The original intent of the WAC was to last for the duration of the war plus 6 months. Yet, their contributions and accomplishments would be recognized with the passage of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 establishing a permanent Women’s Army Corps which lasted another 30 years. A WAC Training Center and School was established at Fort McClellan, Alabama and WACs went on to serve in the Korean Conflict, Cold War Europe, and Vietnam.
With the onset of the Women’s Movement and the elimination of the draft after Vietnam, the Army began to review their gender policies and emphasis was placed on parity and increasing opportunities for women in uniform. In 1972, almost all military occupational specialties, except those that might require combat training or duty, were opened to both officers and enlisted women in the WAC. This same year, the first enlisted women entered the Drill Sergeant Course. By 1975, The Secretary of Defense eliminated involuntary discharge for pregnancy and parenthood and Congress passed a law mandating women be allowed to receive training at the United States Military Academy at West Point. This same year, weapon’s training was mandated for all Soldiers and thus female officers, warrant officers, cadets, and officer candidates received the same training as men. In 1977, men and women entered combined basic training in an experiment that was eliminated a few short years later. All of these changes led to a Congressional Act in October, 1978, that disestablished the WAC as a separate Army Corps.
On 27 June 1950, President Harry S. Truman ordered U.S. Air and naval forces into the Republic of Korea (South Korea). With the outbreak of the Korean Conflict, the WAC strength authorization at once increased. WAC officers were involuntarily recalled to active duty. Additionally, over 500 Army nurses served on the Korean peninsula, most assigned to Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals.
Approximately 20 percent of WACs served overseas during the Korean War. They were needed to work in direct support of the combat theater in hospitals, as communicators, supply specialists, record keepers and administrators in Japan and Okinawa. Although a WAC Unit was not established in Korea, individual WACs did serve there on special assignments, and contact was established with the Corps counterpart in the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army.
The Korean Women’s Army Corps formed in 1950 around a group of policewomen trained by a former WAC, Alice A. Parrish. Beginning in 1951, a number of individual WAC officers and enlisted women filled key administrative positions in Pusan and later in Seoul.
Training at Fort McClellan, AL
In 1950 the Army initiated action to establish a permanent training center and home for the Women’s Army Corps. Congress concurred in the selection of Fort McClellan, Alabama.
In September 1954, General Matthew B. Ridgeway, the Chief of Staff of the Army, dedicated the WAC Center. The new center opened in early 1956, and included a headquarters with supporting personnel; a basic training battalion where newly enlisted women received eight weeks of basic training; a Women’s Army Corps School that trained enlisted women in typing, stenography, and clerical duties; and an Officer Candidate School.
The items in this exhibit are iconic to the WAC service era of the 1960s and 1970s. In February 1972, the first six Woman Army Corps noncommissioned officers from Fort McClellan, Ala., enrolled in the Drill Sergeant Program at Fort Jackson, S.C. When they graduated, they became the first to wear the new female drill sergeant hat.