Spring, 1943: Expansion and Decentralization

A few weeks after the decision to seek military status, the General Staff on 30 January and 6 February 1943 announced the long-awaited series of further decisions on the Corps' future-perhaps the most important staff action in the WAAC's existence.

The first was that a draft of women would not yet be sought: "Plans for the procurement of personnel will be based on the continuance of voluntary enlistment."1  The proposal to draft women was still highly shocking to many individuals, and clearly would stand no chance of approval by Congress unless the military successes in forth Africa should unexpectedly turn to disaster and the situation should approach that of Britain, which had perforce adopted national service laws. Events of a year later, when national service was finally proposed by other agencies, confirmed the present surmise that a draft proposal would merely have involved the Army in a bitter and ultimately futile legislative battle, without providing womanpower in time to aid in the current war.2 After making this decision the War Department faced a choice between attempting to secure a large Corps by other means, or abandoning G-3's idea and increasing the draft call on men. In a preliminary conference with G-1 and G-3 Divisions on 29 January, Director Hobby again informed them that in her opinion the WAAC could not recruit anything like a million women. Her frequently expressed view was: "I don't believe we are going to get even 150,000 volunteer women unless there is some move by the Federal Government requiring national registration or compulsory service." 3

Expansion Program Decided

The important 6 February conference of General Staff representatives, which decided upon the expansion rate to be attempted, was headed by Maj. Gen. Idwal H. Edwards of G-3 Division, and included General Madison Pearson and other Services of Supply representatives, and both Director Hobby and Colonel Catron from WAAC Headquarters. There resulted a decision that appeared a moderate compromise to all concerned, although actu-


ally it was to have calamitous effects upon every phase of the Corps' future program.

To the conferees it was obvious that G-3's earlier optimistic calls for 1,500,000 Waacs could not be met by voluntary recruiting and that it would be necessary to set a far lower figure, while simultaneously increasing draft calls for men to make up the deficit. Director Hobby outlined the various recruiting difficulties that were closing in upon the WAAC, particularly the competition shortly to be expected from the Navy and the War Manpower Commission. The daft at which these factors would be felt was uncertain, but she expressed the view that by June they would have cut off most if not all of the WAAC's intake.

On the other hand, it was evident that they had not yet had serious effect. Instead, the Army Recruiting Service had over recruited every quota to date, and was obliged, for lack of training space, to turn away qualified applicants. At Des Moines 70 women slept in poorly ventilated stable barracks intended to hold 50; at Daytona Beach, trainees were housed five to a tent and eight to a double hotel room. Desperate calls and letters from training authorities indicated that "Training Centers cannot stand such overloading." 4

It was realized that to turn away applicants was probably to lose them. In order to insure next month's quotas, Army recruiting stations therefore often swore in surplus applicants and placed them on inactive duty until training space was available.

By February this trick had backfired, placing the Corps under additional public and Congressional pressure. Enrollees who had resigned from jobs, given up apartments, and given away civilian clothing were vociferously indignant at months of delay and frequently wrote their congressmen. Negro recruits on the list alleged that they were not being called up because of their race. The number of enrollees on inactive duty, awaiting orders to report, was by this time almost one fourth of Corps strength. Some authorities attributed the later difficulties of WAAC recruiting to the fact that the presence of thousands of recruits awaiting training in these early days convinced other prospects and the public that the Army actually had no need for Waacs.5

As a result, conferees decided that the sensible course was to make available to the WAAC enough additional training space to scoop up at once all inactive members and current applicants-a course that appeared doubly wise, since Army jobs were already waiting and applicants would probably accept other war work unless taken at once. It would then be appropriate to decide, on the basis of the national picture, how much farther it would be possible to go and whether further legislation should be sought.

