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Find: The Women’s Army Corps

Join the WAC
Did you know that Fold3 has a huge number of documents from World War II about the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), including hundreds of photos? If you’re not already familiar with the WAC, you might be surprised to find out just how versatile this group was during the war.

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. The women of the WAC (called WACs) worked with the Army in over 200 types of positions, including as clerks, stenographers, secretaries, teletype operators, mechanics, instructors, weather forecasters, course plotters, photo analysts, telephone operators, parachute riggers, drivers, radio operators, electricians, and cryptographers. However, within this diverse array of jobs, WACs were most often assigned to clerical and communications jobs, which the Army deemed appropriate for women.

Over the course WAAC becomes WAC in 1943 of the war, around 150,000 WACs served at home and abroad, in places like England, France, Italy, New Guinea, the South Pacific, North Africa, China, and India—just to name a few. Although they sometimes faced discrimination and criticism, WACs were in high demand, and the officers they worked with—including General Eisenhower—often praised them for their hard work and skill. Their admirable qualities were proven by the fact that at the end of the war, 657 WACs received citations and medals.
Do you have any family members who served in the WAAC or WAC? You can find all sorts of information and images from the Corps on Fold3.

58 Comments

  1. Along with WAACs/WACs, WWII saw WAVES, Air WACs, SPARs, WASPs, and the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. U.S. Military women were among the POWs in the Pacific as well as in Europe. The military females best remembered by our wounded GI’s were the Nurses. And did you know that the WACs didn’t end with WWII? Many females volunteered and others were even recalled to active duty for the Korean Conflict, and military women were in-country in Vietnam between 1962-1972. We continued on until we were finally integrated into the “real” Army in 1976. Suddenly, and with very little fanfare, we went from studying M-16 stick-drawings on blackboards to actually having to range-qualify … often with no prior hands-on training. The men were not generally keen on women having weapons larger than a nail file in our hands. How do I know, you may ask? I joined the WACs in 1970, made the transition to the Army in 1976, and retired from active duty in 1995. We saw a lot of changes during that period, and I’m not just talking about all of the modified uniform styles we had to buy every other year. Cords, wools, and cottons gave way to polyesters and back again; hard as a board starch transitioned to no starch and then a little starch; brown shirts with round tabs were replaced by white shirts with round tabs, followed by green shirts with angled tabs. At one point, we had a polyester pantsuit with a light green turtle neck sweater. About the same time as the pantsuit and sweater, we had a kind of lime green polyester skirt with short-sleeved top and lime green polyester short-sleeved dress with an accompanying long-sleeved blouse; civilians thought I was a well-decorated Girl Scout leader wearing that. And then there were all the changes to our fatigues and BDUs, with all their fabric and color changes. Along with the uniform changes, female soldiers were allowed to have a steadily increasing amount of job options and levels of responsibility. It was difficult convincing the big brass that there was no sense trying to leave women in the rear, when future warfare would involve enemies attacking not just the front, but inside the perimeter and the rear, too. Then we had Desert Storm, and the terrible night that a scud missile hit a barracks in Al Khobar, leaving 27 dead and 98 wounded; they were the men and women assigned to an activated Reserve Unit from Pennsylvania. Battle lines didn’t just become blurred that 25th of February 1991 … they were totally obliterated. Afterwards, women soldiers finally began getting the weapons and physical training essential for survival; new and improved training initiatives continue to this day. Women still encounter roadblocks in reporting attacks from their male counterparts, but there has been progress. There will always be room for progress … just as there will always be women in the U.S. Armed Forces.

    • I read your letter with great interest. I am an Air Force brat and had numerous contacts with WAC’s and Air WAC’s over the years. It seems that little recognition has been given to the women in the military-certainly not the amount deserved. Thank you for your service to our country.

