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Collections: Alice Kono’s WAC Uniform

APA Collections Update

During World War II, over 150,000 women served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) or Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Special legislation was required before the women could serve in the army. The law authorizing the WAAC was signed by President Roosevelt in May 1942 and the first WAACs began training in July 1942. Initially WAACs were only assigned to duties in the continental United States, however, when General Eisenhower requested trained secretarial, clerical and administrative personnel, a WAAC detachment was sent to his headquarters in North Africa in early 1943. A WAAC battalion was sent to England in the spring of 1943 to provide similar expertise to Army and Air Force units gathering for the invasion of Europe. Later in 1943, Congress authorized the Women’s Army Corps as a full-fledged army organization.

All WAACs were either converted to WAC status or discharged. Women were assigned as drivers, mechanics, cooks, ordnance specialists, and radio operators; they worked in communications, logistics, public affairs, medical, intelligence and many other specialties. Alice Tetsuko Kono, a resident of Molokai, Hawai’i, was born in Lanai, Hawai’i to Japanese immigrants. She joined the army as a Military Intelligence Service Linguist where she could utilize her Japanese language skills. After her basic training in Georgia, she trained at the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) in Fort Snelling, Minnesota. In the summer of 1944, there were over 6,000 Nisei men and about 50 Nisei women assigned to MISLS. They served in the United States and in all overseas theaters and many Nisei women served as translators in occupied Japan. Because of their excellent record, women were made a part of the regular military establishment in 1948.

The National Museum of American History has collected over 30 WAC uniforms. This particular uniform is the first to be worn by a minority woman.

Alice Kono's WAC Jacket

This jacket was worn by Alice Tetsuko Kono, Women’s Army Corps (WAC) who was assigned as a linguist to the Military Intelligence Service from 1944-1946.

Gift of Alice Kono

Sources:

Daniels, Roger. Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United Stated since 1850. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988.

Interview with Alice Tetsuko Kono. July, 2010.

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    November 1, 2010
    History
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