Women Go To War
After Pearl Harbor, the United States unquestionably was in the Second World War. As months passed and the American casualty rate continued to rise, the United States government recognized an urgent need for more military personnel. With much of the able-bodied male population already tapped, the government looked to the female population. To keep the American war effort moving forward, on May 12, 1942, Congress passed the bill that created the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). The passage of this bill was controversial, as some in this country did not believe that women were fit for military service and others were opposed to the idea on a moral basis. Initially the WAAC would serve as an auxiliary unit, not fully integrated into the army.
The Army put forth a major recruiting campaign, which encouraged women to serve their country by working in a non-combatant job to free up a man to fight in the front lines. Driven by intense patriotism, thousands of American women answered the call and eagerly joined the WAAC. To become a member of the WAAC, a woman had to be in good health, be able to successfully pass an Army aptitude test, be between twenty and forty-nine years of age, and have no children under fourteen years old. Being of outstanding character was stressed as well; WAACs were encouraged to be ladies as well as soldiers. The WAAC was a closely watched experiment in women’s ability to participate in the Armed Forces and the Army wanted the best women the nation had to offer. And they got them. The WAAC was so successful and performed so well during its first year, that it impressed many generals and government officials, including the President of the United States. On September 1, 1943, the WAAC dropped its auxiliary status and became the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), an official unit of the United States Army.
From 1942 to 1950, over 150,000 women served in the United States Army. WACs served both stateside and around the world in locations such as North Africa, New Guinea, France, England, and the Philippines. The WACs drove trucks, served as members of the military police, drafted army maps of war zones, occupied eighty percent of clerical jobs by 1945, worked as army medics, and performed admirably in more than 150 other army trades. Women served in other branches of the military as well: the Army Nurse Corps, the Navy, the Coast Guard, Army Air Forces, and the Marine Corps. These military women served heroically in every theater of the war.
Did You Know?
The Announcement Stone, at the formal 17th Street entrance to the World War II Memorial, eloquently declares the reason for the placement of this memorial along the great axis between the Lincoln Memorial to the west and the Washington Monument to the east.