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Discharge

Colored Illustration of women in uniform marching

Review at Fort Des Moines

Refer to the Official Documents section for materials pertaining to demobilization and discharge.

With the conclusion of World War II in September, 1945, the military faced critical decisions about what to do about the Women's Army Corps. The WACs had served their country well at military posts in the United States, Europe, North Africa, and the South Pacific. Many military leaders assumed that the WAC would be disbanded, yet the women had many skills valued by the Army and the separation centers had to be staffed.

When World War II ended, there were approximately 100,000 active duty WACs. Many members of the WAC detachment from Camp Hale were still in the Army during the concluding months of the war. Regardless of the future of the Women's Army Corps, many of these women anticipated returning home to the lives they had left for military service.

As demobilization began, the WACs were dispatched to separation centers. Many of the WACs of Camp Hale returned to Fort Des Moines, where they had taken basic training, to be discharged from the Army.

Fort Des Moines was one of six Women's Army Corps separation centers. The other posts were Fort Dix, New Jersey; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Fort Sheridan, Illinois; and Fort Beal, California.

At the separation centers, the WACs underwent a period of processing. Their records were checked, they were divided into groups, assigned barracks in separation companies, and given physical examinations, final pay, and assistance in preparing a summary of their Army experience. After the military records were checked, the WACs were discharged from the Army.

WAC veterans, as members of the regular Army, were entitled to the decorations and citations commensurate with their service. Most women who served at Camp Hale received the WAAC service medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Because of the conversion from auxiliary status to regular Army had occurred in 1943, WAC veterans were eligible for all veterans benefits: reemployment in their previous civilian jobs, preferential treatment in civil service hiring, readjustment allowances, and GI loans for college education or purchasing a home.

The women leaving the Army took with them many life experiences. Most believed that the Army had broadened their horizons, exposed them to new types of people, provided valuable skills, and given them self-confidence. Of the many honors and citations given to the WACs, perhaps none meant more to them than President Harry Truman's letter extending the "heartfelt thanks of a grateful nation."

 

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