Accordingly, the goal finally set was that which General White of G-1 Division had earlier recommended-150,000 by the end of June 1943, a mere one tenth of G-3's first total. Minutes of the meeting noted that "present training facilities could . . . provide for a total enrollment on June 28 of 122,234 . . . and an additional training capacity of approximately 10,000 . . . will permit a total enrollment by June 28 of 150,234." The matter of later expansion was "discussed, accepted in principle, and left for future detailed consideration, with the idea that


training capacity adequate for 150,000 by June 30 would be adequate for a greater number at the proper time."6

The greatest obstacle to the training of such a number was seen as the matter of supply, since, in both the previous recruiting step-ups of June and September, the Services of Supply had not been able to meet its commitments. However, there was placed in the record a schedule furnished to Colonel Catron by Requirements Division, Services of Supply, which indicated that in the new program all essential items for the numbers contemplated could be provided.7

The conference therefore directed, in language which in retrospect was to appear curious, that "'a controlled recruiting of approximately 5,800 a week will be put into effect.'" Although this goal possibly appeared small by comparison with G-3's earlier ideas, actually the Corps was called upon to triple its size in four months. Corps strength in March would approach 50,000, of which only 14,000 would be trained or in the field, the rest being still in training or awaiting call to active duty. The new requirement meant that by 1 July there must be about 104,000 in the field and 46,000 in training. This was a voluntary recruiting effort unlike anything ever previously achieved by the U.S. Army in any comparable circumstances in its history.8

Within hours of the General Staff decision, the Corps was irrevocably committed to large-scale expansion. Recruiting quotas were at once doubled, with future tripling a necessity. Some 6,126 recruits had been admitted in December and 10,421 in January. With a fourth and fifth training center in prospect, the quota was now lifted to 18,000 for February and 27,000 for March. Thereafter it was expected to hold steady at around 33,000 monthly through June.9

The Services of Supply was already negotiating for a site for the Fourth WAAC Training Center. After conferences with the Chief of Engineers, it had recommended a part of Port Devens, Massachusetts, which was excellently located to accommodate recruits from New York and New England. This site was shortly approved but, like the site for the Third, only after the General Staff overrode the nonconcurrence of the using command. It was directed that this center's staff of more than 1,000 be ordered in and be ready to open the training center in March.10

The site offered for the Fifth WAAC Training Center was less desirable; it consisted of three prisoner-of-war inclosures at Camps Polk and Ruston, in Louisiana, and Camp Monticello, Arkansas. This minimum-standards housing was available only because the Army had, at this date, taken few prisoners. Its use for Waacs was therefore proposed by G-3 Division, according to conference minutes:

General Edwards stated that the housing situation had been carefully surveyed and that neither the Ground Forces, the Services


FIRST OFFICER ELIZABETH H. STRAYHORN, of the Fifth WAAC Training Center, with Governor Sam ones of Louisiana, a visitor on the post.

FIRST OFFICER ELIZABETH H. STRAYHORN, of the Fifth WAAC Training Center, with Governor Sam ones of Louisiana, a visitor on the post.

of Supply, nor the Air Forces could make any further housing available without deferring the activation of military units. He stated, however, that there was a possibility that Prisoner of War housing, much of which is now completed and unoccupied, might be temporarily made available. . . The total housing program for prisoners of war was in the neighborhood of 196,000 spaces, of which we had commitments with the British for only 150,000 spaces; while actual prisoners of war therein total only 6,600.11

The Provost Marshal General concurred in allowing Waacs to train there, provided they did not modify the group toilets and showers and other masculine-type plumbing facilities, and provided they would move out on thirty days' notice if German and Italian prisoners should need the place.12

The decision as to whether to accept this location was, according to Director Hobby, a difficult one. Its unattractive features were obvious, especially when compared to the WAVES and SPARS training schools at fashionable colleges. One recruiter asked; unnecessarily,


whether the WAAC with its prisoner-of war camps was not "suffering by contrast with the WAVES with Smith College, Holyoke, and Hunter?"13  The Director therefore appealed to the Services of Supply for any other location, even city hotels, but was offered nothing else except a desert camp below sea level at Tulare, California. The WAAC therefore was obliged to accept the prison camps in order to comply with the directed expansion program.14

