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Memorandum for General Handy
January 5, 1945 Washington, D.C.
I have just been talking to the Director of the WAC, Mrs. Hobby, and she tells me that the ASF [Army Service Forces] is going after 5,000 nurses’ aides.
My guess would be that this will ruin what I want to do in creating general hospital companies in the WAC organization because of the pay status and general competition with the Red Cross.1 Please look into this.
My own opinion is that as a beginning we can create WAC companies for hospital service on a three-months basis and continue their technical training after they report for duty at the hospitals. Mrs. Hobby suggests, and I think it is a fine idea, that we call on the Governors to start a recruiting campaign for the number of women necessary to provide one of these companies for each general hospital in their State.
The Staff reported against the proposition of recruiting a company to be named the General Theodore Roosevelt Company and I think I sent this back to you with the comment that we probably were missing a good basis for recruitment. Have them reconsider this because if Governors can name the companies it may add a little zest to the campaign.2
Please look into this business and see that we are not working against ourselves in the enterprise. I want action.3
G. C. M.4
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Office of the Chief of Staff (OCS), 324.5 WAC, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.
1. During the last weeks of 1944, Surgeon General Norman T. Kirk requested eight thousand Women’s Army Corps enlisted medical technicians. At the same time, the Surgeon General requested five thousand Red Cross civilian nurses’ aides. Women’s Army Corps recruiters could not compete with Red Cross offers of higher pay and officer privileges for identical jobs on civilian status. Official W.A.C. historian Treadwell reports that “a Wac cost from $1,032 to $1,368 yearly, including pay, housing, food, and clothing, while a civilian nurses’ aide received $1,752 to $2,190 for a 48-hour week.” Women’s Army Corps medical technicians were working from 72 to 100 hours weekly, in addition to company duties, and upon assignment at the army hospitals were often used as kitchen police and charwomen rather than the medical positions for which they were qualified. W.A.C. Director Oveta Culp Hobby had worked to no avail with the Surgeon General’s Office to better assure that enlisted medical technicians would receive the job and grade promised during recruitment. Chief of Staff George C. Marshall proposed that W.A.C. medical and surgical technicians be assigned to U.S. Army hospitals in Table of Organization companies with specified job and grade. (Mattie E. Treadwell, The Women’s Army Corps, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1954], pp. 339-59; quote on p. 353.)
2. The Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Women’s Army Corps Company began recruitment on February 1, 1945. See the following document (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-011 [5: 15-17]).
3. The Personnel (G-1) Division immediately called representatives of the Surgeon General’s Office and the Women’s Army Corps to a meeting, and the group worked through the night preparing a plan to utilize Women’s Army Corps companies at army hospitals. One company, consisting of two officers and one hundred enlisted women, was recommended for each thousand beds. “The WAC personnel now on duty at General Hospitals will be absorbed into the companies within the Table of Organization strength. No personnel will be reduced in grade during this process.” Included was a publicity plan to dispatch a letter over the chief of staff’s signature to all state governors requesting them to recruit Women’s Army Corps units for assignment to a specific general hospital. (R. W. Berry Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, January 5, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 324.5 WAC].)
A letter over General Marshall’s signature was dispatched to the state governors on January 7, to which the governors eagerly agreed. (Marshall to Governor Matthew M. Neely, January 7, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) The recruiting campaign met and passed its quota by the end of March, and the training course received praise from students and instructors. Meanwhile, under threat of a draft, the nursing profession responded with an overabundance of nurses. Although the Surgeon General’s Office drew up the hospital Table of Organization (T/O), it believed that changed conditions warranted nullifying recruiting commitments. Hospital commanders objected to the W.A.C. T/O units, and pointed out that they “no longer needed Wacs to care for the sick, but were in urgent need of more orderlies, kitchen police, and charwomen.” In spite of War Department protests, the Medical Department continued to utilize the Women’s Army Corps enlisted units on duties as desired by the Surgeon General’s Office. (Treadwell, Women’s Army Corps, pp. 354-59.)
4. Assistant Secretary of the General Staff H. Merrill Pasco signed this document on behalf of General Marshall.
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 14-15.