The WWII Women’s Army Air Corps was implemented in 1942 through joint efforts of various Army bureaus. Coordinating it all was Lt. Col. Gilman Mudgett. When the expected 11,000 women turned into 150,000 (throughout WWII), Mudgett’s initial plans had to be revised.
Initially, 800 women joined the WAAC and began their basic training. The Army published a training manual in order to set physical standard requirements for these women. The manual pointed out the woman needed to be ready to replace the men - to be prepared to take over.
Besides the nurses, the WAACS were the first women to serve in the US Army. With the shortage of men, it was necessary for the Army to impose a new policy which supported women serving in uniform. The majority of the women who served remained stateside; however, some were sent abroad to Europe, North Africa and New Guinea. Two weeks after the Normandy Invasion, WACS landed on the beach to further assist the Army.
Opposition and Support
While some men vehemently opposed women serving in uniform, others – like General Douglas MacArthur – were supportive of women in the service. General MacArthur is said to have referred to the women as some of his best soldiers. Others who supported women in this new role felt the women were better disciplined, worked harder and complained less. General Dwight D. Eisenhower also recognized their contribution to the war stating, “their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit and determination are immeasurable.”
In 1978, the WAAC branch was dispersed and each branch was converted into the Military Occupational Specialty in which it worked. This put women – for the first time – side by side serving in the same unit as the men, quite a contrast from their 1942 beginning. The WWII Women’s Army Air Corps is one of the organizations from this era which opened the door for women’s role in the service.