By Olivia J MendozaNovember 13, 2008
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - It has been 30 years since the Women's Army Corps was disestablished on Oct. 20, 1978.
The Women's Army Corps was the women's branch of the U.S. Army. Over 150,000 American women, between the ages of 21 and 45, served in the WAC during World War II. Members of the WAC were the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks of the Army.
The Army and the American public had difficulty accepting women wearing uniforms. The men feared that the women Soldiers would take over the safe jobs. In 1942, an auxiliary unit was created, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and in 1943 the WAC became permanent.
In December 1942, a group of 150 WAAC trainees at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, were transferred to the 30th WAAC Post Headquarters Company there. They were the first unit to be deployed from Fort Des Moines to Fort Sam Houston Dec. 15.
The trainees were placed in barracks located near the intersection of Lawton and Chaffee roads on Fort Sam Houston, said John Manguso, director of the Fort Sam Houston Museum. The women were assigned to a single company for accountability purposes under the command of women officers and attached out to the various agencies for duty.
"When the WAAC arrived at Fort Sam Houston, the general idea was that women could replace men in many administrative and logistical jobs so that men could be placed into units going overseas to fight the war," Manguso said. "The WAAC Company worked as office clerks, chauffeurs, supply clerks, journalists, cooks and bakers."
The WAAC served in the motor pool, dental clinics, post surgeon office, billeting office, service club, post ordnance, personnel, post headquarters, Judge Advocate General, provost marshal, post newspaper, post quartermaster and the post office at Fort Sam Houston, he said.
On Aug. 5, 1943, members of the WAAC marched to the main flagpole on Stanley Road. There, they were sworn into the U.S. Army with new legislation that ended the Auxiliaries and established the Women's Army Corps as part of the Army. This permitted them to be sent overseas.
WACs were in high demand overseas as telephone switchboard operators and typists. In order to meet the demand, women were actively recruited for the WAC.
"The demand for manpower was so great that women were assigned to WAC units going overseas to combat zones," Manguso said.
The 30th Post Headquarters Company reorganized July 21, 1944, and became the WAC Detachment, 1857th Army Service Unit. It was the ancestor unit of U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Sam Houston.
By the end of World War II, there were four additional WAC companies that served here, Manguso said. Three were WAC hospital companies which served Brooke General Hospital, and a fourth, which was transferred from Fort Sheridan, Ill. The unit was composed of black women and became the WAC Detachment (Colored), 1857th Army Service Unit.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the major tenants on post each had a WAC company. This included BAMC; the Medical Field Service School; the Fourth Army and the garrison, Manguso said.
(Olivia J Mendoza works in the Fort Sam Houston Public Affairs Office)