Iowa History Daily: July 20 - A First at Fort Des Moines

Iowa History Daily: On July 20, 1942, the first women arrived at the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Founded “for the purpose of making available to the national defense the knowledge, skill, and special training of women of the nation,” the opening of the WAAC Training Center in Des Moines represents an important moment in American military history.

Following approval by Congress on May 14, 1942, the creation of the WAAC opened the door to women officially serving in the armed forces. A diverse group arrived on the southside of Iowa’s capital city including 125 enlisted women and 440 officer candidates. 40 African-American officer candidates joining the training represented a moment of integration within the armed forces.

The women, all enlisting between the ages of 21 to 45, made $21 per month and trained to fill vital support roles throughout the army. Training focused on skills including driving, basic medical care, map reading, military customs, and supply management. As cadets finished training, opportunities awaited to either remain stationed at Fort Des Moines or to transfer to a different location.

After a successful first year, Congress passed a bill dropping the ‘auxiliary’ status of the WAAC, opening the door to women serving overseas. Many women passed through an integrated Fort Des Moines while serving in the WAAC, including notable Iowa Civil Rights leader Edna Griffin. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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