African-Americans and WAC Program

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The history about women who served in the United States military during World War II is a complex story that evolved around policy development, cultural expectations, social norms, and race relationships. The war changed women’s expectations and gave impetus to movement for greater gender equality even though society expected women to leave the workplace and focus on their roles as wives and mothers. African American women made meaningful gains in the labor force and U.S. armed forces as a result of the wartime labor shortage during the Second World War, but these advances were sharply circumscribed by racial segregation, which was legal in all parts of the country, and virulent racism in the dominant culture.

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This paper provides a brief history about the inequality African American women in the WAC and WAAC had to endure during World War II.

The Women’s Army Corp (WAC) was the women’s branch of the United States Army. It was created during World War II to ensure women was unable to serve non-combat positions.On May 1941, Massachusetts Congresswoman Rogers proposed a bill for the establishment of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). World War II, the Army at times used women in “gender appropriate” roles. For example, civilian women, often known as camp followers, cooked and performed other chores for soldiers during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, much as they had done for their men amid peace. A few, women acted as nurses during the American Revolution and continued to do so after the country gained its independence, despite popular concerns about the close contact with males this work required. With the Army’s growing demand for nurses, the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) became a part of the U.S. Army Medical Department in 1901. The Army, however, did not award nurses rank, pay, or benefits equal to those offered to male soldiers. Such restrictions on the use of women also pervaded civilian economic sectors during this period.

The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps first training center was recognized at Fort Des Moines, Iowa and training started on July 1942. Women between the ages of 21 and 45 were eligible to enlist. Following training, companies of 150 women each was created. African American, Japanese American, Native American, and Hispanic women were encouraged to join the Corps, but were generally separated into segregated units just as the regular Army. July 1943, Roosevelt approved Congresswoman Rogers’ new bill that proposed the full incorporation of WAAC into the army. The WAAC became the Women’s Army Corps, and their benefits were made to match their male counterparts. The women of the WAC served with the Army Ground Forces, the Army Service Forces, and the Army Air Forces, both stateside and in nearly every theater of war. Their job titles included cook, typist, electrician, driver, mechanic, radio operator, and almost every other support role you can think of. Many were assigned to the Manhattan

During World War II, many factors prevented women from joining the WAAC. Women, no matter their ethnic background, often had to fight negative portrayals of their participation in the military. Many people questioned a woman’s character and morality. African American Women who entered the WAAC officer candidate class were placed in a separate platoon. Black women officer candidates had backgrounds similar to those of white officer candidates. Almost 80 percent had attended college, and many had work experience as teachers and office workers. From its beginning in 1942, black women were part of the WAAC. Recruitment of black women was limited to ten percent of the WAAC population matching the black proportion of the national population. Enlisted African American women served in segregated units, participated in segregated training, lived in separate quarters, ate at separate tables in mess halls, and used segregated recreation facilities.

The push to include African-Americans in the WAAC had faced challenges, but the efforts of African-American newspapers and activists, including Mary McLeod Bethune, a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “”Black Cabinet,”” and her good friend First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, had prevailed. Black officers were often treated with contempt by white officials and normally where denied equal access to accommodations and privileges commensurate with their rank. A quota was set for 10 percent of the WAAC. Violet Hill graduated from the first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps officer candidate school class at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, in August 1942. African-American women were allotted 40 slots in that first class, and they had to be well-educated and have professional experience. Later in the war, Officer Hill served as a captain and commander. “”I was sure I would never pass,”” recalled Capt. Violet Hill, Company D commander. “”At that time, I had completed two years of college.

Their goal was 40 Negro women who would then form the officer corps that would train the subsequent enlisted women. Their standards, their expectations and their hopes were high. They preferred women who had not only the education background but also some maturity and work experience, which would be an asset in embarking on an endeavor that was experimental and had a lot riding on it.””

