The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) was created in 1942. Renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) shortly after this pamphlet was published by the War Department in 1943, the separate organization for women stayed in existence until 1978, when women were incorporated into previously all-male units. Approximately 150,000 women served in the WACs during World War II, but female officers could not command men. In 1943, recruiting into the WACs slowed due to widespread rumors that only disreputable women joined. This pamphlet was one attempt to change the image of WACs.
Source: United States Army Women’s Auxiliary Corps, “73 Questions and Answers About the WAAC,” World War II – Documents, Illinois State Library, item 11725223. https://goo.gl/2B64Tf.
Here’s everything you want to know about life in the WAAC. Here you’ll find the answers to all your questions – about the work you’d do, the way you’d live, basic training, uniforms, pay, after-hours fun. Read every word! You’ll see why joining the WAAC is so vitally important, why it can be the most exciting adventure of your life.
1. What Is the WAAC?
W-A-A-C stands for Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. When you join the WAAC, you work with the U. S. Army. No, not actually in the firing line. You don’t pull any triggers or fire any cannons. But you take over Army tasks that are essential to help our fighting men win.
The organization of the WAAC is similar to Army organization. Your pay is the same as Army pay. You wear a uniform as snappy as any Army man’s, and you’re just as proud of it as he is!
Being a Waac is the biggest, most important job a girl can do in this war. To any girl with a true-blue heart, it’s a challenge and the thrill of a lifetime!
2. Why Are Women Needed for Military Service?
It’s true that in other wars the role of women has been a gentle one – to keep the home fires burning bright. But this war is different. It is more desperate and terrible than any war has ever been before. An urgent call has gone out from our Army. You, the women of America, are needed in the WAAC to serve with your soldiers. Can you fail to answer – when it may be within your power to help shorten the war and save the lives of American soldiers?
In the Army there are many vital tasks which you can do – tasks which can often be done better by women than by men. From Army officers everywhere come urgent messages: “The Waacs are doing a great job. Give us more.” But there aren’t enough Waacs to send. You are needed by our Army. You are needed now!
3. What Will I Do in the WAAC?
Any one of more than a hundred important jobs the men would have to do if you weren’t there. Maybe you’ll play nursemaid to a jeep and keep it in shipshape running order. Maybe your weather observations will be the “go ahead” for our bombers to take off. You may handle the coding of historic messages; drive Army officials on secret missions. Whatever you do, you’ll know it’s vital to winning the war!
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8. What Is Basic Training?
Basic training is your introduction to Army life. It gets you in good physical shape. Teaches you the “Emily Post”1 of the Army. How to salute, and when. Military courtesy and Army customs. You’ll have interesting study courses – about military operations and world events, about map reading, and safeguarding military information. You’ll learn to talk a soldier’s language on a lot of subjects – company administration, property responsibility, mess management, and many more. You’ll learn about “close order drill” and special ceremonies. You’ll work hard – plenty hard. And you’ll love every minute of it! Every day, every hour you’ll be learning something new.
9. Isn’t Drilling Tough?
Your feet may protest a little, just for the first few days. But you won’t. You’ll love it. Every Waac does! You’ll be amazed at how soon you learn to execute the orders . . . even though you never knew which foot was your left one before! And what a thrill you’ll get when your company shows up best in Inspection Day parade!
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11. What Are the Specialist Schools?
At these schools you get more training to prepare you for one of the 142 specialist jobs that Waacs are doing. Perhaps you’ll be sent to:
Administrative Specialist School. There you’ll learn all the fascinating details of military procedure. How to handle secret information. How to keep important Army records. The Army way of taking letters.
Radio School is where you’ll learn the intricacies of radio operation, code, and radio repairing. With training like this you’ll be invaluable to the Army Air Forces or Signal Corps. And think what exciting careers there’ll be in commercial radio when the war is over!
Bakers and Cooks School might make best use of your talents. There you learn to prepare quantity and quality meals. “Just like Mother used to make” – only much more of it. You’ll get a real Army diploma when you finish the course. And if you want a job after the war, you’ll have swell training for restaurant management, or for opening that tea room you’ve always dreamed of.