The three scattered branches of this training center, some one hundred miles apart, made administration difficult. The buildings were bare and rough inside and out, located in desolate sandy stockades. Colonel Hoag, who was ordered from Des Moines to be commandant, said: "It was necessary to place the moving-picture theaters of Ruston `off-limits' until they were cleared of rats and other vermin . . . ." 15  General Marshall himself was concerned about the situation and, in a personal conference with Colonel Hoag, told him to push Special Services operations at this training center. However, the Eighth Service Command later turned down Colonel Hoag's request for these services on the grounds that it had had no instructions from the Army Service Forces.16  Director Hobby, upon a later visit to the Fifth WAAC Training Center, said, "I know of no finer example of patriotism by Waacs anywhere than that which was shown by the women who worked and trained successfully at these camps." 17

Expansion of WAAC Training

In accordance with General Staff directives, Brig. Gen. Don C. Faith's WAAC Training Command during the spring months underwent an expansion which overshadowed previous efforts. On 1 March the Fourth WAAC Training Center was activated at Fort Devens; on 15 March the Fifth WAAC Training Center was activated in the three prisoner-of-war camps, with recruits arriving a bare two weeks later. With these additions the five basic training centers had a capacity of 46,388. This meant that some 7,000 trained women-about 50 companies could now be sent to the field weekly. There were 53 WAAC companies in the field at the end of February; by July, it was intended that there should be at least 375.18

In addition to the five basic training centers, several specialist schools were set up to relieve the training command of some of the load of specialist training. Most important of these were seven administrative specialist schools set up at women's colleges in the South and Southwest. These were under the jurisdiction of The Adjutant General, not General Faith, and were commanded by Army officers, with WAAC officers as instructors and company officers. Each had a capacity of about 600, and offered a six-week course designed to turn out trained administrative specialists.19  Students of The Adjutant General's schools, like men, were given the rank of private first class, although graduates of identical courses at


WAAC training centers could not be so promoted, a circumstance that caused some discontent at the latter.

The new schools were shortly successful in removing a considerable load from the WAAC Training Command; on the other hand, inspectors soon noted a natural decrease in uniformity of operation, with some schools making no reports of personnel actions. There was also reported at some Army schools a growing need for a senior woman officer to correct a certain laxity of supervision of living conditions which was causing public comment unfavorable to recruiting.20

In addition, three Army schools to train WAAC radio operators and mechanics were set up at civilian schools in Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. These had a capacity of about 300 each, and were under the jurisdiction of the Signal Corps.21  In February, the Army Air Forces admitted 50 Waacs to the twelve week photographic laboratory technician course at Lowry Field, Colorado, and others to later classes.22

From this time forward it became increasingly common to send Waacs to Army schools when their numbers did not justify separate schools for women. No particular difficulties were noted, and an ASF training inspector stated a few months later: "WAAC training; strangely enough, presents few problems. WAAC students at schools are eager to learn, and maintain discipline with less corrective action than men students in the same class." 23

Delegation of Command Authority

Before the increased numbers of trainees could reach the field, hasty administrative changes were necessary. While the training system was in process of expansion, WAAC Headquarters therefore hurried to complete the delegation of its command authority to the field. It was realized that such decentralization was perhaps too early for full justice to individuals, since the scanty field experience to this date had not provided a basis upon which all types of Auxiliary regulations might be carefully formulated, and Army Regulations could not yet apply; nevertheless, the approaching expansion made the step necessary. Ready or not, it was obvious that in a Corps of 150,000 women WAAC Headquarters would no longer be able to process the thousands of individual transfers, discharges, and promotions. Already the length of time required to process discharge cases was such that, the field reported, "Many of these members are rapidly becoming mental cases due to the length of confinement awaiting authority for discharge." 24

It was desired to realign the WAAC organization in a way that would, as nearly as possible, parallel the command system for men and leave the Corps prepared for conversion to Army status, although, as the Director noted, planners were limited to doing "only those things which can be done legally" under existing legislation.25

Delegation of command authority to the service command level had been under way for some time. Before the end of 1942


service commands had been given power to send Waacs on temporary duty and detached service away from their stations, provided that enrolled women were sent only to stations where they could be housed with a WAAC company. Army stations were also given power to grant WAAC leaves and furloughs, with no restrictions except those that applied to men.