    • Oh how I remember all of those WAC and female uniforms! I swear it seemed like every year a new uniform came out. The grestest and best change though was allowing women to wear the male atique pants with zippers instead of those double row buttons (like 6 on each side)! Actually the WACs did not disband until 1978. I joined in February 1977 and basic training was at Fort McClellan and we wore WAC Pallas Athena insignia until intergration into “The Army” in 1978. It was a couple of years later that women in the Army were allowed to remain in the Army and have children. Previously if you were pregnant you were discharged. I remeber in 1982 that there were no maternity uniforms so I had to were civies with our nameplate and rank on them. I joined as a Private, Army paid for my 2 year then 4 year degree and then received a direct commision. Retired in 2000 as a Captain.

    • Oh I had to post one more comment about weapons qualification. At first men were a bit skeptical about we women firing weapons and combat support operations. I put those concerns to rest in that I had the best qualification score in our entire Battalion 2 years in a row…yes I really liked my M16! I served with a lot of Vietnam soldiers and worked as hard (harder in some cases) as anyone. Respect wasn’t given and it was a bit hard on women but we earned the respect of our peers. The ultimate complimate was from a grizzled old 1st Sergeant who told me “Ma’am, I’d serve with you anytime anyplace.”

    • Thank you so much! I was pleased to see that The Fold now has a site for WAC’s. and loved your comment about all the changes over the years. My mom was a WAVE (US Navy) in WWII and enlisted shortly after the legislation was signed creating that branch of the service. As you said, most people think of women in WWII as nurses. My mom was a Mailman – yes – male or female, it was Mailman. Her rank was MaM3c. She and my dad married at the end of the war and she retired her uniform to become wife and mom. On the Fold site, there is a photo of she and my dad getting married in their uniforms. She was stationed in Washington, DC at the Navel Barracks, and he was recovering from injuries received in the South Pacific in Washington, DC when they met. Mom died very young, and I really appreciate the stories of women Vets who post. God Bless you and yours and thank you for your service!

    • I remember how much starch it took to get that cardboard look. I also remember that the permanent press was given to the next trainees at Fort McClellan, AL. It was December 1971.

  2. My mother was a WASP & I was so proud of her: Helen Louise Hall. Can’t wait to read all of your stories! Sharon Lee

    • My mother was a WASP (44-5) as well. Your mother’s name is so familiar, I imagine I met her at some of their reunions. What a great bunch of gals!

  3. Here’s to Ruth Milliot, the oldest living female Marine veteran. She is 102 or 103 years of age, and aside from some hearing loss, is all there.

    • Oohrah, Teuffel Hunden! Women Marines no longer are called “WM’s” but quite simply ‘Marines.’ Once A Marine, ALWAYS a Marine! Keep on Chargin’, Hard-Charger!! You are an Inspiration to ALL of us Ex-Marines, Ruth Milliot!!! One-Hundred-and-Two Years Old and you STILL are leading the way, …and STILL the GREATEST GENERATION!!! You’re One-in-one-hundred-and-two-Thousand Million, Milliot!!! THANK-YOU for U, RUTH!!!

  4. I have been unable to find any information on my mother’s cousin, Jimmie. Eugenia Redman, who was said to have joined a branch of the U.S. military during. WWII.

    She was living in Texas at the time of her enlistment.

  5. A lady in my county here in Tennessee was in the WACs; helped ferry bombers from the U.S. to England.

  6. Any information to assist a search for information on Yeoman (F) of the first world war? My great aunt was a member and I’d like to find her service records if possible.

    • I wrote the National Personnel Records Center at 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis Missouri 63132-5100 for my father, father-in-law and grandfathers and at the time the search was free but I think they now charge a fee. Hope this helps.

  7. My aunt, Alma Pearl Mathis of Brazos Co. Texas, was a driver stationed in New York City. She drove Officers from place to place. I have a picture of her in uniform standing in the snow.

  8. My mother was a WAC during WWII,,,,she was a secretary, drill sgt, and served stateside and the South Pacific. In 1974 I joined the Army, and in 2000, my daughter joined the Air Force. Three generations of women in the military.

