75 Years of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act

by | Feb 28, 2023

March 1st, 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 over the next few months as we approach 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. As such, we’ve addressed the need for the legislation and its positive impact on national defense, as well as the hard-fought battle over Regular status for women.  

Another provision of PL 625 was the permanent establishment of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as a separate branch of the Army. General Eisenhower had been advocating for such since 1946. No such provision was included for the other Services. Early on, Admiral Denfield, the then Chief of Naval Operations, was not supportive of separate groups for women in the Navy and Marine Corps. Thus, this provision as applied to Navy and Marine Corps women was eliminated. By the time the legislation was passed in 1948, provisions for the Regular and Reserve service of Air Force women had been added but there was no provision for a separate group. Coast Guard women, however, were not included because the Coast Guard had reverted back to the Treasury Department at the end of the war.

With the establishment of the WAC as a separate branch, branch leadership was allowed greater control of training, assignments, and administrative matters, which set well with male senior Army leaders. Further, WAC officers would have their own promotion lists so they would not be seen as taking promotions away from men or competing with them. Enlisted WACs, however, would compete with men for promotion, as would warrant officers.

Interestingly, PL 625 did not include provisions related to WAC duties and assignments as it did for the other Services. It was felt there was no need to restrict WACs to noncombat duty because existing proposed regulations ensured that no WAC would be assigned to duties requiring combat training or experience. Further, regulations specifically provided that while WACs could be temporarily assigned to any branch, this did not apply to Infantry, Armor, and Artillery.  

We’ll be addressing more provisions of this groundbreaking legislation in future editions of The Register