When the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAC) was organized, the Army received over 30,000 applications for the first class. The women chosen were amongst the best of the best: college educated, unmarried, capable, strong and willing to serve their country. Mary Louise was one of 440 selected for the first class in July 1942. She was quickly recognized as an outstanding woman of her class, and by October was the WAC Training Center Director at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. At the war’s close, she was transferred to Washington D.C. and became WAC Deputy Director. She worked on legislation to make the WAC, the Army Nurses Corps and the Women’s Medical Specialist Corp part of the regular army. She also served in Europe for several years. In 1957 returning to the States, Colonel Mary Louise Milligan became the 5th Director of the Women’s Army Corp. Mary Louise Retired from the military in July of 1962.
As director of the WAC unit, military historians credit her with major achievements including increasing the WAC’s strength, insisting on effectiveness in command, working with Congress to amend laws that deprived women of service credit and benefits, and expanding the range of military opportunities open to women.
Mrs. Rasmuson retired in 1962 after 20 years of military service, during which she received a Legion of Merit award with two oak leaf clusters for her work integrating black women into the WAC. She was also awarded the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Occupation Medal and National Defense Medal. At an event honoring her, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said, “When you hear about women seizing new opportunities to serve, remember that they march behind Colonel Rasmuson.”
Mary Louise went on to become a great philantropist in the state of Alaska.
We honor you, Mary Louise Rasmuson.