    • Congtulatons and thank your mother, you and daughter for your service! How unique and wonderful for the ladies of your family. My Grandfather and father served; I and my husdand also. Now our sons have and are serving – one was 101st and now Tennessee Nationa Guard, the other serving in the 82nd now. Family heritage of service.;hoooorahhh!

  9. I hope that Fold 3 will also include other groups, such as the WAVES.

    • I too would like to hear what is available on the service of the US Cadet Nurse Corps under the US Public Health services. We signed saying that we would serve for the duration and the reconstruction period. And we are recognized by the Women in Military service Memorial in DC. We have tried for many years to be recognized in a Veteran status. My service is recognized from 1943 to 1945 at the end of WW11. Respectfully submitted. M.Lorraine Kench.

    • I would like to know if Fold3 has information about the WAVES women, also. My mother was a WAVE, and worked out of the Maryland naval barracks, also. I have some information, but have not been able to find detailed service records, nor any information about when she and a small group of women service members had tea with Eleanor Roosevelt!
      Fold3, please keep adding information, documents and newspaper items about women in the service of the US!

  10. There have been many members of my family that have served in the military. My father was in the 82nd Airborne, fought at the Battle of the Bulge, and was one of the few survivors of his group for some of the engagements. My unit was a CSH (Combat Support Hospital). The MASH units were toward the front, and CSH’S not far behind. My service time was from 10/86 -11/02. I loved it that we could go anywhere in the world and were immediately taken into the fold of whatever military group were there. I have so many memories. I’m proud that my unit (337th CSH) had a long history for excellance. They received a Unit Citation for their service in WWII, and went on to be a part of troops in Desert Storm, and Bosnia. I love that I was part of this great huge patriotic family, that still looks out for each other, no matter how much time passes, and to this day, I still miss being a part of that unity. It just isn’t found in civilian life.

    • No matter where you go there is a brotherhood/sisterhood of military. You can walk up to any vet or soldier and there is this instant commadarie and connection. Every time I see someone wearing a vet hat I always start up a conversation to what branch, unit, etc and thank them for their service. It’s so neat to see their eyes light up and smile for just sayig thank you. And it’s great to hear to their stories also!

  11. My mother quit nurse’s training one year shy of her RN, enlisted & served in the 30th WAC Hospital Co. She met my father, a member of the 1101 Medical Detachment Unit. They married while still in service. They married in the morning, had a celebratory lunch with their witnesses & went back on duty that afternoon. As far as I know, they never did get any sort of honeymoon; not while still in the Army or afterwards once they re-entered civilian life.

  12. My sister, Pearl Nickell, now deceased, joined the WACs in 1944 and moved from Fort Ogelthorpe, Ga., to Auburn, California, and then to Walter Reed Hospital. She loved the experience, planned to make a career of it, but hurt her back, and left the service. Anyone remember her?

  13. When searching the WWII Women’s Army Corps the only names provided are men? Am I doing something wrong?

  14. My mother (19 yrs. old from University of Pa.) was a cadet nurse in the Army Nurse Corp at Valley Forge. In April 1944, her first patient was my 19 yr. old father who had just arrived after a land-mine explotion had permanently blinded him near St. Die, France. My father had turned down the opportunity to play catcher with the Detroit Tigers, to volunteer to fight for his country. He was an engineer in Patton’s Third Division. Kenneth and Mary Clark were married 6 mos. later and together began a new journey, where they raised three daughters, my father earned his Master Degree in Social Work, and through a faith in God, determination and a never failing sense of pride in our country, lived a full life until cancer took my father in 1992. They did their part to keep us free, which inspired many who knew them! I never once heard from either of my parents, regret for their sacrifice, It was their duty to God and country, a lesson many in our country need to learn. Today we are grateful and proud of the sacrifice of our current military and their families.

  15. My mother was in the first graduating class Lady Marines at Hunter College. At one time she chauffeured Eleanor Roosevelt and Madam Chaing Kai-Shek. Until the day of her death, when the Marines’ Hymn was played, she would jump from a deep sleep to attention.

