May 30, 2005

WAC Life.

Both my parents served in the Army in WWII, and one of my personal treasures is War Department Pamphlet 35-3 May 1945: "WAC Life." This is not an entirely appropriate Memorial Day post, but let me offer you three scans from the book.

"Good Soldiering":

Good Soldiering

"Stay Feminine":

WAC Life.

"The Salute":

WAC Life.

(Click to enlarge. The text is readable.)

UPDATE: At my Flickr page, I can see that many more people have clicked on the "Stay Feminine" picture than the other two. Sissy Willis writes about that one. She transcribes this part of the text from my scan and adds boldface:
Keep your hair neat, your make-up fresh, your uniforms tidy. Use deodorant frequently. Check to see whether you have unpleasant breath. Above all, act and think like a person who expects to be liked and admired. Maintaining your feminine appeal will buck up your morale tremendously. When you're happy about life in general, you'll be happy about your life in the Army.

I am stunned, reading this pamphlet, at how clearly and concisely and cogently the Army advised its recruits. "Act and think like a person who expects to be liked and admired" -- that's just brilliant, isn't it?

Maybe we should be teaching our kids that and bolstering our own morale with that idea. Do you fritter away your mental energy worrying about whether people like and respect you? Quit worrying and agonizing and whining. You just need to act and think like a person who expects to be liked and admired.


Sharon Wertz said...

I was in the WAC in 1961-62. I was stationed at the Pentagon, and at West Point. I loved it. This was in the early days of VietNam and I worked in the Army Chief of Staff Communications Office in the Pentagon, processing reports from VietNam, then later was assigned to the hospital at West Point. The WAC was quite a lot different from today's army. We did mainly clerical work, communications, and nursing.

Ann Althouse said...

Nice to hear from you, Sunburst. My mother worked in a psychiatric social worker position at first, working with men with battle fatigue, but then later had less interesting work because they needed to tap people with typing skill.

KCFleming said...

Why "not an entirely appropriate Memorial Day post"? Au contraire. We remember all who served, in whatever capacity. For many women, of course, this meant assuming the factory jobs building planes and making ammunition.

I just finished reading the chapter in Stephen Ambrose's Citizen Soldier on "Medics, Nurses and Doctors." Women serving then had to ignore a stateside stigma (many suggestive jokes about them were told at home, but none by soldiers in action), and the lack of necessary personnel nearly resulted in a draft for women, which lost by one vote. 17 nurses were killed in the European Theater.
How very apropos we recall their service.

P.S. Forgive the Ambrose digression. IIRC, Sarah Vowell wrote in The Partly Cloudy Patriot that she thought it might be an FAA regulation that all domestic flights required at least one middle-aged man to be reading an Ambrose book.

Kevin Fleming

Ann Althouse said...

Pogo: Memorial Day is specifically about honoring those who died in the service, and my parents survived. In fact, they served in position where they were in no greater danger of getting killed than a civilian. I'm proud of them for serving, especially my mother who volunteered in the earliest days of women in the service, but their lives were not on the line. We branch out a bit about Memorial Day, nevertheless, but it's not strictly apt.

KCFleming said...


Point taken, well-stated, and true.

There was sacrfice all around then, certainly the greatest by mere teenage boys, by the thousands. I just find it hard to express how grateful I am to all of them, the soldiers, the clerks, the munitions maker, the schoolteacher, the nurse, the medic alone in his foxhole on Bastogne 1944. I still see some soldiers from the era in my practice, in their eighties, succumbing to life's entropy. Like my father-in-law, they say very little about their service beyond branch, location and year.

Maybe proper thanks cannot be given, at least not adequately.

Kevin Fleming

Tristram said...

"Above all, act and think like a person who expects to be liked and admired. "

The Military as social progressive.

That is a stunningly feminist statment, no? Or is it (Ayn) Randian? Or is no difference in this context?

And a bit of new agey power of postiive thinking / affirmation to boot.

From the 1940's Army no less.

Renee said...

Above all, act and think like a person who expects to be liked and admired.

That's standard boilerplate 1940s charm school. It was before my time, but I have a shelf fulll of 'charm' manuals that hold a great deal of enlightened information that would benfit a post-feminist world.

Yeah, we've come a long way, baby.

In the wrong direction.

Is there any hope that a government uniform will ever again be designed for a woman?

Harmon said...

My mother was an Army nurse in WWII, and my father, who got a battlefield commission in Italy, met her in Japan during the occupation. My dad stayed on as career Army, and my mother spent the rest of her short life as an Army wife, dying of cancer in the 1950s.

Although you are right about Memorial Day being a day of remembrance for those who died in service, I think my mother, at least, fits the bill. People don't realize that when your father (or mother) is in the service, the whole family is in, too.

My dad never really left the Army, even after he retired and went back to school and became...a nurse.

Don M said...

I had a fiance who was one of the last WAC officers, and one of the first female Transportation Corps officers. She always had the "extra gear" needed to leave others behind. Really an outstanding lady.

Though we never married each other, we both went on to service in the Army. She served in Desert Storm and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, then served a few terms in the Missouri Veterans Commission.

I agree with Pogo, the brave thing is to sign up for an unknown future. Everything after that which may be thought brave is just following through.