In two southern states, recruiters haunted train and bus stations, waiting for women who came to send off husbands and fiancées to war. Denny Embroidered Ruana Vest.
General Marshall's active support and congressional testimony helped the Rogers bill through Congress. Marshall believed that the two-front war in which the United States was engaged would cause an eventual manpower shortage. The Army could ill afford to spend the time and money necessary to train men in essential service skills such as typing and switchboard operations when highly skilled women were already available.
Marshall and others felt that women were inherently suited to certain critical communications jobs which, while repetitious, demanded high levels of manual dexterity.
They believed that men tended to become impatient with such jobs and might make careless mistakes which could be costly during war. Congressional opposition to the bill centered around southern congressmen. With women in the armed services, one representative asked, "Who will then do the cooking, the washing, the mending, the humble homey tasks to which every woman has devoted herself; who will nurture the children?
The Senate approved the bill 38 to 27 on 14 May. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill into law the next day, he set a recruitment goal of 25, for the first year. She had impressed both the media and the public when she testified in favor of the WAAC bill in January. In the words of the Washington Times Herald, "Mrs. Hobby has proved that a competent, efficient woman who works longer days than the sun does not need to look like the popular idea of a competent, efficient woman.
The wife of former Texas Governor William P. Hobby, Oveta Culp Hobby was well versed in national and local politics. Before her marriage she had spent five years as a parliamentarian of the Texas legislature and had written a book on parliamentary procedure.
The position needed a woman with a proven record of achievement. The individual selected had to be politically astute, with an understanding of how things got done in Washington and in the War Department. Most important, the Director of the WAAC had to show a skeptical American public that a woman could be "a lady" and serve as a member of the armed forces at the same time. This was crucial to the success of the WAAC. A volunteer force, the WAAC had to appeal to small town and middle-class America to recruit the skilled clerical workers, teachers, stenographers, and telephone operators needed by the Army.
The values and sensibilities of this middle class were very narrow, as exemplified by the words of Charity Adams, a WAAC officer candidate and later lieutenant colonel: I had never owned either, feeling that I was not the type to wear them. William Hobby was quoted again and again when he joked, "My wife has so many ideas, some of them have got to be good! Although the press concentrated on such frivolous questions as whether WAACs would be allowed to wear makeup and date officers, Hobby diffused most such questions with calm sensibility.
Only one statement by the Director caused unfavorable comment. The Times Herald claimed that the birth rate would be adversely affected if corps members were discouraged from having babies. Every auxiliary who enlisted in the corps would be trained in a noncombatant military job and thus "free a man for combat.
Hobby's sincerity aided her in presenting this concept to the public. In frequent public speeches, she explained, "The gaps our women will fill are in those noncombatant jobs where women's hands and women's hearts fit naturally. WAACs will do the same type of work which women do in civilian life. They will bear the same relation to men of the Army that they bear to the men of the civilian organizations in which they work.
WAAC officers and auxiliaries alike accepted and enlisted under this philosophy. A WAAC recruit undergoing training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, whose husband was serving in the Pacific, wrote her friend, "The WAAC mission is the same old women's mission, to hold the home front steadfast, and send men to battle warmed and fed and comforted; to stand by and do dull routine work while the men are gone.
Applications for the WAAC officer training program were made available at Army recruiting stations on 27 May, with a return deadline of 4 June.
Applicants had to be U. Over 35, women from all over the country applied for less than 1, anticipated positions. On 20 July the first officer candidate training class of women started a six-week course at Fort Des Moines. Interviews conducted by an eager press revealed that the average officer candidate was 25 years old, had attended college, and was working as an office administrator, executive secretary, or teacher.
One out of every five had enlisted because a male member of her family was in the armed forces and she wanted to help him get home sooner. Several were combat widows of Pearl Harbor and Bataan. One woman enlisted because her son, of fighting age, had been injured in an automobile accident and was unable to serve.
Another joined because there were no men of fighting age in her family. All of the women professed a desire to aid their country in time of need by "releasing a man for combat duty. Although a few reporters were disgruntled because they were not allowed to "follow" a candidate through basic officer training, most left satisfied after having obtained interviews and photographs of WAACs in their new uniforms.
Even the titillating question of the color of WAAC underwear khaki was answered for the folks back home. Letters the women wrote home were often published in local newspapers. The forty black women who entered the first WAAC officer candidate class were placed in a separate platoon. Although they attended classes and mess with the other officer candidates, post facilities such as service clubs, theaters, and beauty shops were segregated.
Black officer candidates had backgrounds similar to those of white officer candidates. Almost 80 percent had attended college, and the majority had work experience as teachers and office workers. In July Army recruiting centers were supplied with applications for volunteers to enlist in the WAAC as auxiliaries enlisted women. The response, although not as dramatic as the officer candidate applications, was still gratifying.
