The Leadership of Women
If the development of leaders among men was one of the Army's major problems, the development of women leaders was equally urgent for the Women's Army Corps, and even more difficult, since the Corps began its career without a nucleus of experienced personnel. Soon after the conversion to Army status, field commands noted that one of the Corps' most pressing needs was for good WAC detachment commanders; those sent out were frequently found to be deficient in the training, the experience, and the temperament for leadership.1
There were those who held that the task was impossible, in that the terms female and leader were self-contradictory. This prevalent view was set forth, soon after the move of the Director's Office to G-1 Division, in a nationally syndicated newspaper column, which alleged:
The War Department has received thousands of letters from Wacs suggesting that officer personnel in their outfits consist of men instead of women. The revolt is so bitter and widespread that the recommendation may be accepted .... The gist of the general complaint seems to be that the gals would have more respect for a male boss than for a female commander .... Most of the communications charge that women are too '`petty'" to handle large groups of the same sex.2
This statement was, fortunately for the WAC, entirely inaccurate. No such avalanche of letters was received by the War Department; there was no hint of any such "revolt"; no recommendation that WAC commanders be replaced was ever received from any major commander.3 There was much question of the way in which to discover the best female commanders and remove unsuitable ones, but there was never, after the first officer candidate classes, any question of the necessity for unit commanders of the same sex as the troops. Only the first seven WAAC training classes had male officers, who were replaced by female officers as rapidly as possible.
The question of "leadership" as here raised was distinct from the administrative and disciplinary aspects of command. In mere administration, women officers for female troops had a natural advantage: the WAC company routine of inspection, sick call, monthly physical examination and similar matters was, if not impossible, at least embarrassing for the male commander, and in all private interviews he was forced to remain constantly aware of possible charges that might be brought against him unless witnesses were present at all times. In disciplinary matters, reports on file from field commanders also attested that the average male officer was more
hampered by "misplaced chivalry" than a female officer, when required to adjudge disciplinary penalties against women.4
However, the real question concerned the more positive aspects of leadership-whether women officers were "too petty" to handle large groups of women, or were unable to inspire troop loyalty, devotion, high morale, and good conduct. This was the view commonly supported by popular surveys concerning women supervisors in business offices and by public opinion in general. If this was true, and if women would not follow the leadership of a woman, it would be necessary to train male leaders for women's units in spite of their natural handicaps along administrative and disciplinary lines.
The Army found no basis for any such belief. Women leaders were found to exist, both those with natural ability and those capable of being trained, and the conditions and qualities of female leadership seemed reasonably in accord with those already understood for men.5 There was no reliable basis for estimating the relative numbers of leaders among women, although it appeared probable that they were scarcer than among men for lack of previous opportunities to develop. Nevertheless, leadership ability appeared to be latent in a number of women, and the woman leader, once found, was able to draw from her female troops a devotion, respect, loyalty, obedience, and self-sacrifice which resembled in every way that obtained from men by the best male commanders.6
In the opinion of Army psychologists, a woman was, on the company level, the only natural and possible leader of women in the truest sense of the word, since real leadership involved psychological processes of identification and mimesis which for women properly required a superior woman as the object. Some of the undesirable mannishness of early projects of WAAC training centers appeared due to the fact that the first women trainees had imitated their male commanders in the matter of voice, dress, walk, manners, and other standards. Psychologists told the WAC officer:
The strongest and most direct motivation is identification with yourself . . . . People gain emotional security by modeling themselves on a leader in whom they have confidence . . . attitudes, mannerisms, gestures, even voice tones, are contagious.7
Capabilities of the Woman Leader
Testimony as to the existence of the successful woman leader was offered by every command. The Army Air Forces reported:
The WAC squadron commanders have been extremely important factors in the (WAC) program .... Women lean on their company commander for advice and guidance considerably more, evidently, than do men . . . . A good WAC Commander could and often did increase the actual job efficiency of an entire WAC unit.8
WAC training centers reported the same phenomenon:
The strength and ability of the commanding officer of a training unit has probably influenced the training result of a unit more