At the end of December that much-disputed power-assignment and transfer was delegated to the WAAC service command directors with no reservations, since these officers now thoroughly understood War Department ideas on safe and appropriate locations. The wording of the circular shortly had to be changed. It at first read: "Orders authorizing assignment . . . will be issued by the commanding general of the Service Command upon the request of the WAAC Service Command Director.'" This was pronounced offensive to commanding generals, since it appeared to place them under the command of a WAAC officer. Accordingly the wording was changed to: "The WAAC Service Command Director will request the commanding general to issue orders . . . ."

In February authority to promote enrolled women was delegated to WAAC service command directors and company commanders, likewise the authority to demote, with certain safeguards to protect the individual's rights. In March, after some delay to get the approval of the War Department, detailed instructions were published to guide in the selection of women for attendance at officer candidate school; Army commands would receive quotas; appoint selection boards, and issue orders sending the selected applicants to the school.

Finally, an even more important power was delegated, that of discharge, which would now be ordered by the commanding general upon the recommendation of his WAAC director, unless he was in doubt, in which case he could send it to WAAC Headquarters. This delegation had required months of study to set up exact and just grounds for each of the WAAC's three types of discharge-honorable discharge, discharge without specification as to character, and summary discharge-which did not correspond exactly to the Army's three types because they could not legally include a dishonorable discharge.26

At the conclusion of this series of delegations of authority, in early April, WAAC Headquarters retained within itself no more power over operating functions than that which The Adjutant General retained over male personnel-initial assignment of newly trained units, promotion of officers, and appeal on doubtful cases. Of these it could not dispose until Army status allowed The Adjutant General's Office to assume them.

Inclusion in the Troop Basis

At the same time, the General Staff decisions concerning Corps expansion and status had committed the Army to a course implicit in the program: the more complete integration of womanpower into every area and command. On 8 February, two days after the expansion program was launched, General McNarney informed the General Staff of a further decision which represented a new era in War Department thinking on the employment of womanpower: the WAAC strength was to


count against the Army's Troop Basis. G-3 Division, in recommending this action, stated:

Since the legislation was passed, conceptions as to the most profitable methods of employing members of the WAAC have undergone changes . . . . It is necessary to employ both soldiers and members of the WAAC only on those tasks which cannot otherwise be performed.27

General McNarney stated that the Army would voluntarily agree to draft one less man for every WAAC recruited, and that
From now on the strength of the WAAC will be included as a part of the authorized troop basis and will form a part of the 7'/z million Army.

On 22 February the General Council noted:
General McNarney emphasized and reiterated again that the purpose of Waacs is to replace soldiers. When Waacs are assigned to a post, a corresponding reduction of enlisted men must be made immediately. G-1 will check on this.28

Accordingly, the War Department directed that Waacs be removed from all employment that did not result in the replacement of soldiers. The decision particularly affected the plans, which some agencies still had not abandoned, to employ Waacs in laundries, post exchanges, officers' clubs, and similar duties which had no allotment of soldiers. It was directed that WAAC Headquarters refuse all such requisitions.

More important, the General Staff decision required the removal of approximately thirty WAAC units currently assigned to the Aircraft Warning Service.29

The demise of the Aircraft Warning Service WAAC units caused no grief in WAAC Headquarters. Nothing but difficulty had resulted from the use of Waacs mixed with civilians in city stations, with the Waacs inevitably getting less desirable assignments and becoming convinced that they had replaced not a soldier but a debutante. Already the possibility of an air attack on the United States appeared remote. The Aircraft Warning Service, on the other hand, declared Waacs essential and refused to give up about half of the women; instead, it allotted military vacancies for small clerical detachments at various operations and filter centers. The rest of the women were reorganized into the newly created post headquarters companies, AAF, similar to service command companies, for shipment to various air bases to perform real military duties.30

The Services of Supply now suddenly became concerned with the fact, which had not previously troubled it, that all WAAC units were assigned to the Services of Supply and only attached to the using service. It was immediately clear that Waacs would have to be assigned to the using commands in order to count against their troop allotment and not against the Services of Supply's. This coincided admirably with the desires of the Air Forces, which had endured the service commands' administration of the city-stationed Aircraft Warning Service units but could not view with equanimity a Services of Supply invasion of actual air bases.