Those who had applied unsuccessfully for officer training and who had stated on their applications that they would be willing to come in as auxiliaries did not have to reapply. Women were told that after the initial group of officers had been trained, all other officer candidates would be selected from the ranks of the auxiliaries as the corps grew. The first auxiliary class started its four-week basic training at Fort Des Moines on 17 August. The average WAAC auxiliary was slightly younger than the officer candidates, with a high school education and less work experience.
These women enlisted for the same reasons as the officer candidates. Many with family members in the armed forces believed that the men would come home sooner if women actively helped win the war and that the most efficient way a woman could help the war effort was to free a man for combat duty.
Although the first WAAC officer candidate class started its training before the enlisted class, the first enlisted WAACs entered training before their future officers graduated. Consequently, the first classes of both WAAC officer candidates and enlisted personnel were trained by male Regular Army officers. Faith was chosen to command the center.
Faith's background as an educator and his interest in the psychology of military education rendered him well suited for his position. Eventually and gradually WAAC officers took over the training of the rest of the corps. The majority of the newly trained WAAC officers, the first of whom finished their training on 29 August, were assigned to Fort Des Moines to conduct basic training.
Army field installations across the country. Black officers were assigned to black auxiliary and officer candidate units at Fort Des Moines and Fort Devens. Army Air Forces could not rely on volunteer civilians to man stations twenty-four hours a day. WAACs manned "filter boards," plotting and tracing the paths of every aircraft in the station area. Some filter boards had as many as twenty positions, each one filled with a WAAC wearing headphones and enduring endless boredom while waiting for the rare telephone calls reporting aircraft sightings.
Initially most auxiliaries worked as file clerks, typists, stenographers, or motor pool drivers, but gradually each service discovered an increasing number of positions WAACs were capable of filling. Women were assigned as weather observers and forecasters, cryptographers, radio operators and repairmen, sheet metal workers, parachute riggers, link trainer instructors, bombsight maintenance specialists, aerial photograph analysts, and control tower operators.
Over 1, WAACs ran the statistical control tabulating machines the precursors of modern-day computers used to keep track of personnel records. WAAC mechanics and photographers also made regular flights. Three were awarded Air Medals, including one in India for her work in mapping "the Hump," the mountainous air route overflown by pilots ferrying lend-lease supplies to the Chinese Army. One woman died in the crash of an aerial broadcasting plane.
Some of the women assigned to the Ordnance Department computed the velocity of bullets, measured bomb fragments, mixed gunpowder, and loaded shells. Others worked as draftsmen, mechanics, and electricians, and some received training in ordnance engineering.
It gives me a pretty good feeling. Later in the war, women were trained to replace men as radio operators on U. The Larkspur, the Charles A.
Stafford, and the Blanche F. Sigman each received three enlisted women and one officer near the end of This experiment proved successful, and the assignment of female secretaries and clerical workers to hospital ships occurred soon after. Some women were trained as glass blowers and made test tubes for the Army's chemical laboratories. Others field tested equipment such as walkie-talkies and surveying and meteorology instruments.
Their duties included inspection, procurement, stock control, storage, fiscal oversight, and contract termination. Over 1, WAACs assigned to the Signal Corps ASF worked as telephone switchboard operators, radio operators, telegraph operators, cryptologists, and photograph and map analysts.
WAACs assigned as photographers received training in the principles of developing and printing photographs, repairing cameras, mixing emulsions, and finishing negatives.
Women who became map analysts learned to assemble, mount, and interpret mosaic maps. Elizabeth Wilson of the Chemistry Division at Los Alamos, New Mexico, ran the cyclotron, used in fundamental experiments in connection with the atomic bomb.
WAAC Jane Heydorn trained as an electronics construction technician and, as part of the Electronic Laboratory Group at Los Alamos, was involved in the construction of the electronic equipment necessary to develop, test, and produce the atomic bomb. WAACs at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site maintained the top secret files related to the project, working twelve-hour shifts seven days a week. Other WAACs involved in the Manhattan Project included three women assigned to the Corps of Engineers in London, who helped to coordinate the flow of information between English and American scientists cooperating on the project.
Many high-ranking staff officers would have preferred to see women aid the defense effort by taking positions in industry. Military duties require a versatility that is acquired only by long experience. Another 10 percent worked in motor pools. AGF WAACs found that chances for transfer and promotion were extremely limited, and many women served throughout the war at the posts to which they were initially assigned. The stories of Ground Forces WAACs contrasted sharply with those of women assigned to the Air and Service Forces, who were routinely sent to specialist schools and often transferred between stations.
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