than any other single factor. In many instances a superior commanding officer' has been able to attain a good training result even where handicapped by inadequate junior officers or cadre, inadequate housing, and an inadequate flow of supplies. Her importance in the training picture cannot be overemphasized.9
In the field, a survey of several detachments brought forth the same comment:
The enlisted women attribute everything that happens to the company commander. The policies were made by the post I but] as far as the women are concerned, the company commander could change them if she would do so .... Her attitude and her moral tone set the tone for the entire company. If you study the attitude of the days or weeks when she is feeling low, the company follows the same trend.10
Various other surveys repeatedly confirmed not only the existence of the woman leader, but also her surprising ability to dominate all other factors in her unit's surroundings. The Transportation Corps studied two WAC companies stationed near the same port: the first company had a superior location, was more warmly received by its employers, had more convenient transportation and better recreation facilities, more passes, more promotions; nevertheless, the members of the second company were found to be happier, to like the food better, to be better pleased with recreation facilities, to consider themselves in better health. Investigators were unable to find any cause except the superior leadership ability of the commander of the second detachment.11
In another survey of forty-four WAC detachments, investigators found that no environmental factor had serious effect upon company morale in companies with good leadership. In such companies women took, more pride in their unit, believed themselves better adjusted to the Army, liked their jobs better, thought that there were fewer discomforts in Army life, that their housing and sanitary facilities were superior, post recreational opportunities better, and medical attention more satisfactory. In an especially striking case, two WAC companies on the same post used the same medical facilities, yet women in one company thought they were getting better medical care than the other did, the only real difference being in the leadership ability of their WAC commander.12
This control that the WAC company commander exercised over apparently unrelated matters never ceased to astonish investigators. Concerning the cause of widely different unmarried pregnancy rates at five stations in the same area, inspectors reported, "In those detachments where there has been continuous good leadership, the pregnancy rate has been low." 13 At other stations, statistical studies showed that the number of entries in the sick book increased when the company commander was changed: when the company commander got married, the number of disciplinary offenses increased; when the officers went on leave, both offenses and sickness increased.14
The existence of the female leader, and
the tremendous power that she was capable of wielding, were therefore undeniable; it was also undeniable that not every woman officer was so qualified.
Efforts To Determine Qualities of Leadership
After two years of experiment it was clear that the successful leader could not be determined entirely by age, or previous occupation, or education or the lack of it, or intelligence, or any other circumstance. This was in accord with Army experience with men.15 Later statistics revealed that some successful women leaders were married, some unmarried; many were college graduates; a few never went to high school; their ages ranged from 21 to 50. Many former teachers did well, but were almost equaled in number by former clerks and secretaries. Some former office managers succeeded, but so did former bookkeepers. Librarians were leaders as often as reporters, housewives as often as buyers, beauticians as often as lawyers.16
Neither did the ability to lead women automatically follow from instruction in voice and command, military manners, or Army Regulations. In fact, the only reliable method of discovery in the Corps' first years was that of trial and error, of sending commanders out with companies and advising Army stations to replace those who proved unsuccessful. This was costly, and involved the loss of real or potential leaders and damage to units.
The task of collecting and verifying available evidence on the nature of leadership was delegated to Dr. Hildegarde Durfee, a psychologist employed as civilian consultant by the Office of the Director and, after the conversion, by the Army Service Forces. It was Dr. Durfee's opinion that the general principles of leadership for men would apply equally to women, but that women would have certain special and additional problems. She added:
They are newcomers in a male setting; hence tend to feel on trial and under special pressure to make good . . . . They have volunteered their services, are apt to be more eager and more individualistic . . . . Their problem is not the overcoming of fear in combat, but more often the endurance of routine and monotony . . . . Women as a whole have had less experience in group discipline and leadership. Their has been at once an over privileged and an under privileged status in our society. They have been given more attention and consideration, but the price of this has been less opportunity and recognition.17
It was therefore anticipated; and later proved true, that certain established leadership principles would receive peculiar emphasis for women, and that new principles might emerge.
