Continuing Service & Changes: The WAC, 1946-1965

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The period immediately following World War II was one of uncertainty and constant change for WAC personnel. Demobilization progressed rapidly.  Some WACs remained on active duty both in the Continental U.S. and with the Armies of Occupation in Europe and the Far East while others decided to return home with their memories and souvenirs from the war. 

In August 1945, enlistments in the Women’s Army Corps closed. The WAC schools and training centers also closed.  Then in February 1946, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower directed the preparation of legislation to make the Women’s Army Corps a permanent part of the Army.  Lt. Col. Mary Louise Milligan (later Rasmuson) became a consultant/planner for the project. Col. Mary Hallaren, third director of the WAC, led the fight to passage the legislation.  In September 1947, legislators combined the bill with the WAVES/Women Marines, added a section to include women in the Air Force, and renamed the bill the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. President Truman signed the bill into law on June 12, 1948.

WAC Japan

In 1948, women became part of the Regular Army, and the first WAC officers to receive Regular Army appointments did so in December.  The Army accepted women from ages 18 to 35, but required women under 21 to obtain parental consent. Enlistment for the Women’s Army Corps, Regular Army, opened to civilians in September 1948, and on October 4, the WAC Training Center opened at Camp Lee, VA.

The first officer commissioned in the WAC, Regular Army, COL Mary Hallaren, was sworn in and appointed Director of WAC on Dec. 3, 1948.  On June 12, 1949, the Army offered appointments as WAC warrant officers, junior grade, Regular Army, to eleven women. Seven accepted.

In June 1949, the Army initiated the first WAC Organized Reserve Corps training. To recruit more WAC officers, the Army offered direct commissions as 2nd Lieutenants in the Organized Reserve Corps to female college graduates.

With the outbreak of the Korean War, the WAC strength authorization increased.  Involuntary recall to active duty of WAC officers began, and currently serving WACs saw their enlistments involuntarily extended.  Approximately 20 percent of WACs served overseas during the Korean War era.  In the Far East Theater, WACs were needed to work in direct support of the combat theater in hospitals and as communicators, supply specialists, record keepers, and administrators.

Many WACs rendered important service in Cold War Europe. Concerned that the Soviets would take advantage of the distraction in Korea, U.S. leaders increased Army and Air Force troop strengths in Western Europe. WACs assigned to Europe worked mainly as cryptographers; supply, intelligence, and communication specialists; and hospital technicians.

WACs did not deploy to Korea as a unit, but individual WACs served in Korea on special assignments, and a number of WAC officers and enlisted women filled key administrative positions in Pusan and later in Seoul.

WAC March_1965

In 1950, the Army decided to establish a permanent training center and home for the WAC at Fort McClellan, AL.  The new center opened in 1956 and included a headquarters with supporting personnel, a basic training battalion, and a Women’s Army Corps School.  The school trained enlisted women in typing, stenography, and clerical duties. An Officer Candidate School trained enlisted women as officers, and a WAC Officer Basic Course trained women with college degrees.  In 1956, the first foreign women officers (six women from Burma) entered WAC Officer Basic Class.  These were the first of many foreign women to train at Fort McClellan.  The first commander of the center was Lt. Col. Eleanore C. Sullivan.  She also held the position of Commandant of the WAC School.

Not long after the establishment of the center in March 1956, the Army Uniform Board approved the concept of a women’s green winter service uniform and a two-piece green cord uniform for summer.  The first in the women’s green uniform ensemble was the Army green cord suit, issued in March 1959.  The women’s Army green service uniform was issued in July 1960.  These two uniforms marked the first use of the Army green uniform for women; men had received theirs earlier.  The development of the Army green uniform for both men and women marked another move toward equity between men and women Soldiers which continued into other areas.

Article adapted from: “WAAC/WAC.”  http://www.army.mil/women/history/newera.html