The Women's Army Corps was an all-female unit of the United States Army established during World War II. It officially was started in 1943 with the signing of a congressional bill by President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowing women to be enlisted and appointed into noncombat roles in the army. By 1978, the Women's Army Corps was disestablished because women had made significant inroads into the military and were being assimilated into its regular structure.
The Women’s Army Corp originally began as the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in 1942. Edith Nourse Rogers, a congresswoman from Massachusetts, introduced the bill to establish the WAAC to help fill demand for military resources. As an auxiliary organization, the WAAC had no military status and consequently, the women who belonged to it did not receive benefits comparable to those of regular army members, even though they were performing military duties. To remedy this situation, Rogers introduced the second bill that would create the WAC.
Much of the initial reaction to women in the army was negative. Some people feared that the next step would be sending women into combat. Others felt that women belonged in the home and saw the Women's Army Corps as encroaching on masculine territory. The need for more fighting men was the major factor in overcoming resistance to women in army roles and the Women's Army Corp went on to prove their worth to the country. General Douglas MacArthur reportedly called them "my best soldiers."
Approximately 140,000 women served in the Women's Army Corp during World War II in both stateside roles and overseas. Up until this point, the only women to serve with the army had been nurses in the Army Nurse Corp. Women in the corps took over many noncombat roles being performed by men, freeing up the men in these roles for combat duty. WAC regulations allowed women to fill any fixed, noncombat positions that they were physically able to handle. Besides working in clerical roles, many WACs worked as parachute riggers, heavy equipment operators, intelligence analysts, radio operators and more.
Smaller numbers of women served with the Women’s Army Corps in Korea and Vietnam. During the Korean War, Women's Army Corps detachments supported the war effort in Japan and Okinawa, with some individual women working in Seoul and Pusan in Korea. During the Vietnam War, WAC personnel served at Army headquarters near Saigon and at General William Westmoreland's headquarters in Saigon.
Other military service branches also had women's units. They included the Navy Waves and Navy Nurse Corps. There also were the Marine Corps Women's Reserve and the Women Air Service Pilots.