Sensitivity to Discipline
The first and most obvious difference to confront researchers was one of degree rather than intrinsic quality: that of responsiveness to leadership. All observers agreed that women were more dependent upon their company commander than were most men. A poor commander had
an exaggerated effect upon women, who were unable to take her shortcomings lightly and were completely demoralized; while a capable commander found them unprecedentedly malleable, and was able to build an unusually high company discipline and spirit. Army men commented that women seemed noticeably more sensitive to discipline than were the average male troops whom they had commanded. "Women don't require the needling that men do," said Colonel McCoskrie of Fort Des Moines.
Women hate to fail. Words of encouragement go further with them than blame. It is fatal to assume the same attitude one would with men-you just scare them and then get nothing further from them. 18
This difference appeared partly due to women's social training, which, according to Dr. Durfee, "makes them tend to want to please and not offend,"' and partly due to the fact that they were volunteers, above average in aptitude, and eager to demonstrate the abilities of their sex.
Because of this trait, the successful WAC commander was always obliged to
have positive qualities of leadership instead of merely negative ones of
authority. "You don't command women-you lead them," Colonel McCoskrie reported.
Dr. Durfee noted that "there is a great difference between ordering your women
around because you are their commanding officer and winning their cooperation
because you are their leader.19 Colonel Hobby urged
selection boards to consider this factor, saying:
In the beginning we put too much stress on this business of command anyway. We never want to make the mistake of substituting force for real leadership. My experience is that leadership is mostly by example.20
The Maternalistic Commander
Women leaders, apparently more than men, also needed to guard against an overprotective attitude toward their companies. In spite of the Wacs' dependency upon their commander, they seldom enjoyed being the recipients of applied child psychology, in which too many WAC officers appeared to be experts. The leadership situation was definitely not that of parent and child, nor even that of teacher and child. Dr. Durfee noted:
The criticism most often heard of WAC officers is that they treat their troops too much like children and talk down to them too much. This tendency to fall into a housemother role is understandable, and is probably due, in part, to the natural maternalism of women, in part to the dependence of troops on their company commanders. It is well for WAC officers to remember that they are dealing with grown women, many of whom have managed their own affairs for years.
Of officers who failed on this score, enlisted women commented:
"'She treated her command as she probably did her 4B grade class."
"She never seemed to realize we might be intelligent too."
"She regarded us as so many figures to be pushed around on a checkerboard."
Of those whom they considered real leaders, enlisted women said:
"She acted as though she thought highly of everyone of us and gave us fair
"She treated us with respect and automatically received in kind."
"She not only demanded respect, she gave it."
"She always expected the best of people and got it. 21
Over-maternalistic officers, in addition to irritating their women, were usually failures at developing leadership in subordinates. Case histories revealed that some officers could not qualify as leaders because, although intelligent, conscientious, and hard-working, they did not only their own job but that of the rest of the cadre, making all the decisions, and failing to give the proper training to junior officers. It was significant that failure of this type caused the first recorded removal of a woman commander in a WAAC training center, in which testimony stated:
The morale of this Battalion is at a low state. The basic difficulty is that Lt. ---has tried to treat adult, intelligent women as high school freshmen, and it won't work. Lt. ---uses her staff practically entirely as a source of information; in most cases she neither asks nor accepts the advice of members of her staff... On numerous occasions I have heard Lt. ---reprimand officers in the presence of other officers. Officers and auxiliaries are motivated by fear accompanied by a lack of respect . . . . Lt. - has completely stifled the initiative of members of her staff.
To this the commandant added:
I am of the opinion that . . in her every act, Lt. ---has honestly believed that she was carrying out instructions . . . that the present difficulty has arisen through her zeal, her lack of understanding of human nature, and her arbitrary manner.22
Leadership courses for men likewise emphasized the delegation of authority; for female leaders, its observance appeared especially important.
