Stresses of Rapid Build-up: Recruiting

The Army Recruiting Service, to which had been delegated the recruitment of women, inherited a discouraging tradition: from Revolutionary days onward the Army had never been able to recruit the number of men needed to fill its ranks in a major war. The Continental Congress had been unable to persuade each colony to contribute its fair share of men, and General George Washington had lamented, "We should not have found ourselves this spring so weak as to be insulted by 5,000 men . . .; we should not have been for the greatest part of the war inferior to the enemy . . . for want of force which the country was completely able to afford." 1  In the War of 1812 and during the Indian wars, even the meager forces authorized by Congress could not be obtained by recruiting. Both the North and the South, during the Civil War, had to resort to conscription before the war ended.

With the first World War, it became an established tradition that the nation would draft soldiers if they were needed. Both the public and the Army accepted the fact that a volunteer system would never persuade the needed number of men to enlist in a national emergency. In the interval of peace between the two World Wars, Congress whittled the enlisted strength of the Regular Army down to 118,750 men-less than the total number of women who were eventually to be recruited for the WAC.2  The Army Recruiting Service therefore was geared to bring in only a modest number of men, and this during the depression years when surplus manpower was abundant. Even before the nation entered World War II Congress again provided for conscription, so that the Army had never been obliged to perfect a high-grade sales organization. After enactment of Selective Service legislation, only limited personnel and facilities remained available to the Recruiting Service, which was devoted chiefly to Aviation Cadet recruiting and other special projects.

It was thus a severely handicapped organization that undertook WAAC: recruiting upon the Corps' formation. In the opinion of the Army officers later assigned to salvage the program, the Army Recruiting Service was placed at a great disadvantage in being forced to attempt a feat entirely outside its experience: to bring in larger numbers of women than it had ever


obtained of men, and this in a nation that indorsed the idea that "'women's place is in the home." The 1943 chief of the WAAC Recruiting Section, Captain Edlund, said, "The Army had never had a real recruiting setup . . . . It was never a sales office in any sense of the word, for in peacetime they were always able to get the quota they were after, without actually recruiting them." 3

The Navy, in recruiting Waves, recognized the difficulty by giving direct commissions in high ranks to well-known advertising experts and authorities on sales methods. The enlistment of Waves was taken entirely out of the hands of the agencies that enlisted men and given to the Office of Naval Officer Procurement, in consideration of the fact that the recruitment of women was more selective than the drafting of men. In the Army, the Army Service Forces chose to use the personnel already assigned to its Recruiting Service, and The Adjutant General, General Ulio, stated that no intensive recruiting effort for women was deemed "necessary or advisable." 4

The Army Recruiting Service responded well enough as long as no strain was put upon it. WAAC Headquarters furnished it with assorted instructions and pamphlets, and the numbers of applicants at first so far exceeded training space that the selection of well-qualified women offered no great problem. It was directed that recruits be thoroughly screened by mental and physical tests and by inquiries to their references and to police courts and schools. Women were also required to prove their occupational claims, and to be interviewed finally by a WAAC officer who had the power of administrative rejection. Even so, recruiting efficiency was far from 100 percent; for early reports showed that recruiters were losing sales in more than two thirds of all cases in which women were interested enough to approach them.

Staff directors also noted that recruiters frequently gave out untrue information, or took other action not in the best interests of the Corps.5  About mid-November of 1942 Colonel Catron reported to General Grunert that there were some signs of what was called "careless enrollment.6  Each applicant was at this time the subject of a Provost Marshal General check, although her enlistment could be completed pending its receipt, and an increasing number of derogatory reports began to be received which necessitated the discharge of women after enrollment. Particularly embarrassing was one case in which a recruit's unsuitability had not been detected in time, and, although discharged, she was thereafter able to bill herself as "The Original WAAC Strip Teaser." A study was initiated to check such cases, and the office also took up with The Surgeon General the number of physically unfit individuals being accepted. Colonel Catron urged The Adjutant General's Office, which conducted WAAC recruiting, to increase its efforts both in numbers and quality.


RECRUITING OFFICERS OF SIXTH SERVICE COMMAND at a meeting to help promote enrollment in the WAAC, December 1942.

RECRUITING OFFICERS OF SIXTH SERVICE COMMAND at a meeting to help promote enrollment in the WAAC, December 1942.

Danger Signals

When the expansion program required a tenfold increase in quotas. The Adjutant General's Office began to put more pressure on its Recruiting Service. A booklet was circulated entitled A Plan for Increasing the Rate of Enrollment in the WAAC. In order not to disturb Army command prerogatives, the actual conduct of recruiting was left to the service commands; of which Captain Edlund observed, "In the Service Commands we had nine separate recruiting campaigns."7  In January of 1943 all service commands received a visit from a liaison party consisting of representatives of The Adjutant General and WAAC Headquarters, accompanied by advertising experts from N. W. Ayer & Son, the advertising agency that held the contract for WAAC recruiting. Advertising matter was placed in seven magazines and in many newspapers; several WAAC posters were printed and distributed by The Adjutant General's Recruiting Publicity Bureau in New York City; information pamphlets of several types were also provided. Through the Office of War Information, a radio campaign was obtained.8

In spite of these efforts, certain danger signals began to be apparent. One was the adverse attitude of the men of the armed forces. In early January of 1943 the unfavorable nature of soldier opinion had become so unmistakable that Director Hobby


requested the Services of Supply to make a formal survey.9 This was done at once by Special Services Division, and the results, available in March, were more unfavorable than even the worst expectations. When asked, "If you had a sister 21 years old or older, would you like to see her join the WAAC or not?" the reply was:

No    40 percent
Yes    25 percent
Undecided    35 percent

The percentages were almost identical when men were asked whether they would advise a girl friend to join-only one fourth would. Those who said no gave as their reasons: "Women are more help in industry, defense work, farm"; "better off at home"; "Army no place for a woman"; "too close contact with soldiers"; "too hard a life"; "don't like Army life and wouldn't want her to be in anything similar."