  16. I am almost 93 years old. I joined the WAAC in 1943 and was sworn in again into the WAC. I served stateside for more than a year, then volunteered to serve overseas. i
    served in New Guinea, then in Manila, Philippine Islands, where i was a clerk/typist in
    the Radio and Cable section, the most demanding and satisfying job. The man who
    later became my husband served with the Air Corps on Biak Island. Our son later
    served in the Navy and our daughter served in the Air Force. I was privileged to go on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. a few years ago with my son as my Guardian, a memorable experience.

    • Dear Ruby,
      Did you by any chance know my great aunt Toni Buffum? She served in New Guinea and the Philippines too, as well as Occupied Japan. She passed away in 2001 at the age of 99. I never met her, but would love to connect with you if you knew her. I have her correspondence from her time overseas, hundreds of letters written to her mom. I know she was trained in the Signal Corps, and also served as a driver. The period she served was 1943 to 1946.

    • Ms. Ruby–Thank you for your service, and that of your family members! It is great to know you are still involved and chronicling the service, here. I hope you are writing your own story for posterity!

  17. I was a WAC back in 1973, got out of the Army in 1979, went back in 1987 and did another 20 years due to the fire at Fort Ben that destroyed many of our past records. It took a while, but I finally put enough history back together to prove those 6 years (I had rid myself of all papers as I had no plans to go near the military again.) and I retired with 26.5 years on 31 Dec 2006. I lost my husband to heart problems in March of 2006, so I decided it was time to retire and stay home and take care of the Terriers. I will always remember and love the time that I spent in the WACs and the Army in general. I think all young people should do 2 years of service and see how other people in other lands live. P.S. I still have my WAC ring and my Palace Athena brass!!

  18. My Mom was a 1st Lt and served in the Asiatic Pacific Theater in Alaska from May 1943-July 1945 as a Nurse 3449. I can never see anything about her online at Genealogy websites, I was told by NARA, because she was an officer. Are you saying that Fold3 has access to such records now?

  19. I was one of the last WACs to go through Ft McClellan AL. I joined April 1975 and retired 22 years later. I really miss the army. I was also an Air Force brat for 19years before I joined the army. My dad served for 26 years. I always told him one day I would outrank him. Unfortunately he died while I was an E7, I did retire as an E9 like him.

    • Do you still live in Alabama? It is my home state, and some of my friends went to WAC school there. God Bless you for your service.

  20. I was a Vietnam era woman veteran. I enlisted in the Air Force in 1967, continued with the Air Force Reserves, became an officer, and retired from the AFRes with 26 years.
    I belong to my local American Legion Post. Recently I started working on woman veterans issues.
    In particular, I noticed that there were some 71,000 woman veterans from Pennsylvania eligible to be recognized in the national Womens Memorial at Arlington, and only a bit over 10,000 were actually registered. (Google them.)
    I started a local effort to tell people about women veterans, and to find the name and information about women veterans, from any era, from northeastern Pennsylvania.
    I am using ancestry.com and fold3.com to find any additional information that can add to their documentation.
    If you are a woman veteran, are you registered? It doesn’t have to be a $25 donation to register. You can give anything you are comfortable with.
    This is definitely a way to honor the service of women veterans in your family.
    For general information about women veterans, have you seen “Unsung Heroes”? Apparently it has been shown on PBS. I don’t own or watch TV. I got a copy of the DVD from the memorial and was fascinated by it. My Post bought copies to present to the local high schools, the library, and the Girl Scouts, so they would know what woman veterans have done and continue to do.
    Ancestry and Fold 3 have the data. The Womens Memorial has the stories. Please add your story as I will be adding mine.
    Jan Gavern,
    Capt, USAFRes, Retired

