In 1941 the Japanese launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, propelling the U.S. into World War Two. The call went out for American men to become soldiers – conscription had already been introduced in 1940. And women were needed, too. Women were more than ready to serve in the U.S. Army and were given the opportunity in 1942. But was the Army ready for them?
The Women’s Army Corp started out in May 1942 with a slightly longer name, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, but was soon to settle on its shorter and more familiar title in July the next year. It began in earnest when 800 women started their basic training at Iowa’s Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School in 1942.
And the significance of the first 800 women to become part of America’s armed forces is not to be underestimated. Don’t forget that before this, there was little opportunity for American women to play an active role within the army. And the idea that they should do so on a large scale was actually borrowed from the British.