The Women’s Army Corp (WAC) was the women’s branch of the United States Army. It was created during World War II to ensure women was unable to serve non-combat position. On July 1, 1943 President Franklin d. Roosevelt signed the legislation that changed the name of Woman Army Auxiliary Corp to the Women Army Corps. Women who was a part of the Women Army Corp was the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks in the United States Army. This was the norm after the war only women nurses could serve in the military peacetime, thousands of women who had served their country. During World War II women who served for a long period of time was expected to walk away from their service and go back to their civilian life. Sandra M. Bolzenius Glory in Their Spirit: How Four Black Woman Took On the Army During World War II discuss that many Black women who joined the WAC for career opportunities were intend assigned to the least skilled work often involving cleaning or other’s menial labor (Shibley, 2018). The United States military at the time had difficulty accepting women in uniforms due to the gender inequality that men is able of accomplishing more than women.

During World War II, while women was being discriminated base of gender, black women have been faced with both race and gender discrimination even to this day. According to Honey (2018), African American women had to fight very hard even to enter skilled spots on the production line in aircraft, shipyard work, and others well-paying war industries. Racist attitudes on the part white employers and coworkers in the nation’s war production during World War II hindered black women to gain employment in the in these unionized blue-collar jobs. When black women were hired jobs they are often forced to use separate restrooms for white women, they also work the most difficult job for the lowest about of money. Gerald (1986) pointed out how the treatment of race had played a major part in how African American people were treated during World War I and II. In particular, during World War I, the white South proved unwilling to allow African Americans to freely participate in society. At this time, politics, and violence were intertwined, and African Americans were constantly subjected to discrimination and attacks. The Neo-Bourdons, with the assistance of terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White camellia, and the Young Men’s Democratic Club (Florida), had moved to reestablish white supremacy. In states like South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana, where blacks made up a substantial portion of the population, political violence had become especially intense (Patron 14).

In 1943 alone, there were 242 violent attacks on African Americans in forty-seven cities as southern migrants to crowded cities clashed in public spaces over racial tensions simmering through American institutions. Despite the disappointing lack of progress for African American women in the wartime labor force, the war was a political watershed for them, and women played leading roles in articulating the community’s opposition to segregation and Jim Crow. Racial discrimination by the U. S military, as well as the nation against African American women in the WAC, was hypocritical. African American women were only accepted if there were openings in units and training facilities specifically designated for their “racial” category. White Women in the WAC did not have to work as cleaners and other jobs that were very hard for a low salary. Therefore, it is clearly evident that African American women were forced to endure racism and inequality in the WAC.

By June 1948, only four black officers and 121 enlisted women remained in the WAC. President Truman eliminated the issues of segregation, quotas, and discrimination in the armed forces by signing Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948. WACs began integrated training and living in April 1950. Affirmative action and changing racial policies opened new doors for black women. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, black women took their places in the war zone. Chief Warrant Officer Doris Allen was a senior intelligence analyst in Vietnam and one of few African American to accomplish extraordinary things as a Black Women in the WAC during World War II. Chief Warrant Officer Doris Allen stated:

I was recognized as having been responsible through production of one specific intelligence report, for saving the lives of “at least” 101 United States Marines fighting in Quang Tri Province. During my years of service I survived many prejudices against me as a woman, as a WAC, me as a soldier with the rank of specialist, me as an intelligence technician and me as a Black woman; but all the prejudices were overshadowed by a wonderful camaraderie. (Sheldon, 2017).

Black women and girls live at the intersection of sexism and racism. While sexism and racism are distinct forms of discrimination that manifest differently, their effects are compounded when a person experiences both at the same time. Intersectional discrimination perpetuates the racial and gender wealth gaps, limits black women’s access to educational opportunities, and negatively impacts their career advancement. The Discrimination against African American women and men who have served in the U.S. military lasted from its creation during the Revolution War to end of segregation by President Harry S. Truman’s Executive order in 1948. In On July 16, 2016 history was made as one of the first women to attend the U.S. Army ordnance School’s Artillery Mechanic. Angelika Jansen was the one of the first females to hold the military occupational specialty. The course was one of six the Army opened to women as part of an effort to loosen the combat exclusion provisions under the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule.