Even excellent leaders with no tendencies toward maternalism had to guard against the zealousness for work that had been previously remarked as a characteristic of most volunteers, and that in a company commander could easily result in nervous and physical exhaustion and loss of perspective. Colonel Hobby wrote, "It is absolutely necessary for a good leader to have a life of her own with interests other than the WAC in it."23 Published leadership studies added:
The officer who thinks-talks-breathes of WAC affairs, out of a natural but mistaken enthusiasm and conscientiousness, narrows her mental and emotional horizon to the detriment of her own enrichment of living and her effectiveness as a leader . . . . Maintain your individuality so far as possible within the Army framework. Strive to keep up your interests in the outer world; read, play, cultivate social contacts.24
Psychological tests also indicated that the WAC leader should be a woman of energy and quick action rather than of abstract ideas; the responses of successful leaders to word associations suggested that "the leader is the doer, the one whose primary associations are with actions and not merely with activity in the abstract." 25
Other Leadership Problems
Many other traits required of their leader by enlisted women seemed to differ from those of male leaders in degree of intensity if not in kind. It appeared that women's curiosity could scarely have been
exceeded, and leadership studies cautioned women officers: "Wherever possible, explain the reason for orders and regulations, especially disagreeable ones." Numerous cases came to light in which disappointment, resentment, and low morale followed a commander's repeated failure to give simple explanations-which would in no way have compromised security-in such matters as the cancellation of passes, the extra policing of grounds, or a delay in orders.
Colonel Hobby also noted a tendency for women, more than men, to value their individuality, possibly because of their lesser regimentation in civilian life in dress, schools, clubs, and employment. The Director urged training authorities to point out to WAC leaders that
. . . one of the main distinctions between successful leadership of women and similar leadership of men is that women need to remain individuals to such an extent that group activity, outside of office hours, can very easily be overdone with them.26
Because of this natural individuality, prospective WAC leaders were cautioned to emphasize group loyalty. Dr. Durfee stated:
Women have not, as a rule, had much organizational experience in civilian life, and sometimes lack a concept of what loyalty to organization means. They tend to be personal and subjective in their attitudes, to feel free to criticize each other as if they were merely separate individuals. This attitude may lead to jealousy and backbiting which can disturb the unity of command and seriously affect the morale of troops.
The successful WAC leader therefore was obliged to set a perfect example of loyalty to the Army, to the station-and its policies, to fellow officers, and to the members of her company. When inspired by such an example, the women's natural idealism was apt to produce group loyalty and esprit of an unexcelled intensity. `'When not so inspired, a WAC unit seemed particularly liable to degenerate into feuding cliques and factions. Wac leaders were warned to avoid building "a selfish personal following," but instead to promote loyalty to the Army.
A forceful example of the dangers of personal followings was given early in WAAC history, when the commandant of one training center secured to himself the loyalty of one segment of the WAAC staff to such an extent that, upon his removal, these officers telegraphed hundreds of personal protests to the War Department. Colonel Hobby in return severely reprimanded these women for unmilitary conduct and misplacement of their loyalties. No commander of women was ever to be counted successful who permitted any such cleavage within his command.27
The prospective WAC leader was told:
If once the impression is created that she plays favorites, is inconsistent in her discipline, or that her word is not to be trusted, she might as well walk East until her hat floats.
Enlisted women serving under poor leaders said:
"You can't beat the clique in this detachment. There's no team spirit since the new CO came. It's split the company right in
"Our CO caters to a little group of apple polishers . . It makes us sick to see how hard she falls for their line."
"If you don't stand in with the first sergeant, you're out of luck."
"There's no use trying . . . what few grades there are ail go to the CO's pets.28
In exact proportion as women appeared to be more sensitive than men to the approval of their leader, it became more essential that there be no clique, group, or individual to which that approval appeared to be especially given.
Problems Peculiar to WAC Leaders
In a few respects women leaders faced especial problems with little Army parallel. One of these concerned the feminine interpretation of the Army leader's responsibility "to teach and encourage high moral standards in troops." Since military regulations had been modeled on men's moral standards, but not on women's, leaders were cautioned:
Although some [women] may feel that they should be able to exercise a man's freedom in their conduct, they must bear in mind that they are in the Army to do a job, and not to settle an old social problem.29
To maintain the women's reputation and their social adjustment, the WAC leader was required far to exceed the male commander in the moral standards that she instilled and maintained. Release of personal tensions by means of alcohol, sex, or disturbing the peace ordinarily had far more serious social consequences for women than for men. Many women had been previously more sheltered than men, and were now given more unaccustomed freedom, which presented a situation more difficult for the commander to manage. In the leader's own life, whatever her previous habits or beliefs, she was also obliged to exemplify the strictest of feminine codes; nothing less was found to hold the respect of the average WAC company.
