglements around WAAC areas and setting aside separate nights for Waacs to use post theaters and service clubs, so that men and women could be kept isolated from each other. Many post commanders were found to be much opposed to having 4Vaacs on the post, and none of course had as yet any information as to the proper employment of such a unit.58

WAAC Regulations

The WAAC Regulations, which had been prepared in G-1 Division before Mrs. Hobby's arrival, were ready for publication as soon as the bill became law. As provided in the Ropers bill, the WAAC was set up as a separate command entity headed by the Director. The Corps was to be assigned to the Services of Supply, in which its headquarters was located, with its units only attached for duty to the Air Forces and other stations where they were employed.

The Director would at first command all of these units directly, requesting The Adjutant General to issue her orders for assignment, transfer, discharge, or other change in status. As soon as they could be trained, regional directors would be sent out to form an intermediate command echelon. It was decided that the regional directors would be nine in number and would be located in the headquarters of the nine corps areas in order that they might use the area facilities.

For a unit in the field, the station where it was located was responsible only for furnishing supplies, housing, and medical and dental care. As for the authority of Army section chiefs, the Regulations stated:

Officers and noncommissioned officers of the Army under whom individuals or groups or units of the WAAC are assigned for work tasks have supervisory authority as they would with civilian employees generally, but have no disciplinary authority. Derelictions of duty will be reported to the WAAC officer commanding.59

The WAAC company commander and higher WAAC officers were specified as responsible for discipline, promotion, discharge, and other command matters.


For a time there was consideration of removing these powers from WAAC Headquarters and delegating them to the regional directors or even to the company commanders, since for Army men powers such as discharge were already held at the station level. However, for men the correct procedures were set forth in detail in Army Regulations, thus insuring uniform action and individual justice Army-wide.

Because of the Waacs' civilian status, these Army Regulations could not always be applied, particularly in matters of discipline-in which court-martial was not possible except overseas-and of discharge-since certain types of discharge could be given only by courts-martial. Neither was it possible to make the first WAAC Regulations as full as Army Regulations, which had been built up over a period of years.

The first WAAC Regulations were therefore marked Tentative and were scheduled for amplification as soon as experience permitted. To permit such amplification, it was directed that all discharge cases and other personnel actions be sent to WAAC Headquarters for decision, until a sufficient body of experience existed to permit publication of detailed regulations. Until this time, Mrs. Hobby noted that ii would be unsafe to allow action at the station level, since one woman officer would be made both accuser and judge, contrary to the American system.60

In the exercise of its command prerogatives, WAAC Headquarters proposed to be extremely cautious. It was directed that women be sent only to stations where housing and other arrangements had been checked upon by Colonel Tasker or another staff member; that no unit of less than fifty women be assigned, in order that supply and inspection would not be unduly difficult; and that no enlisted woman be sent to any station unless a WAAC officer was located there.61

By April several agencies had already begun to question this system. G-3 Division, which had previously approved the regulations, now declared in conference that Army commanders should have complete control of WAAC units on their stations, transferring them in the United States or overseas without informing the Director, and discharging, disciplining, or promoting, presumably under Army Regulations, since no other detailed ones existed. Also, G-3 proposed that the command of a company be divided among the different Army section chiefs for whom the women worked, rather than vested in the WAAC company commander.62

The Signal Corps concurred, fearing that the Director might use her command powers arbitrarily to remove women from vital communications work; it was asserted that the British Signal Corps had experienced many difficulties in employing servicewomen who were with and not in the Army. Air Forces representatives supported these views and also objected to the Corps' location in the Services of Supply.63  If command authority was given to them, the Signal Corps proposed to place women at once in mixed tactical groups overseas; without a WAAC company com-


mander, and the Air Forces announced plans to assign an additional 10,000 women in mobile units of its Terrestrial Service.