When asked, "How do you think a young woman without family responsibilities can serve her country best?" over half designated war industry; others preferred farm or "government work." Only from 10 to 20 percent of different groups named the WAAC; only from 1 to 2 percent the WAVES. These opinions were offered although most had never seen a Waac. Almost none had any idea what the Waacs were to do; about 25 percent said "work for the government," and as much as 13 percent in some groups said "combat duty."

General Somervell expressed considerable alarm at the report and wrote, "This not only creates a severe drag on WAAC recruiting, but also creates an unnecessarily lengthy adjustment period when WAAC personnel reports for duty in the field." He directed that a high-priority film be made for the purpose of influencing soldier opinion, also a handbook to provide soldier information, and that any other media available to the Army concentrate on the problem. General Somervell also, upon the request of General Ulio, sent a letter to the commanding generals of service commands; stating, "'Intimations have come to me that our men in the Army have not been too sympathetic to the idea of a women's auxiliary . . . ," and urging them to take steps to change the minds of their subordinates.

By early spring, however, the unfavorable attitude was still growing. General Madison Pearson commented on "the wave of letters coming from service men urging their wives, sisters, or girl friends not to join the WAAC." Director Hobby added that the WAAC had received fairly good publicity from press and radio, and only adverse comments on enlistment from men of the armed forces; she added, "WAAC Headquarters had been aware for some time of the attitude of the Army to the WAAC." 10

Also ominous was the attitude of the newly created War Manpower Commission, which in December of 1942 had been given jurisdiction over the Selective Service system. Since one of the Commission's primary missions was to secure 4,000,000 women for civilian industry, its policies toward the womanpower needs of the armed forces from the beginning caused them some concern. The War Manpower Commission had immediately ended Army-Navy recruiting for men within draft age,


limiting the armed forces to such manpower supply as could be obtained through authorized draft quotas. It was the Army's opinion that the Commission did not possess powers so to limit female recruiting, since in this case the armed forces' needs were not supplied by a draft. Nevertheless, in preliminary negotiations with the Commission over the extent of its influence, the suggestion was made that the WAAC restrict its recruiting to Group IV areas the most limited and unpromising part of the nation's manpower area. It was also hinted that the WAAC should not recruit in occupational fields in short supply in industry-namely, the clerical, stenographic, and other fields most needed by the Army. This action followed the standard world-wide pattern: in almost every nation in which womanpower had become important, there: had existed a stage in which military needs were considered secondary to those of industry. In at least one country the pressure of industry upon the national control group had been such that an army had been ordered to release to factories the women it had already recruited and trained.11

For its first months the WAAC had had no restrictions upon the sources from which it might accept recruits, although almost every civilian concern expressed the opinion that its womanpower needs were more important than those of the Army. A typical protest was one forwarded to a United States senator by a state manufacturers association, which said:
A great deal of training is needed to produce a cotton mill operator . . . . Don't you think these women are more needed in the cotton mills than in the WAACs? Can you advise us of any steps this mill can take to prevent these girls from leaving their positions to join the WAAC?.12  

Early objections also came from government agencies, such as the General Accounting Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which asked that the WAAC refuse to accept their female employees.

At this time Director Hobby still clung to what she felt to be the "'only tenable position":
So long as enrollment in this Corps is voluntary; and [women] citizens of this country are free to choose whether or not they shall make a war effort and if so in what manner, the Corps cannot refuse to enroll those who desire to join its ranks if they are otherwise eligible.13

On 6 February 1943, when the General Staff conference met to decide the WAAC's future recruiting quotas, the imminence of the Army's defeat in this encounter was perhaps not fully realized. However, within three months tremendous pressure from government and industry was to compel the armed forces to agree to sweeping limitations on women's enlistment: no women federal employees to be accepted without a release from their agencies; no women from "war industries" to be accepted without a written release from their employers or a statement of compelling reasons; no agricultural workers to be accepted at all.14

The Director informed the General Staff that recruiting prospects, excellent in 1942, had by this date deteriorated badly. For its first six months the Army had en-


countered little competition from the other armed services. However, in 1943 the WAVES, SPARS, and Women Marines began to offer numerous advantages to the better-qualified women: military status, direct commissions for college women, smart uniforms individually purchased; schools in attractive locations; and, in the cast of the WAVES, technical assignments and a policy of permitting social association with officers. Also set up about this time was the government-financed U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps for civilian trainees, which gave attractive uniforms, free professional training, and a student's salary greater than that of a Waac private.

Disputes Over Lowering Standards

To overcome these obstacles, The Adjutant General took a step which, for the remainder of the Corps' existence, was to remain a most controversial issue. He lowered acceptance standards and simplified recruiting procedure in order to meet the increased quotas. Recruiters were permitted to enroll applicants before results of the serological test were obtained and to discharge them from the Reserve if the test proved positive. Presentation of a preliminary health certificate from a civilian doctor was no longer required, since this put the applicant to some expense and was supposedly duplicated by the Army examination. Letters of recommendation were no longer required, except in doubtful cases, and the WAAC questionnaire was eliminated, as well as the statements on occupational training. An aptitude lest score of only 50 was made acceptable, and no educational requirement was included. Instead of the previous Provost Marshal General investigation there was substituted a check by the local office of the Retail Credit Company, Inc., optional with the recruiter.15

The place of WAAC Headquarters in this recruiting picture was not clear. Captain Edlund said later:
Back in November we had a recruiting section here in Headquarters which consisted of two people. We were called into The Adjutant General's Office and the only thing we had to say about it was not in regard to the way the job should be done . . . . As early as january we were convinced that the recruiting campaign would not be successful . . . we fought for all the things we felt were missing. The quality slipped badly.16

On the other hand. General Ulio said, "Close liaison has been maintained at all times with WAAC Headquarters"; and also, "All important changes in recruiting activities affecting the WAAC receive the comment or concurrence of WAAC Headquarters before issue." 17

