April 6, 2018

Marshall and W.A.C. Recruitment

On this day in 1944, a confidential memorandum from General George C. Marshall was distributed to all War Department General Staff and Special Staff divisions, overseas commanders, Army Ground Forces down to tactical units, as well as Army Air Forces, Army Service Forces, and Defense Commands down to posts, camps, and stations.

The constantly increasing shortages in manpower make it imperative for the Army to intensify its efforts to build up the strength of the Women’s Army Corps. A new drive is therefore to be launched which must be strongly supported by all concerned.

The Women’s Army Corps is now an integral part of the Army and a highly essential part of our war effort. Its units have met their responsibilities with efficiency and are rendering an invaluable service. However, reports indicate that there are local commanders who have failed to provide the necessary leadership and have in fact in some instances made evident their disapproval of the Women’s Army Corps. The attitude of the men has quickly reflected the leadership of their commanders, as always.

All commanders in the military establishment are charged with the duty of seeing that the dignity and importance of the work which women are performing are recognized and that the policy of the War Department is supported by strong affirmative action. – G. C. Marshall

The memo was in response to Women’s Army Corps Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby’s increasing concern that the “attitude of soldiers toward women in the military services” was a serious deterrent to recruiting. A few days later she reported that anti-W.A.C. statements had been made by some high-ranking officials, most of whom were not familiar with W.A.C. employment. Citing a major general’s remark in a national magazine that he “fortunately” had no experience working with the W.A.C. and did not want any ‘Wacs’ in his command, Colonel Hobby noted: “The attitude of the officers and enlisted men in the field will never change to the degree desired as long as key personnel, whose expressions can be assumed to
reflect the War Department attitude, make statements such as these.”

Later that month, General Marshall directed that a public relations group be formed to depict the W.A.C. program as successful. The Bureau of Public Relations was supplemented by twelve officer grades—six male and six female—to form the W.A.C. Group, headed by Colonel J. Noel Macy. Stories and photographs were to present the Women’s Army Corps as a success, showing the women performing jobs that were necessary to the war effort.