The report Comparing Sexual Harassment Subtypes among Black and White Women by Military Rank: Double Jeopardy, the Jezebel, and the Cult of True Womanhood indicated that black women reported more psychological distress following gender harassment than White women, and enlisted women reported more distress following gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion than officers. Although Black officers were less distressed at low levels of sexual coercion, as coercion became more frequent, their distress increased significantly, and at high levels. All groups were similarly distressed (Buchanan et. al, 2018). Women has always played a big role during the World War II not only in the military the story Hidden Figures which is about a group of dedicated African American women mathematicians known as who used slide rules, adding machines, and pencils to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets into space. These African American females were some of the brightest minds of their generation and problem solvers during World War II. World War II was the most significant event in American history, to a great extent because of the racial change it helped foster.

The civil rights movement was a fight for equal rights under the law for African Americans during the 1950s and 1960s. As whites at home went to war, African American women were left behind and only had access to manufacturing jobs previously unavailable to them. Today African Black Women are being taught new skills, are joining unions and are part of the industrial workforce. While the civil rights movement was a tremendous step for people of color, another movement was taking stride shortly after.

The feminist movement is a series of political campaigns for reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, women’s suffrage, sexual harassment, and sexual violence, all of which fall under the label of feminism and the feminist movement. The movement’s priorities vary among nations and communities, and range from opposition to mutilation in one country, to opposition to the glass ceiling in another. Feminism in parts of the western world has gone through three waves. Although the first wave of feminism involved mainly middle-class white women, the second wave brought in women of color and women from other developing nations that were seeking unity.

The majority of women served in nursing and clerical or support roles was women. Over 500,000 women had combat roles in anti-aircraft units in Britain and Germany, as well as front-line units in the Soviet Union. According to Slappey (1986), now there are many opportunities for women to serve in different roles throughout the military. They are now allowed to fly planes with the Air Force, study oceanography with the Navy, march with the Army, and even serve in support roles in the Marine Corps or National Guard.

Previous Women served bravely in World War II, even becoming prisoners of war and receiving medals and citations for their contributions. Many discriminations against women who had served in the military, convinced that their service had involved sexual immorality or nepotism and certain that they would want to subvert gender roles in the workplace. According to Moore (1991), although there is considerable scholarly literature on minorities (particularly African-American men) in the armed forces, no systematic study of the participation of African-American women exist. This omission is significant since the representation of black women has increased more than the last 15 years. There has been a greater percentage increase than any other segment of the military population.

Today their policy and regulation that fight for women right in the military. Women are being head on the same standard as men season being as the generation process there are more women whole high position in the U. S Military. Major General Nadja West is the first African American woman to be Major General of the Army’s active component. She is also Army Medicine’s first African American woman to be made two-star general. West is currently joint staff surgeon at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. She earned a Doctor of Medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine. In short there still room for improvement to the road of equality. Black women should be treated the same a White man that in charge and be look upon with the same respect that a white man acquire the U. S Military.

In brief, this paper highlighted how African American women in both the WAC and WAAC endured racism and discrimination. During World War II, the policies, cultural expectations, social norms, and race relations all adversely affected African American women in the military. For instance, African American women, in both the WAC and WAAC, was limited to ten percent of the WAAC population matching the black proportion of the national population. Enlisted African American women served in segregated units, participated in segregated training, lived in separate quarters, ate at separate tables in mess halls, and used segregated recreation facilities. The early 21st century has provided continued success for women in the military. Overcoming these obstacles the congressionally established Military Leadership Diversity Commission issued a report urging that women be allowed to serve in combat roles. The military has open many. Colonel Linda Mc Tague became the first female commander of a fighter squadron, while women in the Army and Marines edged ever closer to full combat duty.

The first step to addressing these issues is studying the past and acknowledging that gender and race inequality has existed in the military ever since World War I and World II. African American Women has been part of the U. S military and its campaign since the American Revolution. Society has changed. Many of these changes have been good. For instance African American women have succeeded and excelling in newly accessible jobs, specialties, and skill. In term of wages African American women were paid less than white women and men. In today’s society African American women earn equal wages in the military. To conclude, although there have been positive changes in the U.S. military, African American women still face issues related to racism and discrimination.

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African-Americans and WAC Program. (2019, May 02). Retrieved from