Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was authorized by Congress and signed into law by the president on May 15, 1942. Its name was changed more appropriately to the Women's Army Corps (WAC) in September 1943. This segment of the U.S. Army was created to free male soldiers from clerical and other support tasks. Women in Britain and the Soviet Union had been subject to being drafted into the armed forces since the early days of their countries' engagements in the war. America was an ocean away from both Japan and Germany and was not fighting for its very existence. Consequently female service here was laudatory but not mandatory.

The navy, marines, and coast guard had female counterparts too and in all some 300,000 women served in the military during the course of the war. The WACs enrolled approximately 60,000 female officers and enlisted women. They joined variously out of committed patriotism, for a new and exciting experience, and for employment security. Uniforms were designed by Lord & Taylor of New York City.

Most WACs who were going to had joined up by the summer of 1943. Thereafter recruiters found it exceedingly difficult to attract volunteers. Defense industries offered considerably higher wages and at the end of a woman's shift her time was her own. While men were being drafted at a rate of 12,000 a day in 1943, women were volunteering at a trickle of that number. The fact that more did not volunteer does not reflect poorly on their gender. They were not required to serve after all while men were. And large numbers of women were fighting the war on the home front by among other things doing the jobs that male soldiers and sailors had performed in peacetime.

Points to Consider

Why were women being recruited for service in the army?

Why would a woman want to join the army in 1943?

In this fact sheet why is it stressed that WACs normally were not required to perform kitchen duties?

Besides those positions specified in paragraph five, what would have been some of the other non-combat tasks performed by WACs?

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