Motor Transport School might be for you. There’ll be no mysteries left in an automobile by the time you’re finished. You’ll know all the inside workings of carburetors and transmissions. You’ll learn all about driving, repairing and maintaining everything from a jeep to a 1½ ton truck. And when you get through, let any man dare to say, “Humph, a woman driver!” You’ll match the best driver alive!
Army Music School is where WAAC band members (if they pass certain Army examinations) are trained to become WAAC band leaders. And how those girls can make “The Stars and Stripes Forever” boom!
Photo Lab Technicians School teaches you a variety of photographic skills – how to develop and print pictures, the techniques of making enlargements. After this course the Signal Corps will find you a mighty useful person. And you’ll have training that ought to give you a fascinating career when the war is won.
12. Can I Become an Officer?
You bet you can, if you have the stuff. Officers are badly needed. Every girl who joins the WAAC has an equal chance to become one. You don’t need a college degree. You don’t even need a high school diploma – just the two years of high school or business school required for all members of the WAAC. At the end of your basic training, you can apply for Officer Candidate School if you’ve done well in basic training, and have been recommended by your Commanding Officer. Officers’ training lasts six weeks.
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14. What Happens When I Go on Active Duty?
You may be assigned to an Army post, a famous airfield, an important Army headquarters office. You may serve in the United States or abroad.
You get a chance to say where you’d like to be stationed – overseas, within 300 miles of your home town, or anywhere in the United States. The WAAC will try to send you where you want to go, but the needs of the Service must naturally come first!
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22. Why Is WAAC Pay Better Than Average Civilian Pay?
Figure it out for yourself! Even as a WAAC auxiliary you get $50 a month – all clear! (And how often does a girl in civilian life have $50 left after the bills are paid?) Actually, that $50 is equal to about $35 a week in civilian life – since Waacs don’t have to pay a penny for food, rent, or clothing.
As a Waac you never owe a bill to your dentist or your doctor. All medical services are free. If you need medicines or hospital care, Uncle Sam foots the bill!
23. What Extra Benefits Do I Get as a Waac?
You’re entitled to government prices at the post exchange (that’s the post department store). You get special rates at movies and theaters. “Furlough rates” on round trip railroad tickets – same as the Army. And from coast to coast you’ll find hospitality waiting at the USO, Red Cross, and Service Clubs.
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31. May I Ever Wear Civilian Clothes?
Yes. In most places where Waacs are stationed, they’re allowed to doff their uniforms when they’re off duty and off the Post. But you’d be surprised how few of them want to! Once you see yourself in a WAAC uniform, you’ll probably want to keep it on. Most Waacs are just plain proud of their uniforms . . . and they get a real kick out of wearing them. Here’s how one girl put it – “As a Waac, I feel like somebody.”
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33. What Arrangements Are There for Going to Church?
At every WAAC Training Center and every Army post there are regular church services – Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish. You’ll count your chaplain among your most valued friends.
34. With Whom May I Discuss Any Personal Problems?
Feel free to talk with your chaplain at any time. At WAAC Training Centers you can always go to see one of the Civilian Counselors who’ll lend a motherly listening ear to any problem you want to talk over. All services of the American Red Cross are available to the WAAC – as to the Army.
35. May I Have Visitors?
Indeed you may – whenever you’re off duty.
36. Are WAAC Regulations Stiff?
No, let’s say they’re sensible. You’ll find most WAAC regulations are like Army Regulations – there’s a common sense reason for every one of them. They’re not just to cramp your style! And you’ll probably discover there’s a lot more freedom than you ever dreamed there would be! As a Waac, you’re expected to be a responsible person – and you’ll just naturally go out of your way to show people, “The Waacs are wonderful!”
37. May I Wear Jewelry?
Wedding ring, engagement ring or signet ring – yes! You may also wear a wrist watch, and an identification bracelet. No other jewelry, though. You wouldn’t want any brighter glitter with your shining WAAC insignia.
38. Must My Hair Be Worn a Special Way?
Wear it any way that’s natural and becoming. That’s up to you. Just be sure it’s neat and above your collar.
39. When Do I Wear My Hat?
Outdoors you wear your hat. Indoors you do as you’d do wearing civilian clothes – hat or no hat, either way.
40. May I Use Cosmetics?
Why not? The Army wants you to be attractive and feminine – not a dull, “washed-out Winnie.” So go right ahead. Use your lipstick, your powder and rouge. Just use good taste and keep it inconspicuous. (Even in civilian life, you don’t want to look like a painted doll.) Nail polish isn’t frowned on either, as long as it’s a lightish shade.