In spite of these drastic measures, the recruiting campaign gradually began to disappoint its sponsors. In January of 1943 the picture was still rosy- -the higher quota of 10,000 was actually exceeded. In February the quota was raised to 113,000; most of those on the waiting list were called to active duty and all others who presented themselves were accepted immediately. Nevertheless, at the end of the month it was discovered that the quota had not been met in spite of the lowered standards:


only 12,270 had been enlisted. This figure, had recruiters only known it, was to be lops for all time. The bubble had burst. The quota was raised to 2 7,000 for March -the number needed to fill the new training centers-and recruiters were urged to make new efforts. This quota was not met and the take for March fell below that of February- 11,464.18

There was mounting evidence that the campaign was not recruiting from wider and more promising areas, but instead was merely scooping up the undesirables who had been previously rejected. One veteran WAAC recruiter described the situation:

In 1942 we had crowds of applicants and could pick and choose. By early 1943 these were well picked over, but the quota went up while the applications went down. Many of those whom we now called to duty were those who were acceptable but not quite the best. By March these were almost gone, and we were faced with a choice of accepting women we had previously rejected or of leaving our quotas unfilled.19

AGCT Standards

Within a few weeks, the results of lowering standards were so serious as to cause Director Hobby to appeal to General Somervell to overrule The Adjutant General. In the matter of AGCT standards, records preserved at Fort Des Moines illustrated the situation. In September and October of 1942 Army General Classification tests given recruits at this training center showed that less than 10 percent fell into the lowest two grades; IV and V, 30 percent in Grade III, or average, while 60 percent were in Grades I and II, the two highest grades, in which Army officer candidates were required to score.20  Even in December, only 12 percent were in the two lowest groups, as against the Army expectancy of 32 percent. However, during the first months of 1943 standards plummeted, and over 40 percent of all recruits received at Des Moines were in Grades IV and V. Similar records from other training centers were not preserved, but it was the opinion of authorities at Daytona Beach and Fort Oglethorpe, which drew from the Fourth and Eighth Service Commands, that they had an even higher percentage of Grades IV and V recruits. Almost half of all WAAC recruits were now falling in a group so low that their usefulness for any sort of skilled noncombat task seemed doubtful.21

Records at Fort Des Moines also showed a similar drop in the degree of education attained-in April a large number of recruits were found to have had only grade school education or less. Likewise, the degree of skill attained in civilian experience declined; of a typical group of women at Des Moines, about 70 percent were classified as semiskilled, unskilled, domestic service, or laborer. Not all of these records were available to Director Hobby when she began to make protests in March, but the trend was unmistakable. 22

By the end of March about 1,000 of these women, about half of whom were white and half Negro, were waiting idly in the training centers, where they constituted a problem of morale and sometimes of discipline. It became clear now, if it had


not been before. that the Army literally had no military assignment for unskilled and unintelligent women. These could not be assigned to replace enlisted men of like category because such men were ordinarily assigned to heavy work which women could not perform. They could not be trained for more than a few types of military duties.

Colonel Branch, head of the WAAC Planning Service, suggested that they be formed into motor transport, mess, and laundry companies, but the idea proved unsuccessful. Laundry training was not attempted because no military jobs could have been filled. Cooks and Bakers School received many and failed to graduate most; pointing out that such women almost never made good cooks and could pass neither the cooks nor the bakers course; they were not even cleanly and reliable in lesser duties. The Motor Transport School was directed to take large numbers. When the women could not pass the driver aptitude test, they were assigned to the course without it; when they could not pass the course, the course was changed to eliminate all technical subjects. Even with these concessions the school was able to convert few into qualified drivers.

Next, attempts were made to train the women as ward orderlies in hospitals but were abandoned when it was found that the women could not replace men of like category because of the heavy lifting involved. The women obviously were useless for all except the most simple and repetitious duties in factories or the home. To enlist them was not only to deprive industry of needed factory workers but also to burden the Army's military manpower allotments with women who could not carry their share of the work.

Later, opportunity schools and special training units were to be attempted, but inasmuch as the women's deficiency was ordinarily mental and not educational, training authorities pronounced the time spent on them to be more than their subsequent usefulness warranted. Medical authorities also discovered that the rate of disability discharge among these women was about four times as high as among skilled workers. Psychiatrists noted that the continued failure to succeed on Army jobs provoked neurotic conditions and disciplinary infractions among the subjects.23

In addition to the low-grade personnel retained at training centers, thousands of others were placed in companies on various pretexts and shipped to the field. Their impact on field stations was unfortunate and threatened to destroy the Corps' early reputation of one-for-one replacement of men. An alarmed staff director reported that, at a certain Arizona airfield, 152 women had arrived, of which 53 were in Grades IV and V; 86 had scores below 99. At a neighboring field in California, 34 of 154 were in Grades IV and V, and 78 were below 99 in score. While such percentages were still within the Army average, they were not good enough for a headquarters company such as the WAAC provided. The staff director commented:

It would seem shat no company going into the field should be burdened with such a large number of auxiliaries in the two lowest brackets. It makes an unfortunate impression of the Corps when the station contains so many women of low-grade mentality, which so often means low-grade behavior.24

She reported that all had been assigned to "grease monkey" work where it appeared


doubtful that they could ever replace men, one for one. The Second WAAC Training Center was called upon for an explanation, since it had shipped the offending companies. Daytona Beach replied: "The only thing significant about the fact that these companies came from Daytona is that we have had the misfortune of having these people sent to us to train. There have been sent to us 3,576 Grade IV and V people." 25

At Director Hobby's direction, training centers compiled detailed reports of all women in Grade V, giving the station of their enlistment. These she forwarded to General Ulio with the request that stations be reprimanded and individual recruiters penalized for all such women accepted, since they obviously could not have passed the WAAC intelligence tests which stations were supposedly giving. Since, in one week, three fourths of the number came from two stations in the Eighth Service Command; such corrective action appeared warranted. However, The Adjutant General did not reprimand the stations, but instead asked them to forward the test scores of the individuals concerned; these, somewhat naturally, were reported as passable, and no further action was taken.26

