FAQs about the WAC

ABookofFactsabouttheWACCover

These are questions that we are asked the most, by public, other reenactors, and new members

What does WAC mean? What does WAAC mean? What’s the difference?

WAC is the acronym for Women’s Army Corps, WAAC is the acronym for Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. The Corps was originally organized as the WAAC, and transitioned to full military status as the WAC July 1, 1943. Individual members of the WAAC were often referred to as auxiliaries or “auxies,” and members of the WAC were frequently referred to as Wacs.

When was the Corps started?

Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rodgers initially proposed a bill for a Women’s Army Corps in early 1941, but it wasn’t until after Pearl Harbor that the bill really gained traction. With heavy revisions, including the requirement that they have auxiliary status, Congress approved the creation of the WAAC on May 14, 1942. President Roosevelt signed the bill into law (Public Law 554) the following day. Oveta Culp Hobby had been previously selected as Director of the WAAC and was sworn in on May 16, 1942.

It soon became evident that the Corps was being limited by its auxiliary status, especially when members of the WAAC began to be deployed on overseas duty. Conversion to the WAC was signed by FDR on July 1, 1943, and re-enlistment was to be completed by September 1, 1943.

How many Wacs were there?

There were about 150,000 Wacs during WWII. Just under 10,000 were stationed in the ETO (European Theater of Operations). There were approximately 10,000 other Wacs total stationed overseas in the Pacific, Northern Africa, and the Mediterranean.

Were there more Wacs or Nurses?

There were far more members of the WAC than the ANC (Army Nurse Corps) in WWII. More than 59,000 American nurses served in the ANC (CMH Publication 72-14). The WAC reached a peak strength of nearly 100,000, with more than 150,000 women having served during the course of the war. (CMH Pub 72-15, & CMH Pub 11-8)

Are Wacs and nurses the same?

NO! There was no such thing as a “WAC Nurse.” Nursing was one of the few occupational specialties that the WAC did not perform. The Army Nurse Corps were the first women to serve with the Army, starting in 1901, the WAAC was created during WWII to fill support roles in the Army in an effort to free a man to fight.

What jobs did the Wacs do?

By 1944, the War Department authorized the WAC to perform 239 occupational specialties, the exceptions being those involving combat and nursing (Wacs could be Nurse’s Aides). Wacs did everything from baking to tank repair; code cracking to directing bands; clerical work to reading xrays, and much more.

What were the requirements to join the WAC?

Wacs had to be between 21 and 45 years old when they enlisted. This is different from male soldiers, who only had to be 16 with parental consent. Wacs were expected to be educated with at least a high school diploma, but preferably college experience, have work experience, and be able to provide good character references. Wacs were more educated and had more workplace experience than male soliders of the same rank. They were also expected to have a moderate degree of physical fitness.

Did any Wacs get drafted?

No, enlistment in the WAC was strictly voluntary. There was some discussion about the possibility of starting a women’s draft, but it didn’t get very far.

Did they have the same rank and pay as the men?

When the WAAC was created, members had different rank and slightly reduced pay. After the conversion to the WAC, the women had the same rank and pay as the male soldiers, including overseas pay if applicable.

Where did the Wacs serve?

Most of the Wacs served in the continental United States. The first Wacs stationed overseas were assigned to the MTO (Mediterranean Theater of Operations) in North Africa, followed by assignments in the ETO (European Theater of Operations), PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations), and CBI (China Burma India).

Were the Wacs near the fighting?

The Wacs were not stationed in active combat zones, but were often close to the front in the communications zone. The most forward WAC detachment in the ETO were those attached to Twelfth Army Group Headquarters. (WAC in the ETO)

What happened to the WAC after the war?

The WAC had been an emergency reserve, with enlistments lasting the duration plus six months. All of the training centers but Fort Des Moines were closed. A small group was kept on to transition the Corps from an emergency reserve to regular army status. The WAC became a regular part of the US Army in 1948, Wacs served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War before the Women’s Army Corps was disbanded in 1978 and integrated into the Army.

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