41. Is There Social Life in the WAAC? Will I Have Fun?
Bushels of it! The only trouble with a Waac’s off-duty time, is that she usually has so many swell things to do, she can’t tell which to choose. On an Army post, for instance, you’ll go to Army dances, and probably get the rush of your life! You’ll be invited to men’s Service Club parties. You may be asked to visit Army classes, and share extra courses in such interesting things as radio code and camouflage. You’ll get in on special entertainments staged by visiting movie and radio stars. You’ll see the best movies – usually before they hit the big towns!
42. What About Extra Activities – Like Dramatics, Art and Music?
You’ll find yourself with dozens of extra activities and hobby classes to choose from, if you want them. Glee Clubs. Classes in art, photography, languages, and leathercraft. And wait till you see the grand dramatic shows the Waacs take part in!
43. Are Dates With Army Men Allowed?
Of course. You’ll have plenty! And with Navy men, Marines, and civilians, too! In Army camps, military custom prevails. WAAC auxiliaries and noncommissioned officers date enlisted men and noncoms. WAAC officers date Army officers.
44. What About Friends Who Are Officers?
If you’re an auxiliary and have friends who are officers (either men or women) you can still be friends off duty. On duty, they’re your superior officers, and you’ll want to remember your “military manners,” and act accordingly.
45. What Kind of Girls Will I Meet in the WAAC?
You’ll meet all kinds of girls from all parts of the country. Girls who’ve traveled all over the world. Girls who’ve never been away from home before. You’ll meet opera singers and secretaries. Milliners and movie actresses. Writers, teachers, artists, statisticians. The pick of America’s girls are in the WAAC – you’re bound to make friendships you’ll value all your life.
46. Can a Married Woman Join the WAAC?
Indeed, yes – provided you have no dependents, no children under fourteen.
47. Can a Serviceman’s Wife Join?
Of course! And she’ll get a special thrill out of being in the WAAC – sharing her husband’s experiences, and helping to get him home sooner! (And you can’t blame her husband for being pretty proud of her!) Don’t forget – servicemen’s wives keep right on getting their monthly allotments while they’re in the WAAC.
48. Can I Get Married While I’m in Service?
Of course you can. You can say “I do” at any time while you’re in service. And the WAAC places no restrictions on whom you marry, either – Army man, Navy man, Marine, or civilian. That’s your choice . . . .
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52. How Long Do I Serve?
The same as Army men. The WAAC term of service is for the duration of the war, plus six months afterwards.
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56. What Are the Requirements for Joining the WAAC?
Age: 21 to 44 years, inclusive.
Citizenship: You must be a citizen of the United States.
Marriage: You may be single or married.
Dependents: You must be without dependents; without children under 14.
Character: Must be excellent, of course.
Education: Two years of high school, business school, or similarly accredited school is required. (No high school or college diploma necessary.)
Health: Your health has to be good. You’ll be given a physical examination at the Recruiting Center. Your height and weight should be average.
57. Why Should I Join the WAAC Right Away?
An imperative call has gone out from our Army. More Waacs are needed urgently – now! But there aren’t enough to fill the demand. The faster you get in the WAAC, the more you can help to get the war won quickly and bring our soldiers home again. Looking at it selfishly – the faster you get in the WAAC the better your chances for quick promotion. (It’s really an extra-special thrill to pin on those nice, shiny lieutenant’s bars!)
58. Why Is the WAAC More Important Than Other War Work?
There are many jobs at home to be done in this war. Important jobs. Useful jobs. But there are many people who can do them. Older women, teen-age girls, women ineligible for the WAAC.
Only a special group of women can serve in the WAAC. Only women without dependents – of a certain age and physical condition. If you fit the requirements, then joining the WAAC is the most important job you can do in this war. You, and only you, can help our soldiers where they need you most!
A. What tactics does this pamphlet use to entice women into joining the WAACs? How do the questions reveal the anxieties women might have about joining? Did the invitation to women to serve in uniform during the war upend gender roles?
B. How did serving in the WAACs compare to working for the war effort at home (Document 30)? Did men and women view female war work differently?
- Emily Post (1872–1960) was a well-known etiquette expert.