In many cases a female leader also needed leadership qualities in even greater degree than the average male leader, in order to hold her position without the combat incentive. Army manuals stated, "The necessity for discipline is never fully comprehended by the soldier until he has undergone the experience of battle,"30 and this no WAC unit would ever know. To overcome the meaninglessness of noncombat routine, WAC commanders were urged to
. . . bring the realities of the war home to your women in every possible way . . . . Try to make each woman realize what it would mean to her, as a woman, to live in a Nazi controlled world; what it would mean in the education of her children; what the Nazi state could and would do with her menfolk; what restrictions would be placed on her opportunities as a woman.31
This remote stimulus was the WAC leader's only substitute for combat discipline.
A WAC company commander was at times under an additional strain in introducing female troops into a location in which they had not previously served. While the needs of male troops on the average station were well documented and remedies prescribed, the WAC commander was sometimes obliged to meet peculiar and unforeseen needs, and to advise the station commander in a way not commonly expected of the average male captain or lieutenant. There was also at times a problem of public relations and of community and post acceptance, in which the WAC commander had to lead the way for the women, as well as minimizing any initial friction. Failure in this respect was not uncommon. One staff visitor noted:
At one extreme is the C.O. who tries to run her detachment as an autonomous outfit; at the other, an officer who is merely a funnel through which post rules are transmitted. The former has not learned how to mesh gears with the command for the most effective development of its mission: the latter fails to realize that if she does not function in an advisory capacity, she is useless to the Army and the WAC.32
The One Essential Quality
Toward the end of the war, a survey was made by the ASF's Information and Education Division of the attitudes of more than 6,000 women in all types of units. As a telling commentary on the popular belief that women could never like a woman supervisor, it was found that as many as 90 percent of the women in some companies had only favorable attitudes toward their WAC commanders.33
The ASF study, as well as that by Dr. Durfee, came independently to the same surprising conclusion: the real qualities that made a woman a leader of women had little to do with those that had often been attributed to a female leader in civilian life, or with the concept of "command" and efficiency so laboriously inculcated at officer training schools. Both studies made it clear that the human values, and these values only, constituted the ability to lead women. Dropped to the lowest place in the scale were many commonly praised factors of efficient paper work, knowledge of regulations, supervisory thoroughness, commanding voice and appearance, and military bearing. Leading the list were personal and individual matters-fairness, friendliness, unselfishness, sincerity, courage, and a genuine concern for the women. If a woman possessed these traits, the women would follow her, but, the ASF surveyors noted, "If a C.O. is deficient in these traits, it is likely that no amount of efficiency or administrative skill will win, for her the enthusiastic support of her enlisted women."
Of their successful leaders, women said:
"She is fair and square with everyone and shows no partiality."
"She obeys the rules she makes for us."
"She is fair to Waacs, enlisted men, and civilians."
"Doesn't punish all for the misdeeds of a few."
Typical adjectives were just, dependable, objective, impartial, unselfish, and honest. Of the poor leader, women said:
"Very unfair to the majority. Makes too many exceptions for those she likes."
"She bucks dirty jobs to those under her but breaks any good news to us herself."
"She will say yes when no is the right answer, if it is unpleasant to say No."
"Some get punishment for infringement of rules, some don't."'
The quality of friendliness ranked high:
"She is a regular. I can talk to her better than anyone I know.''
"Her ability to be one of us and yet hold the complete respect of all of us."
"She is cheerful and interested in individuals."
"She is available and willing to listen to our troubles."
"'She is a good sport and really sympathetic."
"She has a ready smile."
Of unfriendly commanders, it was said:
"C.O. is too impersonal. Doesn't try to get acquainted with her company
except in that 'holier than thou' attitude."
"She means well, but lacks the democratic way of making me feel at ease in her presence."
"Much too G.I. She outshines the meanest male officer."
"Her manner is unfriendly, almost discourteous."
"She is too G.I. and rank conscious."
"She is not interested in individuals."
"She's as cold as a fish and gives the impression she's god and almighty and we're nothing."