  21. Hello, I would love to hear from Mary nee Haydon from Dallas. She was a nurse at Baylor Hospital when I was a young child. She was my Dads nurse(Sidney A. Gilmore) She was a wonderful person. She and her sister (Becky) came to our ranch in Liberty Hill Texas just before Pear Harbor. I cannot remember her married name. Too many years ago. But I often think of her care when my dad was in the hospital and we had such wonderful times on the reanch.nmMArya nd
    Becky really enjoyed the ranch life.They had never been on a ranch before…Thanks for listening and I have a wonderful picture of her in her Wave(I think Wave) uniform…….Sincerely and thanks to the wonderful women who serve …Colleen Gilmore Collier

  22. My wife was a WAAC and a WAC. Her name was Elsie Rapoza from Fairhaven, MA. She joined in early 1943, was in Russelville, AR and then to Minter Field near Bakersfield, CA . I met her when I was stationed at Minter field early 1944 as a cadet. She remained at Minter Field during the war. When I graduated at Luke Field AZ in 1945 we were married at the Bakersfield Inn. We both were discharged in 1946 moved to MA, raised 3 successful girls, moved to Lake Havasu City, AZ then to Southern CA where she passed away in 2001 at 84. She had many other WAC friends, one of which was Helen Serafin who married a Dagostino in Kettering OH.
    Anyone remember her? I don’t imagine many are around that are 95.

  23. I was a WAC from 12/66 to 12/69. Basic at Ft. McClellan, AL; AIT training at Ft. Gordon, GA for Communications Specialist; stationed at Ft. Belvoir, VA for 1 1/2 years and then Frankfurt, Germany for 1 year. Loved my time in, met wonderfl people from all over the world. Very proud to have served. Hooah!

  24. My older sister, Patricia Williams, was a 2nd lieutenant in the WAC. She served as a nurse at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. Many of her patients there were Russian prisoners of war who had been set free by our troops. They tried to teach her to speak Russian.

  25. In the air over Europe and lost I could select a specific radio channel
    Identify myself and ask for a heading home. The reassuring voice was
    always a WAC. The calming effect when fuel was low was unbelievable.
    One other contact. While on a train returning from leave I sat in coach
    next to a WAC. The first I had ever seen. I don’t recall the conversation
    but I recall her name. Elizabeth J. Smay from Jamestown PA.
    It sort-a rhymes guess that’s why I remember. It was late 1942. She was probably one of the early recruits.

  26. I served from 1943 to 1945 in the US Cadet Nurse corps and would enjoy hearing from some other 90 year old nurses who did the same.

  27. All my folks, War I & War II were nurses. I have seen no records for them on Fold 3. Nor do you seem to have access to General Orders; my Uncle Ted’s Silver Star citation is in one, the number and date of which I have. My grandfather was Sp Am War – not much on that one, either. I do keep an eye on Fold 3; maybe someday you’ll have enough records for me to rejoin up. Until then may I recommend to readers of these posts a book by Elizabeth Norman, “We Band of Angels” about the nurses of Bataan…and a couple of others I don’t have right beside me. It’s really hard to find books by & about military nurses in the used books sites, because the title often doesn’t indicate the topic. Maybe you’d like to add a book finder by service or event to the Fold 3 offerings. I collect books about the nooks and crannies of WWII (so far) history; for example “Secret Soldiers,” “A Question of Honor” Wojtek, Soldier Bear, etc. ad inf.

  28. Very nice article on those courageous women in both World Wars. I was proud to follow in their footsteps in 1976 as a Direct Commision into the Women’s Army Corps. We were the first WAC unit to receive Army branch designations ( I received my Transportation ,Branch insignia). We were also some of the first women to integrate into the all-male Army from the WAC. I served 30 years. My sister Jane joined the WAC in January 1975. Other than all the uniform changes in the WAC – I made some friends for life.