Of the approved requests now on file, some 5% percent were from the Army Air


Forces and the remaining 43 percent from the Services of Supply and the Ground Forces combined. Accordingly, a tentative division of the first 10,000 was planned on this basis, with the Air Forces receiving the largest slice for field duty, although the training center allotment continued to belong to the Services of Supply:

Command    Strength    Percent
Total    150,000    ---
Trainees, SOS    20,000    ---
Field duty    130,000    100
AAF    70,000    54
SOS    55,000    42
AGF    5,000    4

Although this division had neglected to take into consideration the future needs of overseas theaters and the War Department and was soon to require revision, it roughly determined the proportion in which shipments were to be made for the next few months.31

On 17 February it was directed that all Waacs would in the near future be assigned, not attached, to the using agency, which might be the Army Air Forces, Army Ground Forces, Services of Supply (shortly renamed Army Service Forces), or an overseas theater. The formal transfer from attachment to assignment was set for 1 May.32

Staff Directors Assigned to New Commands

If there had been risk involved in early delegation of discharge and other powers to the service commands, where were located experienced regional directors, it was recognized that real danger lay in the necessity for scattering Waacs through all other Army commands and overseas theaters, which had neither WAAC advisers nor experience in Auxiliary administration. Therefore, it was decided that; before the formal assignment of enlisted women on 1 May, a WAAC officer corresponding to the service command director must be assigned to each major command involved. These included an eventual fifteen Air Forces commands in the United States, two Ground Forces commands, and many of the Army Service Forces' administrative and technical services, as well as ports of embarkation, overseas theaters, and other miscellaneous commands. To designate all such WAAC advisers, the title WAAC Staff Director was devised, and the titles Service Command Director and Regional Director were dropped. All powers which had been previously delegated to a service command director were simultaneously made applicable to all WAAC staff directors.33

Immediate difficulty was experienced in finding qualified WAAC officers in sufficient numbers to fill these new and responsible positions. The best possibilities appeared to be those women with some experience as assistant service command directors, as senior recruiting officers, or in WAAC Headquarters. These officers, except for a few in headquarters, frequently proceeded hastily from the old assignment to the new without any such indoctrination as it had been possible to give the original nine service command directors.

Another problem in sending out these officers was posed by an unexpectedly


quick transition from Auxiliary to Army rules of promotion. The system of requiring all officers to graduate from officer candidate school, with initial commissions only as second lieutenants, had, in Mrs. Hobby's opinion, proved sound and democratic in avoiding the choice of officers on political or personal grounds and in preventing the award of higher ranks to individuals who failed on the job. Nevertheless, as the WAAC Pre-Planners had recognized, the system was tenable only if women who had proved capable were advanced to ranks that would provide a normal spread of grades for Corps administration. In line with this policy, WAAC Headquarters had in December promoted service command directors and battalion commanders to the rank of first officer, or captain. It was planned to repeat the process in April to give equal rank to the new staff directors being sent out, to make experienced key officers majors, and company commanders captains.

However, when the Director proposed this move, she was informed by the Army Service Forces that the Army time-ingrade now applied to the WAAC, in anticipation of Army status later in the year. The Director protested that such abrupt application of the Army promotion system was impossible since the Corps had not initially followed the Army system of direct commissions:

The Army of the United States, faced with a similar necessity for providing officers for a rapidly expanding army, has commissioned many men directly from civilian life, determining their grades both by the nature of the job they have been asked to undertake and by the nature of their civilian experience and training.

If the WAAC had done the same, she noted that in February the WAAC with its current strength of over 30,000 members would have had, at least, on the Army ratio, 183 lieutenant colonels, 329 majors, and 848 captains; actually it had no lieutenant colonels, no majors, and only 82 captains. While no one desired these maximum numbers in a new organization, the Director suggested that staff directors and unit commanders be advanced to the rank to which their age, civilian experience, and military duties would have entitled them under the Army system of direct commissions. Otherwise, she noted, "The responsibilities devolving upon unit commanders and staff directors will not be adequately recognized, and they will be at a disadvantage in dealing with other officers of like responsibility but higher rank." Even under Army promotion policy, she noted that in similar emergencies West Point graduates and Air Corps men had been granted exceptions to the required time-in-grade.

