Guide to the Dora Andersen Uniform Collection (1941 – 1945) – History – Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC)

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The WAC was an auxiliary branch of the United States Army created in 1942 by Oveta Culp Hobby as the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) later becoming the Women’s Army Corps in 1943. Women in the WAC or WAAC received specialized training that would lead to work which required skills in mechanics, problem solving, and switchboard operating (Wikipedia “Women’s Army Corps” updated 5/7/2015 accessed 6/16/2015). WAC women served as Postal Clerks, Stenographers, Seamstresses, Drivers, and Clerk-Typists. Early advertising for the WAC’s in 1943 emphasized the importance of appearance and keeping fit, and the WAC Field Manual highlighted this importance by suggesting that a WAC women’s role was to “Replace Men. Be Ready to Take Over”. Such propaganda attracted attention from both men and women, though not all the attention was beneficial. General Douglas MacArthur and General Dwight D. Eisenhower lauded the service of WAC women, calling their contributions “Immeasurable” and promoting the women’s service as equal to and often better than men’s. However the women themselves faced discrimination. The popularity of the WAC uniform brought some unforeseen issues to the reputation of the WAC. WAC-type uniforms were widely produced to increase interest, patriotism and support for the WAC program . Organizations such as Valley Forge Military Academy and the Women’s Ordinance Worker’s whom worked as secretaries and in factories, respectively, wore similar or nearly identical looking uniforms, causing confusion and occasionally mistaken affiliations of these women with the WAC . The widespread availability of the uniforms contributed slightly to tarnishing the reputation of the WAC. When such women whom appeared to be dressed in WAC uniform committed any misconduct such as frequenting bars, the women were automatically assumed to be WAC women. One such complaint reported in Louisiana by a recruiting officer for the army, upon further investigation by a Provost Marshal, proved that the offending women were not affiliated with the WAC but rather with one of the many other women’s organizations that wore similar or near-identical uniforms . Such mistaken identifies led to ideas about the WACS as immoral or indecent women 5 The widespread availability of uniforms led to concerns of them being purchased by “Victory Girls”, women whom by donning such uniforms would do so in hopes of increasing their prospects to meet men .Such incidences resulted in beliefs held by both men and women that the WAC’s were themselves immoral and lewd, or that they were unfeminine or “butch” women .However, despite such slander, WAC women were widely praised. Army commanders praised their intelligence, their efficiency and organization and their skill in performing operations requiring considerable manual dexterity even saying that women performed such operations better than their male counterparts . Despite such slander, it is certain that WAC women were a valuable part of the war effort, comprising an approximate 150,000 individuals serving in World War II . In the 1970’s the WAC and WAAC were integrated into the co-ed Army .

4 Ibid.

5 Ltr. 8th SvC to Dir WAAC, 3 Apr 43, incl comment of Maj Warner Bishop, Ft Humbug. Shreveport, La. SPWA 250.1. WAAC Headquarters, found on
6 (1) Ltr, TAG to CG AAF, 10 Aug 43, sub: Authorization of WAAC Uniform for CAP Pen;. SPWA 421. (2) Ltr, 4th SvC to 3d SvC, 26 May 43. sub: Valley Forge Mil Academy, Wayne Pa., and Ind. SPWA 250.1 (4-3-43). (3) 1st Ind, WAAC Stf Dir to Dir WAAC, 11 Aug 43, to Memo, Chief of PM Br 3d SvC for Capt Rice, 11 Aug 43. SPWA 250.1 (4-3-43), found in].

7 and’s_Army_Corps#Slander_campaign].
8 Memo, G-3 for CofS, 7 Jul 43. WDGCT 291.9 in CofS file and in MDW from
9 ( Bellafaire 1972, p. 2 Bellafaire, Judith A. (1972). The Women’s Army Corps: A Commemoration of World War II Service. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History. CMH Publication 72-15. From Wikipedia “Women’s Army Corps”.
10 Wikipedia “Women’s Army Corps” 5/7/2015 accessed 6/16/2015.’s_Army_Corps#Disbanded