Medical Standards

As soon as the requirement for a civilian doctor's examination was dropped it quickly became clear that physical and psychiatric standards were falling alarmingly. Director Hobby gathered from training centers a list of the worst cases, including 30 women who were pregnant when accepted, 52 cases of psychoneurosis, 39 of menopausal syndrome, and miscellaneous other disorders such as fibroid uterus, rheumatic heart disease, chronic cystitis, duodenal ulcer, severe bronchial asthma, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, epilepsy, atrophy of left leg and thigh, and dementia praecox. Also, two babies had been born to new enrollees before they could be discharged-one only six weeks after the date of the mother's enrollment examination.27

Director Hobby forwarded these lists to The Surgeon General with names of the stations from which each had been recruited, with a request for corrective action in the case of the medical examiners concerned. The Surgeon General, however, refused to take any such action on the grounds that an Army medical examiner could not have been expected to detect any of these cases, except that of the advanced pregnancy, under the induction examination used. This examination included serological tests, chest X rays, urinalysis, palpation of abdomen, and tests of blood pressure, vision, and hearing. A pelvic examination had not been required and neither had a complete social history, since these were not required for men's induction examinations. Without them, The Surgeon General pointed out, many illnesses could not always be diagnosed.28

Fort Oglethorpe authorities complained that Army medical examiners seemed to think that the training center was an induction center like the Army's and that a thorough physical examination would be given there. WAAC Headquarters welcomed this, saying, "This confirms the


Division's contention that publication of a circular is necessary to clarify standards." 29

Returns from the field indicated that the chief difficulty was not willful negligence, but either the absence of an adequate authorized induction examination for women or medical examiners' ignorance of proper standards of such an examination. Thus, early in 1943, rejection rates for mental diseases ranged from a low of 0.6 per thousand in the First Service Command to a high of 30.6 per thousand in the Sixth Service Command; either far more women in Chicago were deranged than in Boston, or the medical standards differed widely in the two service commands.30  Evidence indicated that more stations were too lax than too strict: of all disability discharges granted until June, 1943, one half of the women discharged had been in service less than four months and three fourths less than five and a half months, which strongly suggested that the disabilities had existed before enlistment. Furthermore, analysis showed that 73.7 percent of all disability discharges were for two reasons only-gynecological and neuropsychiatric. This appeared to some to be rather strong evidence that medical examiners were more or less efficiently screening out the disabilities common to men and women, but were baffled by those peculiar to women.31

There mere a few WAAC staff directors who felt that some examining psychiatrists, in the absence of guidance from The Surgeon General, were methodically screening out the mere stable applicants. In one extreme case, a director noted that the local psychiatrist "maintained that the only way to determine a woman's stability was to require her to walk into his office naked, and to sit down and answer his questions in this condition." He then, in order to test her emotional balance, asked her. "How often during the past month have you had intercourse with a soldier or sailor?" The staff director added, "We lost a number of nice young prospects who never came back after he interviewed them. I could just imagine what they told their parents about the purpose of the Women's Army Corps.'' 32  There also continued to be a disconcerting number of unwise acceptances, such as the woman who reported to Fort Oglethorpe and nine days later informed authorities: "I am the Duchess of Windsor.33

A company officer at Daytona Beach found that the parents of one of her recruits had removed her from an insane asylum to enlist her; when the officer called the girl and her parents to the orderly room and presented them with her discharge, the parents wept, while the girl, it was related, "leaped over and bit her mother." 34

To remedy such matters, Director Hobby urged The Surgeon General's Office to set up a specialist group to determine and publish detailed guides to the medical examinations required for women


and to their later medical care. In May, she brought the matter to the personal attention of Generals Marshall and Somervell. In return she received from both the assurance that they would "personally OK procedure and it [would] soon straighten out."

The action of these authorities was unrecorded, but The Surgeon General shortly went on record that "there are problems of health peculiar to women." He therefore yielded in the matter of specialization and, a year after the WAAC's establishment, appointed the office's first Consultant for Women's Health and Welfare-Maj. Margaret D. Craighill, formerly dean of the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Major Craighill became responsible for recommendations concerning the health of 60,000 Waacs and 30,000 nurses, and for visits to them at stations both in the United States and overseas. Director Hobby stated, "This is our first ray of hope. Now we have real co-operation from The Surgeon General. Major Craighill has been given the whole problem."  Major Craighill at once set herself to secure published standards for proper gynecological and psychiatric screening of applicants and for other medical problems.35

Moral Standards

Even more distressing was the lowering of moral standards, although the relative number of women concerned was not great. Some lowering of behavior standards was inherent in the acceptance of women of low ability or of neurotics and other unstable persons. In addition, women were now accepted whose character and past record were questionable.

Early in November 1942 the Office of the Director had pointed out to The Adjutant General the dangers of attempting to apply to women the moral standards used for men. The Director's Office protested that the check on male inductees was handled so as to admit all but vicious criminals, chronic offenders, and habitual drunkards. The Director believed higher standards necessary for a volunteer noncombat corps of women and, in all cases referred to her, refused to accept women who had been convicted of any criminal offense.36

Until January, when references and other time-consuming checks were discontinued except for doubtful cases, a woman might possibly be screened out by reports received in this way, unless she applied in a state where she had no record, but after January this safeguard was absent. Recruiters were further handicapped in smaller towns by the fact that a traveling recruiting team, spending only a day or two in the town, might unknowingly accept a presentable-looking woman whose unsavory record was known to everyone in town except the recruiters. For men, such incidents were prevented by the fact that Selective Service boards gathered case histories, but the Director of Selective Service refused to extend this work to WAAC recruits.

