U.S. Army Women’s Museum Director to Talk at Marshall Foundation

Francoise Bonnell, Ph.D. director of the U.S. Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee. Virginia, will talk about “A Debt to Democracy and a Date with Destiny: The Women’s Army Corps and Its Legacy” beginning at 5:30 pm on Jan. 20 in the Pogue Auditorium at the Marshall Foundation in Lexington.

The public is invited and must register by calling Leigh McFaddin at (540) 463-7103, ext. 138 or by sending an email to mcfaddinlh@marshallfoundation.org. Members will be admitted free; non-members will pay $15 at the door. See the Foundation’s website for more information.

Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall said the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was established “for the purpose of making available to the national defense the knowledge, skill, and special training of the women of the nation.”
The need for manpower was enormous during this two-front war, and a diverse cross section of American women readily stepped forward to assume new roles. As a result, the strength and character of the women who served helped redefine the Army and the nation. Indeed, the legacy of this unprecedented event was poignantly illustrated on December 3, 2015 with the opening of all military combat roles and positions to women.

This event is a part of the All Who Want to Serve sequence of the Marshall Legacy Series and is being presented in partnership with the U.S. Army Women’s Museum.

Guests can see the exhibition, “For My Country, For Myself,” that opens that evening.

General George C. Marshall had a daunting problem to solve: staffing the Army for a global war. Working with a reluctant Congress in 1940, the visionary Marshall instituted an unpopular peace-time draft for military service.

As Marshall grew the Army to 8,000,000 in uniform by war’s end in 1945, he encouraged all able bodied men and women to serve. Women, in particular, found Marshall’s constant support during WWII. Starting with the formation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1941 by Congressional act, he made this unit a full member of the Army in 1943 as the Women’s Army Corps and selected Col. Oveta Culp Hobby to lead it. Women served in support roles in the Navy as WAVEs and in the (Army) Air Corps as WASPs. About 1.2 million women served in all services during WWII.

Marshall crossed traditional boundaries to create special units formed along racial and ethnic lines. The famous Tuskegee Airmen grew from the needs for more airmen in fighter units. Native American “code talkers” were deployed to the Pacific by the Army and Marine Corps to use native languages for coded communication. In January 1943 General Marshall approved the formation of all-Nisei combat units.

Several years later Marshall as secretary of defense during the Korean War instituted the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, DACOWITS, and it still exists.

The George C. Marshall Legacy Series interprets General Marshall’s legacy through a multi-year series of exhibitions, speakers and programs centered on key themes or episodes from General Marshall’s career.