The Women's Army Corps (WAC) was the women's branch of the U. S. Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit in May of 1942, then was converted to full status as the WAC in 1943. Its first director was Oveta Culp Hobby, the wife of a prominent Texan politician and also a lawyer and newspaper research editor in her own right.
Approximately 150,000 American women served in the WAAC and WAC forces during World War II. They were the first women, other than nurses, to serve in the Army. While conservative opinion in the leadership of the Army and general public opinion were both generally opposed to women serving in uniform, the shortage of men necessitated such a policy. While most women served stateside, some were stationed in various places around the world including Europe, North Africa and New Guinea. A team of WAC actually landed on Normandy beach just a few weeks after the initial invasion.
General Douglas MacArthur referred to the WAC as "my best soldiers", adding that they worked harder, complained less and were better disciplined than the men. Many Generals wanted more women and it was even proposed to draft women at one time. Realizing this would truly provoke considerable public outcry and Congressional opposition, the War Department declined to take such a drastic step. The 150,000 women who did serve released approximately seven divisions of men for combat. General Dwight D. Eisenhower stated that "their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit and determination are immeasurable".
During the same period, other branches of the U. S. Military had women's units, including the Navy (W AVES), the Coast Guard (SPARS) and the (civilian) Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). The British forces also had a Women's Auxiliary Air Force.
The WAC disbanded in 1978. Since then, women have served in the U. S. Army in the same units alongside their male counterparts. They have only been allowed in or near combat situations since 1994, when Defense Secretary Les Aspin ordered the removal of "substantial risk of capture" from the list of grounds for excluding women from certain Military units.
WOMEN'S ARMY CORPS