One WAAC officer enlisted a woman, about whom she was a little doubtful, only after the local police chief assured her that the woman had no police record. The


woman was subsequently discovered to be a well-known prostitute and drunkard with a long police record. When the police chief was asked for an explanation, he replied frankly, "Well, I thought it would get her off our hands and probably do her good too."37

To prevent such occurrences, the Director and The Adjutant General joined in a petition to General Grunert that no woman be accepted without investigation and clearance by the Provost Marshal General's local investigators. The Director stated, "In the present stage of development, with the quality of material under close [publics scrutiny, . . . this office is of the strong opinion that all recruits should be checked . . . for the next 60 days." However, the Chief of Administrative Services and the Provost Marshal General opposed the idea, since such a check was not made for men. Instead, General Grunert informed the Director that, as a concession to the publicity problem, a spot check would be made of one in every ten recruits.38

Inexpert Sales Methods

The appearance of recruiting stations and the manners of recruiters also, in the Director's opinion, frightened off some applicants. To check on this suspicion, she secured authorization for a civilian agency to make an impartial survey.39  This agency sent women employees to recruiting stations in all parts of the United States. Some sat for as much as forty minutes without attention; others were told that they were not needed and were given no informational pamphlets.40  Still others were unable to find the Army recruiting stations, which were usually in inaccessible locations, although in searching for the station one agent found a Navy station where she was most politely treated and showered with literature and enthusiastic accounts of life in the WAVES. One who did find an Army station reported, "We had to go through about 100 selectees, whistling and making friendly remarks." 41  Another gave an account of her experience as follows:

Q: As you entered the recruiting station, what was the general reaction you got?
A: Rather unfavorable, unattractively furnished, and clouded with cigar smoke. Man in uniform looking out the window.

Q: What sort of reception did this person give you?
A: Turned around, gave a brief look at me, hollered "Sergeant!," and started looking out the window again.

Q: Was the recruiter a man or a woman?
A: A man . . . I felt that he thought the campaign was of little importance. Here is a verbatim report of our conversation.

Applicant: I just want to ask some questions about the WAAC.

Sergeant: Are you over 21 and have a birth certificate some place at home?
Applicant: Yes.

Sergeant: OK. There isn't anything you could ask me that isn't in there. (Hands over a pamphlet.) Take it home and when you make up your mind, come back.42

It was the agency's verdict that any business concern selling products to women would shortly go bankrupt if it hid its shops in places where women would not or did not go, or if it employed untrained salespeople who had no knowledge of the


product or any desire to sell it. It was discovered that, as a result of these sales methods, only one out of every ten women interested enough to find their own way to a recruiting station ever filed an application.43

The Director pointed out that surroundings which were acceptable to male draftees were not always acceptable to women volunteers. For example, male inductees who must spend the night near a station were ordinarily housed in the cheapest hotel available. Some WAAC applicants reported that they had to spend the night in questionable establishments. This point was not one on which The Adjutant General cared to make a stand for identical treatment, and a directive went out:

In contracting for lodgings for WAAC applicants for enrollment, the regulation . . . which requires the lowest available rate per man per day will be interpreted to mean the lowest obtainable rate per woman per day consistent with the proper standards of cleanliness and decency and the personal safeguards to which women are entitled.44

Although WAAC officers and enlisted women had at this time been assigned to the Army Recruiting Service for several months, protests had come in from almost every service command, saying that they had little voice in the selection of applicants. Not every station was criticized in this respect; but the condition was reportedly widespread. The Second Service Command's report on this matter was the most complete. It asserted that WAAC officers had been coldly received by the recruiting stations; they received orders from enlisted men; civilian women were used to interview applicants while Waacs sat idle. Army officers determined the disposition of WAAC mail without consulting the Waacs; they determined rejections; they made requests for waivers after the Waacs had declared the applicant not qualified. The Staff Director, Second Service Command, noted: "It is felt that the special knowledge, skill, and training of WAAC officers assigned to recruiting in the Second Service Command are not being fully utilized." She recommended that their position be defined or that they be transferred from the Recruiting Service to other jobs.45

Reports from other service commands corroborated this report. In the opinion of the WAAC Staff Director, First Service Command, the difficulty was due to lack of orientation of the Army Recruiting Service in the field. "They had no idea what a WAAC Recruiter was supposed to do,'" she said. "When the first two officers arrived at a certain station, the officer in charge asked, 'Can you type?' and when they said no, he instructed them to attend night school and learn so that they could be assigned as office typists. Apparently it had never occurred to these officers that women could be expected to plan and conduct a recruiting campaign or to determine the merits of enlistees. "46  The first WAAC recruiters in the Fifth Service Command noted, "All the station commanders forced us to take in women with scores of 40; they just changed the score."47  On the other hand, some WAAC recruiters alleged that they never permitted the enrollment of unsuitable applicants, al-


though they had to defy senior officers when quotas were not met.48

Transfer of Responsibility to WAAC Headquarters

By the end of March, less than two months after the expansion program was put into effect and before the worst of the results were felt, Director Hobby became convinced that the Army Recruiting Service's methods and failure to uphold standards were wrecking the Corps' mission. At a staff meeting on 25 March she directed her Planning Service to "present factual and irrefutable evidence to higher authority that will accomplish the immediate transfer of responsibility for the WAAC Recruiting Program from the Office of The Adjutant General to Headquarters WAAC.49  On 5 April the Director submitted to General Somervell a detailed WAAC recruiting plan to raise standards and a request for control of acceptances.50

The Adjutant General countered by offering a radical concession. He stated that a separate specialist group was needed to recruit women and proposed entirely to separate the Army Recruiting Service and the WAAC Recruiting Service, having a "Service Command WAAC Recruiting Officer" directly responsible to the commanding general, and WAAC recruiters responsible only to her and with full control of the acceptance of Waacs.51  He listed what he considered the chief causes of the difficulties, as concurred in by the Director:

1. The uncertainty of the proposed legislation. [The public had apparently, until the WAC Bill received publicity, never before realized that the WAAC, unlike other women's services, had not been admitted to full military rights and benefits.]

2. The unsatisfactory setup at some of our service command headquarters and subordinate recruiting installations.

3. The disappointment and dissatisfaction of enrollees writing home and describing conditions.

4. The lack of proper outfitting at the time of enrollment.

5. Inadequate housing facilities to take care of more enrollees.

6. Lack of appreciation of the importance of the WAAC objective to the Army.

7. Competition with industry.

8. The fact that the recruiting service has been staffed largely with men who are not suited for and do not understand the psychology of recruiting women.52

To remedy these conditions, General Ulio proposed extensive reforms: better locations for recruiting stations; only Waacs allowed to process applicants; solicitation of help from women's clubs; follow-up inspection by his office. He planned to increase recruiting personnel, make a Hollywood film, conduct a Special Services campaign to change Army men's opinions, and call on all Army chaplains to assist. He proposed also to relocate some recruiting stations, increase the advertising campaign, and ask all Waacs to urge at least two friends to join.