The women were quite well aware that their correct assignment and general welfare often depended upon their commanding officer's willingness to "go to bat'' for them, even when this might cost her own promotion, advancement, or popularity with higher authorities. Of real leaders, women said:
"She cares about the enlisted women really
"She is loyal to the company."
"She thinks and acts for the welfare of all the girls."
"She has improved our mail system . . . our medical treatment . . . housing conditions . . . recreational facilities . . . company policies, and morale."
Typical unfavorable comments were:
"She looks out for her own skin first, then will do something for us if it
may help her."
"She is partial to anyone who can further her personal interests."
"She is more concerned with personal affairs than with the welfare of the women."
"She is indifferent to the welfare of the WAC."
"She'll never do anything for you-never pursue your problem."
"She shows a complete lack of interest towards our job."
"If she would be more interested in you and your job instead of the way you wear your hair, the Wacs would be more interested in being Wacs."
The factor of appearance-so much stressed in officer candidate school-did not impress the Wacs in proportion to the other qualities, and their views were sometimes unorthodox. Their approved leaders were described as "ladylike . . . lovely looking . . . dignified, courteous, poised . . . neat, clean." They disapproved of an oversevere or overglamorous appearance as much as they did a careless one, and said, "She is too hard and mannish . . . ," "I don't like her G.I. haircut " "She wears her skirts too short."
. .The quality of technical competence, so thoroughly stressed in schools, was likewise of secondary importance to the enlisted women. Surveyors reported that, while administrative ability might be more important to the general success of an officer than the women realized, it was not leadership: "It lacks the `personal relationship' aspect which appears to be highly important." Since the women's lives did not depend, as did those of combat soldiers, upon an officer's technical competence, they were apt to lay less stress upon ability to memorize regulations and correct procedures. While even the best female leader obviously profited by knowledge of technical details, no amount of study of Army Regulations appeared sufficient to make a leader of a woman lacking in personal qualities.
Absolutely disqualifying to leadership was one trait seldom mentioned in officer candidate selection or training instruc-
tions: selfish ambition, or rank-consciousness. All evidence indicated that, quite simply, the WAC leader was a person whose primary and genuine concern was for her troops and not for herself. In the makeup of her character, there must be no primary interest or motivation which concerned the importance of her own rank, authority, promotion, or economic advancement, for if so, the women would inevitably discover it and would not respect her, whatever her other abilities.
Enlisted women gave no respect to any woman who was a bully, rank-conscious, or an "apple-polisher." Comments on this type included: "Gold bar crazy," "The Great I-Am," "Power hungry," ``Grandstand Officer," "Her bars weigh heavy," "Her bars go to her head instead of her heart," "Uninterested in her job because there's no promotion in it." Even though an officer refrained from the more obvious tyrannical tactics or "throwing her rank around," enlisted women seemed to know her inner motivation. Trouble shooters sent out to inspect ailing companies reported "the lowest morale where company commanders are too interested in their social life or their personal advancement." 34
Objective psychological tests confirmed their surmise; the typical WAC officer ``profile" showed "a far higher social motivation and lower economic motivation than the population in general." The higher the rank of the officer tested, the greater was her emphasis on human values.35
Unfortunately, the selfish officer was difficult for superiors to detect, since she often presented a most attractive and capable appearance. Colonel Hobby admitted later:
I was often misled; for example, when I first met Captain S. at Des Moines, she talked of nothing but her enlisted women's welfare, until I was much impressed with her devotion; only after she had been given a better job and promoted did I discover that her only devotion was to herself.36
Director Hobby in her speeches and Dr. Durfee in her published studies constantly exposed the pretensions of the rank-conscious or selfishly ambitious individual, in the hope that the developing leader would not be misled. Director Hobby said:
I should consider it very unfortunate if any of us should ever forget that the only reason for our existence as officers is the Women's Army Corps-and that the Women's Army Corps is its enlisted personnel. 37
One published study added:
Your rank gives you many privileges . . . . These are not just tributes to your natural superiority, nor do they in themselves make you superior. . . Many an enlisted woman has as good educational background and civilian experience as her officers . . . . You are not their master but their servant. Your only reason for being, in fact, is the enlisted women of the Corps.