However, the Army Service Forces' final decision was that the Army time-ingrade must thenceforth be observed; even women occupying Air Corps positions must observe the longer time-in-grade of the Army instead of the shorter time of men in Air Corps jobs. General Grunert noted: "Notwithstanding the contemplated expansion of the WAAC, there appears to be little justification for such rapid promotion." One concession was made, in which some promotions to captaincies were permitted in April, but none to field grade. As a result, the new staff directors went out as captains or lieutenants; by the end of the war, very few had reached the originally allotted rank of lieutenant colonel, and many company commanders were not yet captains. For promotions to the grade of major, only two exceptions were made during the remainder of the WAAC's existence, the first


of these being for the officer sent to fill, in the Army Air Forces, a position comparable to Director Hobby's in the Service Forces.34

Major Commands Receive Waacs Army Air Forces

At this point it was evident that the Air Forces' share of the WAAC field units would be almost double that of all other commands combined. It was currently scheduled to receive 253 field companies as against the Service Forces' 120 and the Ground Forces' 7. The receptive Air Forces attitude toward the employment of women was due largely to the announced policy of Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, AAF, who repeatedly wrote field commanders that efficiency required the employment of Waacs to the widest extent possible, to make up manpower deficiencies.35

The Air Forces Waacs began arriving in March, accompanied by staff directors for the various subordinate air commands. The first unit, fifty-seven WAAC enrolled women and two officers, arrived at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, on 3 March 1943 to work for the AAF's Map Chart Division. On 22 March the AAF's first two WAAC post headquarters companies arrived at Chanute and Scott Fields. Twenty-three more WAAC units arrived at air bases in April; by the end of the summer there were 171 air bases which had WAAC personnel as part of the permanent party.36

The choice of a woman to head this organization and to serve on General Arnold's staff was not announced until May. Although the importance of the position was second only to Director Hobby's, and in fact equal in echelon as long as the Director remained assigned to the Army Service Forces, the top rank which could be allotted was that of lieutenant colonel, in view of the legislative restrictions which limited the Corps to one colonel. The position was given the title of Air WAAC Officer, and was set up as parallel to that of the Air Quartermaster, the Air Engineer, and other such staff officers.

The woman chosen for this position was the Director's former aide and current acting deputy, First Officer Betty Bandel, who upon assuming this duty was promoted to be the Corps' first field director, or major; she was to remain the WAC's second-ranking officer throughout Director Hobby's tenure of office. The new Air WAAC Officer was at this time thirty years old; as the Director's aide she had accompanied Mrs. Hobby to Europe and on most field trips and thus had a firsthand knowledge of the WAAC situation. As Acting Deputy Director since February, she had written many of the Corps' more important staff papers and had played an active part in co-ordinating the decentralization plans with ranking officers of other agencies.37

Army Ground Forces

Since the Army Ground Forces ordinarily trained on ASF-serviced posts and needed overhead only at a few schools, it had been allotted only about 5,000 Waacs of the first 150,000 expected to be re-


MAJ. BETTY BANDEL receives her leaves from Colonel Hobby.

MAJ. BETTY BANDEL receives her leaves from Colonel Hobby.

cruited.38  Comment within its headquarters was unfavorable to integration of even this number, and AGF Plans Section stated:

In view of the educational, occupational; and physical training of the average American woman, it is anticipated that it would be extremely difficult to adapt them to military duties . . . . With the exception of a very limited number of assignments . . . there is no reasonable field for utilization of women in the military structure.39

Other comments added: "WAAC activities should not be expanded if it can be avoided . . . definitely opposed to coed organization." 40  Accordingly, Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, Commanding General, AGF, wrote the War Department that "for the present, the WAAC should be continued only in limited size," and should not be placed in the Army: "It seems premature to anticipate manpower shortages


so critical as to demand the extraordinary measures here contemplated."41

General McNair objected also to the allotment of 5,000, which had been based by the General Staff on proportionate overhead strength of male personnel, without his comment or consent; he asked that the allotment be set back to 3,600. This was done by the War Department, and the remaining 1,400 reallotted to overseas theaters.42

