Women in World War II
During World War II Hitler was skulking around Europe pretending to save Germany, military minds in Washington were stonewalling women's organizations, patriotic pressures, and anyone who had the temerity to suggest that women should be in the military. The politicians, in typical gerrymandering fashion, made flimsy promises of considering an auxiliary of sorts while quietly hoping it would all go away and secretly trying to figure out how to stop it. Fortunately Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers and Eleanor Roosevelt thought otherwise.
Congresswoman Rogers introduced a bill on May 28 th, 1941, to establish a Women's Army Auxiliary Corps for service with the Army of the United States. By virtue of its being an auxiliary corps there was no hint of full military status for women.
While several government departments cooperated, the Bureau of the Budget continued to stall in spite of pressure from Mrs. Roosevelt, General Marshall and other interested parties and groups. By late November of 1941 there was still no definitive action. At this point General Marshall literally ordered the War Department to create a womens corps. An incident in the Pacific reinforced this order.
Four days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and twenty three years after the idea of women in the military was born, the Bureau of the Budget stopped objecting, planners began to plan and cooperation suddenly became the watchword. The bill was amended, reintroduced, stuck in committees, and stalled. The search was on for a director, a training center and the appropriate equipment. The military men in charge of logistics searched for ideas for no regulations existed. Finally on May 14th 1942 the bill to "Establish a Women's Army Auxiliary Corps" became law and Oveta Culp Hobby, wife of the former governor of Texas, was named director.
While bills were being bandied around Congress, women were being trained at the first WAAC Training Center in Fort Des Moines, Iowa. With a nudge from Eleanor Roosevelt, the Navy got its act together and began authorizing a Womens Naval Reserve and the Marine Corps Womens reserve. The Coast Guard followed soon after. The first director of the WAVES - Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service - was Lt Commander Mildred McAfee, President of Wellesley College. The SPARS, which came from the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus - always ready, were led by Lt Commander Dorothy C. Stratton. The Marine Corps Womens Reserve was headed by Major Ruth Cheyney Streeter. The WAAC was changed to the WAC establishing it as a part of the Army and not an auxiliary by a second bill in July of 1943, signed in to law by President Roosevelt.
While all this politicking was going on the first WAAC contingent was serving at the Allied Forces Headquarters in Algiers, North Africa. By January of 1944 the first WACs arrived in the Pacific and in July of 1944 ,WACs landed on the beach at Normandy. There were over one hundred thousand...