75 YEARS OF THE WOMEN’S ARMED SERVICES INTEGRATION ACT – APRIL 2023
April 5th, 2023 – The 1948 Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, PL 625, was a major milestone in the history of women’s service to the nation. For the first time, women, other than nurses, would have a permanent place in America’s military. Prior to this, women were essentially “temporary help” during the crisis, then sent home when the trouble was over – no longer needed.
Starting this past January and during the run-up to June 12, the 75th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, we are addressing the various provisions of the legislation that impacted the nature of women’s service for nearly seven decades. To date, we’ve addressed the need for the legislation and its positive impact on national defense; the hard-fought battle over Regular status for women; and the permanent establishment of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as a separate branch of the Army.
Other provisions of PL 625, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, authorized the Service Secretaries to define women’s command authority as well as terminate the Regular commission and enlistment of any woman “under circumstances and in accordance with regulations proscribed by the President.” Thus, the Army and Navy women could supervise men and give them efficiency ratings but could not command them. The Air Force, however, allowed women to command any unit that did not require a rated officer. With the termination provision, the Services were allowed to establish such regulations as the immediate resignation or discharge of women due to pregnancy.
The law also authorized the Service Secretaries to prescribe the kind of duties military women could be assigned and perform, with the caveat that in the case of the Air Force and Navy, women “may not be assigned to duty in aircraft while such aircraft are engaged in combat missions.” Also for the Navy, women “may not be assigned to duty on vessels of the Navy except hospital ships and naval transports.” The Services took these caveats a step further and prohibited women from serving aboard any aircraft or vessels except medical aircraft and hospital vessels.