The discovery of this basic requirement for the leadership of women appeared to offer a key to the myth that women leaders did not exist, and to the fact that many women bosses and supervisors were heartily disliked in civilian life. The career woman, who by hard fighting rose to the top of a profession in a man's world, had sometimes, by the very intensity of the struggle, lost the concern for others that was essential to the leadership of women. Such civilian "leaders" often failed in the WAC as completely as did some women
unaccustomed to authority. In civilian life a compulsive drive for self-advancement had propelled them to professional or business success, but it had simultaneously denied them the respect of their women subordinates, over whose figuratively dead bodies they sometimes rose.
The natural leader of women was, in the Army experience, distinct from the nervously ambitious office supervisor, the technically competent specialist, the aggressive professional woman, the busybody clubwoman, and the wealthy social leader, all of whom had previously usurped the title. In the WAC such women could succeed in other types of work, but not as leaders of women. The true leader's ambition had to be all for her troops, her Corps, and the Army-never, even secretly, for herself first. The possession of this honest selflessness lent a woman, in the eyes of the women who followed her, a certain dignity, strength, and even greatness.
Selection and Training of Leaders
These discoveries, if applied, might have effected considerable changes in the methods of selection and training of WAC officer candidates. Unfortunately, Dr. Durfee's studies were not published until February of 1945, and the ASF survey not until April, by which time all but about two hundred of the WAC's some seven thousand officers had been selected. Even had earlier results been obtained, it appeared unlikely that the WAC system would be modified until the Army selection and training system was also changed.
Some eighteen months previously, Director Hobby had proposed a changed officer candidate selection system based on very similar British conclusions. The British women's services, like the American, had discovered by experience that a woman leader could not be detected by any external factor, but only by the "personal" qualities that emerged upon contact with a group of women. British women officer candidates selected by field stations were therefore screened by a brief sojourn with a small group of women who included not only other candidates but testing experts, who administered a series of group tests-written, oral, and practical. These women, identically dressed without sign of rank, and living in an informal group, were placed in a number of real-life situations, and led to discuss company problems with the group, while experts made notes of their reactions. The testing officers were thus able to discover much the same personal qualities that would have been apparent to a company of enlisted women over a period of weeks.38
The American adaptation was fully worked out, with specific tests and procedures and with selection and training of team members. The team actually functioned in dry runs at the training center, during which groups of thirty officer candidates spent a two-day "live-in" period with team members, taking psychological and performance tests, before going on to regular officer candidate school. Director Hobby's proposal was, however, rejected by the War Department for numerous reasons. The Adjutant General's test construction experts rejected it because commercial psychological tests were used
which they had neither made nor validated, and the use of such tests was not in accordance with policy, while the construction and validation of such tests by the Army would have been more expensive than the small numbers of Wacs merited. Even could this obstacle be overcome, the Army Service Forces nonconcurred on grounds that the system would be a violation of command prerogative: the selection of officer candidates, male and female, was a function of field commands, and to reject their selected candidates after only two days would have been offensive to them. In England this problem had not arisen because of the short distances involved: an applicant could with little travel be sent where the team was located, and was not placed on a command's eligible list prior to a successful sojourn with the team.39
The only partial solution available to the WAC was therefore to use a modified testing team as an advisory committee to the officer candidate "murder board"; this was reported to be helpful, although its efficiency was "relative to the cooperation and understanding of the officers.40 After the end of the war, the ASF arrived at the conclusion that such a system of pre-officer candidate school screening would have been valuable for male candidates, to avoid the "waste of man hours" and the "tremendous burden of eliminating misfits," which in its absence fell upon the schools themselves. There appeared to be a good chance that such a system would eventually be adopted for men as well as women. ASF inspectors also recommended at the end of the war "that the definition of leadership as the ability to command troops in close order drill be discarded and that leadership be defined as an element in every relationship." 41
The Army Commander as a leader of Women Troops
While educating the WAC officer to be a leader of women on the company level, the Army also had to consider the knowledge and training required by Army commanders above that level in the leadership of female troops. In the opinion of Army psychiatrists, above the company officer level it was not only safe but proper and natural for women troops, like the citizenry in general, to identify themselves with great military heroes, commanding generals, station commanders, or whatever other Army leaders were best known to them. Such identification promoted morale and pride in military status and a more uncomplaining acceptance of hardships shared by leader and follower alike.