  29. I was a WAC in the 60’s
    .Served as an officer. In charge of the Student enlisted branch at Fort Bennning.

  30. My mother, Evelyn Mallinder Ellwood, was in both the WAAC and WAC. She served in North Africa in the Provost Marshall’s office and loved it. When I graduated high school, I wanted to see some of the things she had seen, so I enlisted. The only thing, I enlisted as a Marine. I got to see the same sand that she did only mine was in 29 Palms California instead of Cairo Egypt. Although Mom passed away a number of years ago, I will never forget the inspiration she was to me or the many experiences she related to friends and family.

  31. Myom was a WAC and I have her ring and discharge papers. I was and am so proud of her.

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  34. I too can not find any information on female military. i have a lot of women in my family who served and i cannot find them. WWII,Korea, Viet Nam and Middle East.?

  35. I am a Vietnam Era Veteran. Went through basic and AIT at Fort McClellan AL…then on to Fort Dix NJ, before reenlisting and going to Okinawa Japan. Some of my best memories are the years I spent in the US Army. June 1970 – September 1976. I got out as a Sergeant and experience in the field of Administration and Military Police. With that experience, I retired in 2005 with 30+ years in law enforcement. I met my first husband while stationed with the 96th MP Battalion in Sukuran Okinawa. From there went to Fort Belvoir VA and was with the Davidson US Army Airfield. My husband went to Fort H in AZ and from there he was to go to Fort Lewis WA. So I drove across the country from Fort Belvoir VA to Fort Lewis WA, only to have my husband get sent to Fort Benning, GA. The Army wouldn’t move me again, so after we got divorced… I got out because of being pregnant. Then you only had three choices, give child up to family members, adopt him out, or get out..so I got out of the Army. Tried on several occasions to go back in, but I was turned away because I still had my small son, and was no longer married. Wasn’t about to give him up to my family or to some stranger. I remarried my late husband in 1981. He was a retired US Army WO3, Vietnam Veteran. He passed away in May 2005 from complications brought on by Agent Orange. I miss being in the Army, and would have retired back in 2000 if only they had let me back in, child included. To all my fellow sisters of the Military, Thank you for you service and your sacrifices. Females will always be the backbone of any Armed Forces….the men would be lost without us. God Bless you all.

  36. My 2nd cousin, Catharine Callan of NYC, NY was a WAVE.
    My father told me she was the first WAVE to be discharged from the WAVES and that she was photographed for the WAVE magazine at the time. I have found some of the WAVE magazines online however I have not found the one of Catharine Callan yet.

  37. I would love to hear from some of my E-3 sisters. Phillis Wishart was our platoon Sargent. I am a class clown, i had a friend named Glenda Phelps. Kat Reilly,, Barb Levan. and Moomaw..

  38. The First night in Fort McClellan, was Oct. 26, 1971. It was so scary, but thank God i had a bunch of platoon sisters who were life savers. Seemed like a lot of misfits got together a made miracles happen. Glenda celebrated her acceptance to the Army, and got pregnant. She was from Louisville Kentucky.

  39. iT WAS A NICE SURPRISE TO READ FOLD 3 ON LINE AND FIND FINALLY RECOGNITION OF THE US CADET NURSE.

  40. I had a Aunt in the Marines in the 40’s. Name was Ada Anderson Woodward.
    I believe at one time she was stationed at the 29 Palms Base. Probably toward the end of the war.

  41. Ann was my mother she serviced our country as a wac
    in the days. she got a honer discharge. I would love too know more.. She had 5 children’s i”m the youngest of all of us.

  42. I am the proud daughter of Cpl. Marie A.Mason, who served our country as a WAC.
    She served during WWII, she graduated from the Surgical Technician School at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. My mother was assigned to Keesler Field, Mississippi. Where she served until she was sent to Fort Dix, NJ for separation. Another Philadelphia, PA girl comes home after proudly serving her country.

  43. barbara Catherine Nalle is the daughter of Catherine Barbara Gutuskie who served as a WAC, during WWII, out of Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Catherine married Francis A. Nalle, of Ashland, a Kentucky, who also served in the military during WWII. I am trying to locate information about my mother, Catherine, and her achievements as a WAC.