They served in England, France, Italy, the South Pacific, North Africa, India, and numerous other countries, as well as stateside. They worked with the Army as typists, file clerks, and stenographers, but also in over 200 other types of positions, including as mechanics, instructors, weather forecasters, photo analysts, telephone operators, parachute riggers, drivers, radio operators, electricians, and cryptographers. Who was this versatile group? The Women’s Army Corps (WAC).
The WAC was originally formed as the WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) in 1942 as an auxiliary to the Army, but in 1943 it was incorporated into that military branch and renamed the WAC. The goal of the WAC was to free up men for WWII combat by replacing them with women in noncombatant military jobs. As WAAC/WAC director Oveta Culp Hobby saw it, “The gaps our women will fill are in those noncombatant jobs where women’s hands and women’s hearts fit naturally.” Not all WAACs and WACs were quite so optimistic about their positions, however; as one disillusioned WAAC put it, “The WAAC mission is the same old women’s mission, […] to stand by and do dull routine work while the men are gone.” This opinion may have had some basis, as the vast majority of WACs were limited to clerical and communications jobs that the Army deemed “appropriate” for women.
Over the course of the war, around 150,000 WACs served at home and abroad. Although they faced discrimination and criticism from various male soldiers and some of the folks back home, WACs were in high demand, and the officers they worked with praised them for their hard work and skill. In fact, General Eisenhower said, “During the time I have had WACs under my command they have met every test and task assigned to them . . . their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit and determination are immeasurable.” That “efficiency, skill, spirit and determination” was proved by the fact that at the end of the war, 657 WACs received citations or medals.
Below are some photos from Fold3’s WWII US Air Force Photos collection that capture WACs hard at work. The original captions have been included:
Learn more about WAACs and WACs here. Or find many more free images of them on Fold3 here. There are also thousands of pages on Fold3 about them, which you can find using this search. Or read Fold3 spotlights about Women Air Force Service Pilots or the Women’s Land Army. You can also watch an original WAC recruitment video here.