WAC Murder Board Discussion (February 1998)


Query From michelle marie branigan braniga@indiana.edu 30 Jan 1998

For a biography of a woman who was a WAAC and WAC I am looking for information on "Murder Boards," committees formed to decide whether a candidate could progress, or would get sent back to the ranks, on their way to becoming an officer. Are there articles or sections in books specifically addressing this phenomenon? Thanks from a militarily-impaired scholar.

Responses:

From Susan Gail Miller sgm2a@frank.mtsu.edu 02 Feb 1998

You might want to consider contacting the WAC Museum at Ft. McClellan in Alabama. The curator/director's name is Gerry Burgess, and the museum does hold research information.

From Maria Elena Raymond M_Raymond@compuserve.com 02 Feb 1998

You might want to x-post your query to H-Minerva. Certainly someone there will be able to help. Reina Pennington at the Dept. of History, U of South Carolina is also a good source. Her e-mail is rpennington@infoave.net

From Gene Moser steamgene@aol.com 02 Feb 1998

The WAC may have been a little from the rest of the Army, but the only reference I have to a "Murder Board" is the evaluation of a military instructor. Before "going on the platform," a new instructor is evaluated by one or more senior faculty. Every reference I've ever heard to this has been "murder board."

From SFC Steve M Barry sbarry@apcserv1.apcnet.com 02 Feb 1998

I spent six years 'on the platform' and LTC Moser's recollection is correct. Before every course instructors pitched their classes before a "Murder Board" comprised of other instructors who would mercilessly sharpshoot your class. Real students were a welcome reprieve.

From Lois M. Beck B8921@aol.com 16 Mar 1998

Sorry for the delay in responding about "murder boards" associated with the WAAC and or the WAC.

I joined the WAC in 1963 in the direct commission program. Ours was the largest class up to that time--some 56 of us as I recall, including six or seven enlisted officer candidate women. We were trained in two platoons in the Officer Training Detachment of the US WAC Center & US WAC School, then at Fort McClellan, AL. As a class we received the US WAC School classroom instruction (both platoons together). The course was twenty weeks long, with a Christmas break because our schedule began in late September; we graduated in early February. A subsequent class began in August and graduated just prior to the Christmas holiday break typical on most military reservations. After the holiday the new officers reported to their first military assignments.

I remember two "murder boards" and I seem to recall there was a possibility of a third which was not held for our class. Senior officers (majors or lieutenant colonels then) of the US WAC Center, US WAC School and the WAC Training Battalion served as a panel or board. There were five or six, I believe; our Commanding Officer (a major) and platoon officer (a lieutenant) may have been present as observers. The most senior officer acted as President of the Board. It was a kind of "now we're looking you over" kind of atmosphere, cordial but as a formal military exercise held in our dayroom. Each student "reported" in turn, separately, to the President with a salute and a "Lieutenant [last name] reporting to the President of the Board, Ma'am." After the salute was answered by the Board President, the student was given "at ease" and the President asked the first question. Now that I think of it, I think she said to me, "Well, Lieutenant, how do you like the Army after living in a college town and being employed at [named] University?" The purpose of the question was to catch me off guard and to force a spontaneous answer. It was effective and, while I don't remember what I answered, I began to relax a little and was less nervous afterwards. I don't remember any other of the verbal exchange. It was explained to us in advance that the purpose of the "lookover" was for the board members to get an idea of our progress in military bearing and procedures, sincerity in our desire to be successful and to graduate as officers in the WAC. Other board members asked a question in turn and, finally the President announced, "Thank you, Lieutenant, that will be all." I saluted, did an "about face" and walked out. The next student in line went in.

Not too long after the first board, one member of my platoon was informed that she would not be continued in the program. I remember that she had the funniest sense of humor of anyone in the class and seemed consistently to take most of the rules and procedures pretty lightly; "mickey mouse stuff" to her was "mickey mouse stuff." She didn't receive more gigs than most of us and she did not deliberately disobey any rules; she just made fun of many of them. It was hard not to laugh at some of the things she said in class or within earshot of one of the detachment officers.

The second board took less time than the first, probably because we knew the procedure and by the time we were two thirds through the course I think most of us knew we would be graduating (three or four students left the program for medical or other personal reasons). I believe the board members were a different
group of senior officers and, although it was not announced beforehand, I got the impression that this "review" was more for the purpose of determining which of us would be assigned to duty at WAC Center and who would be sent to other Army installations or "field units" as is the terminology.

I believe that a few successor classes also had board reviews but they may have been discontinued in the early 1970s.

I don't know of any articles or written material about the "murder boards" but I suspect if any references exist they would be in the archives of the WAC Museum. You can check with the Curator, address: The Women's Army Corps Museum,
PO Box 5339, Fort McClellan, AL 36205. The museum is open weekdays, 8 am to 4 pm; Saturday & Sunday be appointment. Tel: (205) 238-3512