A Debt to Democracy
A Date with Destiny
July 25, 1942 – Graduation of the First WAAC Officer Class, Fort Des Moines, IO
The twentieth day of July 1942, is a date that is already written into the history books of tomorrow – the day the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps started. Long-established precedent of military tradition have given way to pressing need. Total war is, by definition, endlessly expansive. You are the first women to serve. Never forget it.
Today you make the change from peacetime pursuits to wartime tasks – from the individualism of civilian life to the anonymity of mass military life. You have given up comfortable homes, highly paid positions, leisure. You have taken off silk and put on khaki. And all for essentially the same reason n- you have a debt and a date – a debt to democracy, a date with destiny.
You do not come into a corps that has an established tradition. You must make your own. But in making your own, you do have one tradition – the integrity of all the brave American women of all time who have loved their country.
As you reach into the past for your tradition, you also strength out your hands across to all women who, in this critical present, serve their country, as you do, because you want to keep the future free.
You, as you gather here, are living history. On your shoulders will rest the military reputation and the civilian recognition of this Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. I have no fear that any woman here will fail the standards of the corps.
From now on, you are soldiers defending a free way of life to the exclusion of everything else until the war against the Axis is won.
Hope and history join here. The women of the United States are saying today to the women of the United Nations and more particularly to the widowed, childless, and imprisoned women of Lidice [Czechoslovakia] — “We shall not fail freedom.”
Much depends upon the progress of this movement. Whatever the Women’s Army Auxiliary Cord may do, it will test the ability of women to take over duties heretofore done by men. If they succeed, there are hundreds of thousands of positions awaiting them.
Your performance here, in the field, and abroad will set the standards of the corps. This is a hard task. You will live in the spotlight. Even though the lamps of experience are dim, few if any mistakes will be permitted you.
You are no longer individuals. You wear the uniform of the Army of the United States. Respect that uniform. Respect all that it stands for. Then the world will resect all that the corps stands for. Make the adjustment from civilian to military life without faltering and without complaint.
In the final analysis, the only testament free people can give to the quality of freedom is the way in which they resist the forces that imperil freedom.
Source: Hobby, Oveta Culp. “A Debt to Democracy, a Date with Destiny.” United States Army in World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991.