There was considerable evidence that such motivation operated with Wacs, and that they followed meticulously and even blindly any example set. From the first days of the Auxiliary, the Chief of Staffs office took the attitude that Army officers, being senior to the Waacs, were responsible for setting them an example. In one case in which a commander subjected newly arrived WAAC officers to public criticism by inviting them to have drinks in his hotel room, the Chief of Staffs office directed a reprimand:
The War Department regrets that members of the WAAC have cause to be disappointed in a natural expectation that an officer of the Regular Army of thirteen years
service could be looked to as a mentor of what was customary and expected in their association with officers of the other arms and scrvices.42
The chief difficulty for the Army officer in fulfilling such expectations lay in the necessity for separating his personal and lifelong attitudes toward women from his military behavior. It was quite simple to recite the only precept necessary for success in Army leadership of women: that women troops should be treated with the same justice, concern, and objectivity that a good commander applies to any troops. It was quite another matter to apply such a precept in the minutiae of daily personal encounters. From the officer whose Wac driver assisted him from a car, to the section chief requested to rescue a tearful secretary from kitchen police, each separate decision frequently required deliberation and good judgment to determine the wise and objective course. Neither was it always possible to follow exactly the same course that could have been followed with a male subordinate, since many situations-such as the case of hotel room drinking-obviously had different implications to society where different sexes were concerned.
Fortunately, the penalty for such failure of objectivity was severe in only one respect. No irreparable damage was usually done by the officer who allowed a personal misogyny to cause a military overseverity, or by the officer who translated a personal gallantry into a military overleniency. WAC units could and did survive both situations. Somewhat more dangerous was the commander whose age and fatherly attitude produced a paternalism that stifled the growth of responsible and mature conduct among women. However, even in this case the worst possible result was ordinarily his own disappointment in the unit's performance if responsibility was suddenly thrown upon it. In none of these cases, unless carried to pathological extremes, was the partial failure of a higher commander's objectivity and leadership sufficient totally to undermine unit spirit and efficiency.
One type of failure in leadership, and only one, invariably seemed to end a WAC unit's usefulness and damage its members personally: this was that of the commander who allowed his military decisions to be affected by "the man-woman factor." In civilian life, this officer had his counterpart in the boss who favored one secretary with his personal attention to the disadvantage of other employees. Such a practice habitually damaged civilian office morale even when not aggravated by the greater control superimposed by the military system. Although the relationship that caused the favoritism might be a completely innocent one, bad results were felt by the WAC unit in every case in which an officer attempted to secure special favors, exceptions from rules, or unwarranted advancement for a member. If the relationship was not innocent, it likewise incurred the disfavor of the WAAC unit, a thousand times intensified if a unit officer was concerned. The worst possible situation was the combination of an immoral relationship with open and unconcealed favoritism in promotion and other advantages. From the point of view of leadership of women troops, such action by a higher commander constituted complete betrayal, and almost invariably ended the unit's morale, discipline, and efficiency in a way that no other known factor in the Army
environment had ever succeeded in doing. The difficulty in the man-woman factor in the field was not that it occurred frequently, and not that it could not be easily detected by observers, but rather that in such cases as did occur, outside advisers often found themselves powerless to correct the situation. In one extreme case, which went as far as the War Department, both the Chief of Chaplains and the ASF WAC Officer asked transfer of a WAC company officer because her close association with the post commander "is occasioning much comment." However, the commanding officer of the subordinate command and the Chief Signal Officer himself refused to take action, pronouncing the request "idle gossip." As a result, the situation brought on low morale in the detachment, and the divorce of the officer concerned.43
Such situations were regarded by reasonably competent WAC staff officers as simple to detect and correct by transfer, had recommendations on the matter always been backed by superiors. With such backing, the man-woman factor was pronounced no serious threat to the integration of women in the Army. The only sure preventive, however, appeared to be the indoctrination of every Army officer in the full consequences of such situations, and his recognition of their relation to his responsibilities for troop leadership.
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