Under the impression that Waacs would always be administered by the Service Forces, the Ground Forces had already consented to receive some 1,700 Waacs at six different stations. The pioneer unit went to the Second Army at Memphis on 26 March 1943, and in April the others followed in rapid succession to Camp Hood and Forts Benning, Sill, Riley, and Knox. These installations followed their own inclinations, some allowing service commands to administer the Waacs, and some prematurely employing AGF channels to WAAC Headquarters. Within AGF headquarters, all WAAC matters were referred to G-3 Section rather than to G-1, under the impression that WAAC problems chiefly concerned units rather than personnel. The Ground Forces declined to accept the assignment of a WAAC staff director or any WAAC officer in its headquarters.43

Army Service Forces

Within the third of the major domestic commands, the Army Service Forces, the number of the service command staff directors was increased by the addition of other staff directors for the ASF technical services. This action was highly pleasing to most such services, which had long resented the interference of service command directors and had repeatedly asked that their own command channels be used. For example, Aberdeen Proving Ground objected to sending officer candidate applications and discharges through the Third Service Command, since Aberdeen was under the Chief of Ordnance. Inasmuch as many of the technical services were engaged in highly secret research and other activities, most felt that inspection by a member of another command was inadvisable. The appointment of WAAC staff directors for Ordnance and other services ordinarily ended such objections, and made command channels the same as those for men.44

Employment of Waacs among these technical services now promised to become rather extensive. The Transportation Corps placed a senior WAAC staff director in its Washington headquarters, and others in the various ports where Waacs were to be stationed in numbers-New York, Hampton Roads, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle. Since most ports were in labor-short areas, they were already hard-hit by the loss of general service men.

The Chemical Warfare Service likewise foresaw a future lack of military personnel for permanent domestic installations, and desired to obtain Waacs whose research, once begun, would not be interrupted by withdrawal for combat duty. A WAAC staff director was therefore requested by the Chemical Warfare Service in March of 1943, and its first Waac company arrived in April.


The Corps of Engineers now also requisitioned Waacs for an important project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, so secret that its character could not be revealed.

The Signal Corps secured adoption of a plan to place in the WAAC some 8,000 civilian women, known as WIRES (Women in Radio and Electrical Service), whom it was training in radio, telephone, and other communications work; a staff director had already been accepted.

Medical Department requests also came in for the first time on 13 March, and totaled 20,869 or from 30 to 50 percent of enlisted personnel in hospitals of 500 beds or more. The requests were for women trained in various medical skills and also for clerks, drivers, and mechanics, plus 4,000 orderlies and others for low-grade work around hospitals. No staff director was accepted.45

Overseas Theaters

The decentralization of authority applied even to overseas theaters, since approaching legislation would give the Waacs the military status that would make further shipment morally justifiable. Requests from the North African and European theaters were by now so extensive that a War Department decision on priority was necessary. Director Hobby favored priority to the zone of the interior, but theaters argued that skilled Waacs had proved able to replace from two to three men apiece in North Africa, and that, in view of the difficulty of maintaining personnel overseas, theaters should get the most competent. Both General Somervell and General Marshall inclined to this view, and finally informed the Director that overseas theaters' requests would have priority.46

The staff director for the European theater, Capt. Anna W. Wilson, arrived in England on 13 April 1943 to plan for later shipments. No firm shipment priorities had yet arrived, and the several requisitions for Waacs were by this time so confused and overlapping that it was impossible to tell whether they concerned the same or separate units. Captain Wilson found that the theater had so little information about the Corps' mission and capabilities that specific requests were difficult; when this was supplied, the Eighth Air Force in the theater requested a WAAC battalion, and supplied a firm shipping priority. The first unit for England therefore began to be organized, and was to reach the theater in the summer shortly after the Corps obtained military status. Other earlier shipments to the North African theater were also authorized.47

Readiness for Increase in Numbers

By late spring of 1943 the WAAC organization was thus fully decentralized and well prepared, as far as mere skeletal organization was concerned, for Army status and for expansion to any number. Its staff advisers were in almost every important Army command, learning its needs and peculiarities: its command powers were so delegated that shift to Army status would scarcely be noticed; its training system was fully staffed and capable of accommodating large numbers of recruits. The administrative network was ready. Had no other factor been involved, expansion to a million or more upon this frame appeared easily possible.


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