More important, he proposed to lower the age limit to 19, lower the physical standards, and eliminate the aptitude test for high school graduates.53


General Ulio's plan was endorsed for the Chief of Administrative Services by his deputy, General Madison Pearson. General Pearson suggested that the age limit be lowered to 18, the physical standards be made less rigid, and an additional mental test or two be made available for those who failed the present one.54

The Adjutant General's proposals reached General Somervell on the same day that Director Hobby sent her request for transfer of control, 5 April 1943.55  Called upon to comment, the Director gave the opinion that further lowering of standards would be a dangerous matter. She noted that what she had proposed was a major matter of policy concerning higher standards, whereas The Adjutant General's program of administrative detail would be highly appropriate for whatever policy was adopted.56

There was no reasonable compromise between the two points of view, since British experience had already strongly indicated that a women's corps dependent upon recruiting could not contain both types of workers: if low-grade personnel constituted the majority, office workers of good character and acceptable skill would not volunteer. Only selective service for women had eventually made it possible for the British forces to obtain adequate numbers of both types of workers in the same corps. The choice posed was thus whether the WAAC should continue its original mission of supplying the Army with those skills that were scarce among men-chiefly clerical and communications-or should relinquish this to invade the fields of heavy physical labor in which women were inefficient replacements for men, requiring possibly two-for-one replacement, but in which large numbers of low-grade women could easily be recruited.

General Grunert, after a flying trip to Daytona Beach, changed his office's previous stand and supported the Director's view, stating: "Enlistment of too many low grade factory, store, and restaurant workers . . . is a problem. WAAC clerical assignments predominate and this calls for class. We had better slow down and get quality than . . . speed up for quantity.57  He therefore withdrew previous objections to better screening methods, and advocated that Provost Marshal checks be restored for all recruits.58

On the other hand, there was a considerable body of opinion within the Army Service Forces which held that the Chief of Staffs original policy should be reversed and low-grade women sought. This view was stated a little later in the summer by one of General Somervell's consultants in recommending that steps be taken to replace Director Hobby:

The techniques appropriate to the original conception of the WAAC as a small highly qualified group of women enrolled for more or less morale and propaganda purposes are completely inappropriate for a Corps of 385,000 to take over all of the dirty work in the Zone of the Interior . . . .

This means drastic revision of the present policy insisting on the high standard of intel-


ligence, dignity, and educational and social background . . . . Public Relations and Recruiting policies of WAAC Headquarters . . . place an overemphasis on high standards and dignity, which . . . are principally and directly responsible for decreasing WAAC enrollments.

The root of the whole matter is that Mrs. Hobby feels that deterioration of standards would result from any mass recruiting technique, yet, whether she admits it or not, she has to have 385,000 Waacs by 1 July 44 . . . . Consideration [should be given to the appointment of a new WAAC Director capable of mass organization . . . .59

One day after its receipt the Director's request for control of recruiting was approved. Some explanation of the decision was made in a note by the WAAC Planning Service: "We understand that the Director secured the concurrence of General Marshall to raise the enlistment requirements to insure better quality." 60  Thus, as in the crisis of the previous September when he had intervened to provide for more cautious administration, the Chief of Staffs personal decision now for a second time determined the Corps' future path and mission. For the next months the goal was to be quality, if necessary at the price of quantity-recruits with clerical, communications, and technical skills or the ability to learn them, rather than unskilled laborers.

The Adjutant General was directed to give the WAAC full co-operation and every practical assistance in its new responsibility. He shortly published a memorandum asking that all communications on recruiting be sent to the Director, and withdrew from any further part in operating details. The Chief of Administrative Services, as directed by General Somervell, notified the field of the new plan, inclosing copies of Captain Edlund's somewhat frank interoffice memorandum on the deficiencies of the Recruiting Service.

This rendered Captain Edlund persona non grata with so many Army recruiters that within a few months he was replaced by a WAAC officer. At the moment he continued as Chief, Recruiting Section, and guided the campaign which was to follow.61

The Restoration of Standards

Director Hobby's first act upon taking control of recruiting was, on 7 April, to restore the enrollment standards. A minimum of two years in high school and a score of 60 on the aptitude test were now required. While high, these standards were still below those of the WAVES, which required high school graduation. At once the number of recruits fell from 11,464 in March to 6,472 in April, and in May, when the new standards were in force all month, to only 4,064. In June the requirements were raised again, to a score of 70 plus two years of high school, or 80 without high school; in this month only 3,304 recruits were enlisted. By July classification officers at headquarters and training centers were able to report that "problems in making assignments have disappeared due to the present higher enrollment requirements." Records from Fort Des Moines showed that the number of recruits in Grades IV and V fell at once from 40 percent in April to 12 percent in July and 6 percent in October. In November 1943,


after the WAAC was placed in the Army and The Adjutant General resumed operation, the figure jumped from 6 percent to 20 percent, which was to remain its average for the rest of the WAC's existence. The number of women with less than high school education fell from 36 percent in April to 20 percent in July.62

The expansion program had not so much collapsed as never begun. Numbers obtained monthly were now approximately the same as before the campaign began. The influx of the unqualified had lasted only a brief two months and had been checked before it lowered the Corps' average standards too far, but it was clear that the expansion program could not continue unless a real recruiting campaign could be devised that would increase numbers without lowering standards.63

The Advertising Contract

General Ulio was also overruled in the matter of the advertising contract, for which he favored the current contractor, N. W. Ayer & Son. This agency had adopted the campaign slogan, "Release A Man For Combat," and had given it wide publicity. The slogan had proved unfortunate in several ways. In view of the prevalence of punsters in the population, it was discovered that it would be wiser to use the expression "Replace A Man" instead of "Release" or "Relieve." Worse, as the "phony war" vanished and combat became more real to the American public, the slogan appealed to no one: Army men in clerical jobs did not particularly appreciate being replaced-for combat; mothers did not wish a daughter to enlist if this would send a son to his death; and a woman whose husband or sweetheart was killed overseas did not like to think that but for her or some other woman he would have been safe in a desk job.

