FORT LEE, Va. (Jan. 19, 2017) -- This installment of the Historic Photo of the Month looks back to April 1943 and the arrival of the first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps members at Camp Lee.
“The Army’s new lady Soldiers – the WAACs – have arrived in force at Camp Lee. Some evidence of the excitement they caused was the four-page supplement published by the Lee Traveller in this issue in honor of the new arrivals.”
This is the first paragraph in that year’s April 21 edition of the weekly newspaper. It appeared under the headline “Lee’s First WAACs Arrive As GI’s Extend Enthusiastic Welcome.” The subheads were “WAACs Have Their Own PX” and “Women March To New Quarters.”
“Officially, the group is known as the 96th WAAC Post Headquarters Company but to men of the camp they are simply ‘Lee’s WAACs.’
“Activated at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, the women climbed off their train at the Lee siding, and before the admiring stares of a crowd of camp personnel, including the commanding general, smartly formed ranks and marched off to their quarters.
“It was a two-and-a-half-mile hike down to their area, a few hundred yards east of the station hospital on Avenue A. Thousands of cheering officers and men lined the route, welcoming the WAACs, who displayed the marching precision of seasoned Soldiers.
“Turning out at 0600, earlier than the reveille call for enlisted men, most of the auxiliaries are at work by 0730 in camp headquarters, personnel, special service, signal, post office and other service installations on the post.
“Cpl. Sid Benjamin, camp public relations sports writer, was the first Lee GIs to date one of the new WAACs and rushed into print in the pages of the Traveller to tell all. During the course of the evening, he discovered that WAACs don’t attend service club dances when civilian girls are present – and vice versa.
“But we had a wonderful time, Benjamin reported.
“Since the WAACs were auxiliaries as distinguished from full-fledged Army personnel, Leemen had to get used to their odd-sounding titles, such as ‘Third Officer,’ and ‘Junior Leader.’ The fact that WAACs are addressed as Auxiliary. Nomenclature, however, proved to be no serious social barrier.
“Shortly after the WAACs actually arrived, as a partial answer to the pre-arrival flurry of nervous anticipation, a Traveller reporter invaded the precincts of the WAAC area to reveal:
“The barracks have a faint feminine aroma; the bathtubs glisten with their newness; ironing boards nestle snugly in their wall cases. The wall closets fairly bristle with skin lotions, powder puffs, hats and various other feminine dainties.
“The general appearance of the insides of the barracks is most military, with bunks neatly made, shoes placed in careful rows, clothes hung neatly on racks entirely without the to-be-expected feminine air.”
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