It soon became clear that the heart of the difficulty was the auxiliary system itself. As predicted, it was plainly about to prove most objectionable to Army commanders if they could not at once exercise as full authority over women as over men, or if they were obliged to apply different regulations to men and women. On the other hand, to apply Army Regulations to a civilian auxiliary corps was clearly illegal. As for her own position as Director, Army advisers informed Mrs. Hobby that it would be unsafe to accept that office if G-3's plan prevailed, since she would be in the militarily impossible situation of having responsibility without authority. Thus, the WAAC's auxiliary status made her legally responsible for the women's command and well-being, yet she would actually be ignorant of where they had been transferred or what financial, supply, disciplinary, or other measures were being taken by station commanders.64

By 3 April the WAAC preplanners considered the situation so confused that they appealed directly to the Chief of Staff, stating: "Confusion exists as to the interpretation of the Bill which says: ' The Director shall operate and administer the Corps in accordance with normal military channels of command and administration.' " 65  The Chief of Staff upheld the WAAC preplanners by signing their draft of the WAAC Regulations and approving it for publication if the bill giving the WAAC auxiliary status should pass.

This verdict had the effect of uniting the Services of Supply with Mrs. Hobby in supporting the amendment to place the WAAC in the Army. The WAAC's immediate superiors in the Services of Supply in fact opposed the separate command system so strongly that they neglected to prepare the necessary War Department circulars that would make the WAAC Regulations binding upon the Army in the event that the amendment failed.66

Passage of WAAC Bill

In their drive to complete plans before passage of the legislation, all echelons were seriously handicapped by uncertainty as to the type of bill that would pass Congress. After the WAAC bill had passed all committees and the House, thus virtually assuring it of passage in some form, the Navy had introduced a bill to establish the WAVES in the Navy and not as an auxiliary.

True to prediction, the brunt of argument had been borne by the WAAC, and the WAVES bill passed the House without difficulty. It seemed only reasonable that Congress would approve the amendment to place women in the Army. The unhappy planners were therefore forced to make two sets of plans: one for an auxiliary and one for an Army corps. Two versions of regulations were prepared and approved by nine interested agencies. Fourteen different agencies were asked to reconsider their plans in the light of the possible adoption of the amendment, and some, like the judge Advocate General,


replied despairingly that none of their previous plans would apply.67

In spite of support from the Services of Supply and Mrs. Hobby, the War Department was unable to push the amendment for equal status. Comment on the floor of the House of Representatives was unrestrained and caustic. Members objected strenuously to placing women in the Army because this would give them the disability benefits and pensions that men received. Some also feared that women generals would rush about the country dictating orders to male personnel and telling the commanding officers of posts how to run their business.

This opposition was not tempered in the least by the fact that the House had just passed and sent to the Senate the bill placing the WAVES in the Navy with all of these possible benefits. As members pointed out, Congress was now in the incongruous position of giving Waves the full protection of military status while forbidding them, in their bill, to go overseas, whereas the WAAC bill allowed women to go overseas without the protection of military status. Opinion in the Senate committee was divided, but members finally became convinced that great delay would result from any attempt to change the Ropers bill.

There was one last flurry when it seemed that the Director of Selective Service would secure Presidential approval to a plan to request the voluntary registration of all women. This step would have made little change in the WAAC plan, but might have considerably increased the prospect of recruits if women had believed the registration a prelude to forced service in fauns and factories. However, on 4 May 1942 the President decided against the plan. 68

It was shortly apparent that Congress would pass the Ropers bill immediately without any of the proposed amendments. The War Department and the WAAC planners waited, braced for the outburst of publicity and the need for furious action, which they knew must accompany the bill's passage. Their plans were complete, as far as human guesswork could foretell the future. Men who had never seen an enlisted woman and women who had never been one had together planned for the future welfare and efficiency of women who were to be enlisted to work for the Army.

On 14 May 1942; the Ropers bill was approved by the Senate, 38 to 27, and when signed the next day by the President became Public Law 554, An Act to Establish a Women's Army Auxiliary Corps for Service with the Army of the United States.


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