Also, the advertising agency, in handling the WAAC account as part of the Army account, had not given particular consideration to women's psychology in the matter of advertising appeal, location of recruiting stations, training of recruiters, or other matters.

General Somervell's Control Division, after investigation, therefore recommended that the account be canceled because of a decision to revise the entire campaign and not for any particular fault. Accordingly, eleven of the nation's leading advertising agencies were invited to a meeting and asked to suggest campaign plans. On the basis of results, Control Division, ASF, and Control Division, Adjutant General's Office, awarded the contract to Young & Rubicam, called "the largest advertising agency in the country," and one which handled campaigns for many women's products and also had an unusually large number of women writers on its staff.64  Young & Rubicam immediately began to make surveys, for which they employed Dr. George Gallup and a staff of female investigators, to determine the correct psychological approach. Every effort was made to suppress the theme of "Release A Man For Combat," but it was found that the slogan had sunk deep into the public mind and was by this time so widespread that for months every new re-


RECRUITING POSTER used to induce women to enroll in the Corps. This recruiting theme was later discarded.

RECRUITING POSTER used to induce women to enroll in the Corps. This recruiting theme was later discarded.


cruiter, unless forewarned, enthusiastically launched forth with it.65

The Revised Campaign

Under the leadership of Maj. Harold A. Edlund, WAAC Headquarters with the assistance of Young & Rubicam at once launched a recruiting campaign which for desperate thoroughness had not been surpassed in Army history. The success of the expansion plan and the Corps' whole future hung upon the question of whether well-qualified American women could be induced to volunteer in the numbers scheduled.

Major Edlund, in civilian life a sales expert, believed that they could, but he did not underestimate the problem, which, he said, was believed by sales experts to be "one of the toughest selling jobs in the country today." He stated that recruiters who approached the problem casually had no idea of "the difficulties of persuading women of the sort we need in the WAAC to give up their homes and security and to voluntarily take on a way of life completely foreign to them." The WAAC recruiters, he said; were intuitively aware of the factors involved, but lacked sales training and the necessary authority. Nevertheless, Major Edlund's confidence in the infallibility of scientific sales technique was such that he predicted that 100,000 women could be recruited in the three months remaining before 1 July 1943, to bring the Corps' strength to the required 150,000 by that date.66

The first step of the giant campaign was the collection of accurate data, and a quick Gallup poll was made of a scientifically selected nationwide cross section of eligibles and the parents of eligibles. The results were admittedly shocking even to those closest to the WAAC program. Until this time it had been believed that if the women of the nation knew the Army's need for their services they would respond at once. Publicity had therefore been centered around statements by President Roosevelt, General Marshall, and others of the nation's leaders, pointing out the Army's need for personnel. Now it was discovered that the public was perfectly well aware of the Army's need; an overwhelming majority (86 percent) replied "Yes, we know the need; we know the Army is calling for more." But women did not respond, according to the Gallup survey, for five reasons:

1. Apathy: "Sure, it's important, but let someone else do it."

2. Fear of Army life: Many women feared they would not be equal to the reputed rigors of training and regimentation.

3. Misunderstanding as to the jobs Waacs did. The majority were most familiar with the least attractive types of work-cooking, laundry, scrubbing. Thirty-one percent said the Waacs' main job was kitchen police.

4. Attitude of relatives and friends: Those considering joining were almost unanimously discouraged by parents and male advisers.

5. Army attitude: Almost all eligible women had heard, or had been told by soldier friends, that the Army was opposed to the WAAC.67

Other interesting facts were uncovered. It was found that more eligibles feared overseas service than desired it. Some would join only if they could be near home; others, only if they could travel.


Half the women believed that a Waac could not marry an Army man; many others believed that a Waac was not allowed to marry at all, or to have dates, or to use cosmetics.

The new campaign was shaped by these discoveries. If apathy was the trouble, the war must be made real to women. If women feared a strange new life, every detail of the life must be publicized so that it was familiar and not frightening. If they had mistaken ideas about the Corps, these must be corrected: they must be told that Waacs did interesting work as well as menial, that Waacs dated, married, and used cosmetics. If families and Army men disapproved, some approach must be found to change their attitude. The keynote of the campaign, in short, would be to make familiar to everyone the life and work of a Waac, and especially the good side of that life.

Accordingly, Young & Rubicam hastily prepared advertisements that pictured the interesting jobs Waacs did; they devised quizzes with many small pictures and questions; and, believing that women were inveterate coupon clippers, they inserted small coupons that could be mailed to recruiting stations for free literature. At the same time there was assembled an array of supporting talent that dwarfed previous efforts. Among others, the Writers' War Board pledged co-operation -Rex Stout, Clifton Fadiman, Paul Gallico, Margaret Lee Runbeck. Sarah Elizabeth Rodgers, Katherine Brush, Laura T. Hobsoncach to write articles to reach a different type of national magazine and audience. ten writers of this board were flown to Fort Oglethorpe and other stations to gather material.

Famous photographers were asked to take pictures for picture magazines. In addition to stories, many magazines agreed to use a WAAC cover girl-the July American, the August Cosmopolitan and others. The May Reader's Digest had a story; Life used pictures sent from North Africa; the August Harper's Bazaar showed WAAC physical training in its least terrifying aspects; a June Saturday Evening Post began a five-part serial. Through the co-operation of the Office of War Information, radio time was obtained, including plugs on shows by Bob Hope, Kate Smith, and others. Daily papers got news stories and pictures, and Sunday papers carried paid advertisements. Motion pictures also were contributed, by both Hollywood and the Signal Corps. All of these various media were co-ordinated through WAAC Headquarters in order to maintain the same theme throughout.68

To co-ordinate recruiters' efforts with the advertising campaign, there set out from Washington a flying task force which, traveling by plane, train, and subway, achieved the apparently impossible feat of a two-day conference with each of the nine Service Commands in sixteen days.69 These included representatives of Young & Rubicam to describe the campaign, of General Motors to initiate expert sales training methods, and of The Adjutant General's Recruiting Publicity Bureau to display their newest wares of posters and booklets.

