75 YEARS OF THE WOMEN’S ARMED SERVICES INTEGRATION ACT – MAY 2023
May 2, 2023 – 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; the permanent establishment of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as a separate branch of the Army; and the Service Secretaries’ authority to define women’s command capacities, terminate commissions and enlistments, and prescribe the kind of duties military women could be assigned and perform. This provision had the added 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” and Navy, women “may not be assigned to duty on vessels of the Navy except hospital ships and naval transports.” The services took this provision a step further and prohibited women from serving aboard any aircraft or vessel except medical aircraft and hospital ships.
Two other provisions of the legislation that would impact women’s service until the late 1960s were the 2 per cent ceiling on the proportion of women in each service and the grade ceiling cap of 0-5. If a woman served as the chief of a women’s component, she was temporarily promoted to 0-6 and permitted to retire at that grade. However, if she remained on active duty, she would return to the next lower grade. Another provision established separate promotion lists for women, with the exception of Air Force women who were integrated into the male promotion lists.