Monday, March 23, 2009
In March 1942, Congress signed the law establishing the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), allowing American women to enlist for auxiliary service with the U.S. Army.
They were organized into units, trained and served at Army bases, wore uniforms and performed military duties, but while wearing different rank insignia and receiving lower pay. The Army Air Forces (AAF) and Army Service Forces (ASF - logistics) couldn't get enough of them but the Army Ground Forces (AGF) took a long time to come around. In July, 1943, Congress finally did away with the WAAC, replacing it with the WAC (Women's Army Corps).
So if you have ever wondered why they were sometimes called WAACs and sometimes called WACs, now you know.
(The Navy and the Marine Corps did not begin enlisting women until July 1942, but even though they had a cute-sy little name--Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service--the WAVES were never considered an auxiliary, but rather part of the Navy from the get-go.
On the night Marine Corps Commandant Major General Thomas Holcomb announced his intention to recruit women, the portrait of 5th Commandant Archibald Henderson fell off his wall at 8th & I with a resounding crash. Commandant Holcomb did not welcome the idea of bringing women into the Marine Corps but he was a realist. By 1945, 80% of the enlisted personnel serving at Headquarters, Marine Corps, were female. When it was mentioned to Holcomb that these women didn't have a nickname, he replied "They are Marines. They don't have a nickname and they don't need one. They get their basic training in a Marine atmosphere at a Marine post. They inherit the traditions of Marines. They are Marines.")
(a H/T to Dan Thompson for the Male Call cartoon).