January 21, 1944: Women's Army Corps Arrives for Duty

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  • Women's Army Corps Detachment

The commander of the Muroc Women's Army Corps (WAC) unit, Provisional Detachment “W,” arrived for duty. First Lieutenant Jane I. Musser, a research bacteriologist and chemist in civilian life, was the first female service member to be assigned to the installation. Eight enlisted WACs arrived for duty a week later. The WAC detachment performed duties in the headquarters and had its own mess facility..

The Women's Army Corps (WAC) was the women's branch of the United States Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) on May 15, 1942. It converted to an active duty status in the Army of the United States as the WAC on July 1, 1943. Its first director was Oveta Culp Hobby, a prominent woman in Texas society.  The WAC was disbanded in 1978, and all units were integrated with male units.

Originally there were only four enlisted (or "enrolled") WAAC ranks (auxiliary, junior leader, leader, and senior leader) and three WAC officer ranks (first, second and third officer). The Director was initially considered as equivalent to a major, then later made the equivalent of a colonel. The enlisted ranks expanded as the organization grew in size. Promotion was initially rapid and based on ability and skill. As members of a volunteer auxiliary group, the WAACs got paid less than their equivalent male counterparts in the US Army and did not receive any benefits or privileges.

WAAC organizational insignia was a Rising Eagle (nicknamed the "Waddling Duck" or "Walking Buzzard" by WAACs). It was worn in gold metal as cap badges and uniform buttons. Enlisted and NCO personnel wore it as an embossed circular cap badge on their Hobby Hats, while officers wore a "free" version (open work without a backing) on their hats to distinguish them. Their auxiliary insignia was the dark blue letters "WAAC" on an Olive Drab rectangle worn on the upper sleeve (below the stripes for enlisted ranks). WAAC personnel were not allowed to wear the same rank insignia as Army personnel. They were usually authorized to do so by post or unit commanders to help in indicating their seniority within the WAAC, although they had no authority over Army personnel.


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