Slander Campaign

Beginning in 1943, newspapers levied a slander campaign against the Women's Army Corps, citing drunkenness, promiscuity, and loose morals.

Perhaps the most well-known written example of the slander occurred in John O'Donnell's syndicated colum, "Capitol Stuff." In one of his 1943 columns, O'Donnell wrote that he attained top-secret information from a source in the War Department claiming that the War Department would soon begin to offer "contraceptive and prophylactic equipment" to WACs. While, of course, this was completely false, the damage was done, and the WAC took a hit to its credibility and popularity.

Readers understood O'Donnell's column to verify spotty rumors that had circulated about WACs being prostitutes or easy, loose women. This ran in direct opposition to expectations and gender roles of the day, which dictated that unmarried young women must be respectable, demure, and chaste.

Such harsh slander either portrayed WACs as masculine and mannish, vying for a hostile takeover of the dominant culture, or as seductive, flirting vixens who were a disgrace to the "fairer" sex.

Winnie the WAC comic strip

American Art Archives
Herman Vic, 1945.

Winnie the WAC

Another softer element of slander aimed at the WAC was Vic Herman's comic, "Winnie the WAC." This comic was meant more as a morale booster, much like George Baker's "Sad Sack" comic, but it contained elements of sexism and criticism that damaged the credibility and integrity of the WAC.

 

Winnie, the title character, is portrayed not as a prostitute or a drunken sot, but more as an overly flirtatious idiot. Winnie, along with her WAC friend, seem more preoccupied with flirting, gossiping, and selfish indulgences rather than their service in the war.

For example, the fourth panel in this collection of comics featured in Life Magazine includes two Army Regulars and two WACS, one of which, of course, is Winnie. The caption reads "It was awfully nice of you boys to give us your seats." Upon closer inspection, the two WACs are actually sitting on the soldiers' laps, much to the men's grinning pleasure.

 

This comic, while humorous and tongue-in-cheek, still conveyed the sexist values popular in the day. Herman illustrated Winnie and the WACs as stupid, ditzy girls. Winnie was not openly drunk, nor was she man-like or masculine. Instead, she was overly feminine, hanging her frilly underthings (emblazoned with little chevrons) out in the open.

As a result, WACs were depicted as silly and featherbrained, completely harmless due to the frivolous, naive nature of her gender.

Women's Army Corps
Slander Campaign