The conferences were generally well received, although, said Major Edlund, "The Army Personnel connected with recruiting didn't quite understand what this was all about and perhaps resented it a little


bit. We had to make sure that they realized we were perfectly friendly and honest about the whole thing and that the main purpose was to help them do the job they had been asked to do with insufficient help." 70  Instead of scolding about unfilled quotas, Edlund congratulated them on the 60,000 women already recruited. "In Canada they have been going much longer and have less. In England they had to come to conscription." Even the Waves, he said, were having difficulty in getting the relatively small number they were then aiming for.

Major Edlund had made the decision not to separate the Army Recruiting Service and the WAAC Recruiting Section, although events were to prove that it would have been wiser to adopt at once General Ulio's plan of removing all authority from the regular Recruiting Service; since such action eventually proved necessary.

Major Edlund's keynote, later deplored by veteran WAC recruiters, was, "Lets turn the bright side of the apple toward the general public." He proposed that pictures and releases all feature the most interesting jobs and the best-looking Waacs, and that Waacs not be pictured driving heavy vehicles, or in fatigue uniforms, or doing strenuous calisthenics, or even marching, since this frightened away many desirable prospects. This approach was supplemented by Young & Rubicam's advertisements with captions such as,

"We're the luckiest girls in the world and we know it."

"I joined to serve my country and am having the time of my life."

"I felt pretty important when that tailor fitted that swank new uniform to me."

Such advertisements, while calculated to counteract previous misunderstandings, were also sufficient to bring on howls of derision from veteran Waacs, and to call forth complaints from later recruits who enlisted while under their spell.

The Cleveland Plan

Time was now working against the salesmen. The various surveys, the preparation of advertisements, and the flying tour had been accomplished in the unprecedented space of little over a month. Nevertheless, only six weeks remained to get the scheduled 100,000 women by 1 July. Major Edlund therefore determined upon a saturation technique of salesmanship that would literally hunt out and carry off potential recruits in a house-by-house canvass in major cities. He immediately began a demonstration campaign in a typical city. Cleveland, Ohio, was selected for the trial, and WAAC recruiters from every service command gathered to assist and observe.71  The basic idea was that WAAC salts could be achieved only by personal interview, and not by rallies, bonfires, and previous tactics; of which Edlund said, "Everything that we could see being done [before] was a big rally or parade-a lot of talk mostly along patriotic lines and 80 percent of the people listening were not eligible to join." 72

The Fifth Service Command ran the Cleveland Campaign, although Major Edlund had desired to do it. Theoretically such a campaign should have been preceded by a softening-up barrage of newspaper and radio publicity, but Cleveland's


publicity media were busy "trying to buy a ship or something;" and WAAC recruiters were obliged to land without protection. Since there were not enough WAAC recruiters in the nation to conduct a door-to-door survey in a city of this sue, the Cleveland Plan called for the use of any civilian agency that had many women members in a city-wide organization. The American Red Cross was deemed the oldest and best organized, but when asked to assist, its officials replied that the Red Cross was "interested only in essential war work"; later they added that their charter did not permit help. The Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) therefore volunteered to assist, although its Block Plan was newly organized and its leaders inexperienced.73

The WAAC recruiters held meetings with the OCD sector leaders and supplied them with literature and questionnaires, which were passed on to block leaders. These leaders were not to attempt to enroll women, but only to locate eligibles. The final report stated that "block workers were most co-operative:. Reports were that many women at home seemed to be waiting for someone to ask them to do something in the war effort . . . . The majority attitude represented complacency." These block leaders were soon able to furnish recruiters with the name and location of each eligible woman in the district.

WAAC enlisted women next went to work at a battery of telephones, trying to persuade each eligible to grant an interview to recruiting officers. These Waacs were especially trained by the Ohio Bell Telephone Company. They were instructed not to try to recruit, but merely to get an interview; when and if an interview was obtained, WAAC recruiters called on the prospect. The Realsilk Hosiery Company donated expert training in the technique of polite interviewing. All who still appeared eligible were urged to enlist, and those who seemed undecided were placed on a follow-up list.

The Cleveland Plan, supported by the nationwide publicity campaign, seemed the most intensive recruiting effort that it was possible for any organization to make. When the drive was finished and the score counted, it stood revealed as a miserable almost an incredible-failure. The score was: 74

Families contacted    73,589
Questionnaires completed    36,151
Considered eligible from questionnaire    12,886
round eligible on contact    8,253
Signed applications    427
Enrolled    168

To achieve even the mere 100,000 female recruits that the: Army receded immediately, recruiters would, if this rats: held true, have to contact 43,800,000 families, although the nation was estimated to have only about 37.000.000 families. Interviews and sales talks would have to be held with almost 8;000,000 eligibles before 100,000 could be recruited. There were probably not that many qualified women in the United States.75

The Cleveland method, refined and improved by experience, was caught up and used all over the nation. Improvement in recruiting machinery continued. All summer the great radio and press campaign played upon the public. More and better-trained recruiters were thrown into


the battle. And still, amazingly, the number of qualified applicants fell. Finally, in August, the exhausted recruiters suspended their efforts to await completion of the conversion to Army status-the final hope. In this month only 839 recruits were enrolled-not enough to make up for normal attrition.

At last the full extent of public opposition stood revealed to the WAAC recruiters-an impenetrable wall against which the methods of super salesmanship and expert recruiting techniques broke and fell ineffectually. It was not as yet fully understood why this wall had sprung up and solidified after the initial favorable public reaction, but it was all too clear that it had now done so.


Page Created August 23 2002


Previous Chapter        Next Chapter

Return to the Table of Contents