Imagine surviving monsoons, dengue fever, dysentery, malaria, and leeches in a bamboo hut in Assam, India during World War II. Imagine deploying to Inchon during the Korean War. Imagine leading the emergency room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Imagine being selected by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to be his personal nurse.
And imagine being the first female in the Army’s 197-year history to be given stars…and then imagine, after reaching that career pinnacle, to be greeted by a kiss by Army Chief of Staff General William Westmoreland because it is, as he says, “a new protocol for congratulating lady generals.”
On June 11, 1970, Ana Mae Hays and Elizabeth P. Hoisington, two Women’s Army Corps colonels, were promoted to brigadier generals—becoming the first women in U.S. Army history to attain that rank. They got more than they bargained for at their promotion ceremony, however, as an overeager Westmoreland plants what Time Magazine called “a brassy kiss” on both women.
Watch at the 9:39 mark as General Westmoreland—with absolutely zero hesitation—goes in to impudently kiss Hays on the lips. Gotta love that “new protocol,” eh?
Moments later (19:18 mark) Westmoreland can be seen waffling on his decision to enact the said “new protocol” when it came to giving Hoisington the same courtesy. You can really see his brain churning on this one as he quickly determines that it would be a bad PR move to be seen as a hypocrite. To cheers and jeers Westmoreland then kisses Hoisington, this time in “accordance with the well-established Army protocol.” Play on, playa.
The face of a woman who knows she’s about to be kissed by Westmoreland:
Both women paved a career path for other women in the military, with Hays recommending that “pregnant [women] should not face compulsory discharge, and that appointments to the Army Nurse Corps Reserve not depend on the age of the applicant’s children. She also widened educational opportunities for nurses, deployed more of them overseas and imposed stricter academic standards for admitting them,” writes the New York Times.
Now, because of these two trailblazing women and many others, there are female four-star generals and most combat positions are available to women. Yet we are still left to wonder what Hays and Hoisington treasured most, their stars or that kiss…
*Due to the novel coronavirus, the Army has subsequently banned the “protocol for congratulating lady generals.” Thank goodness elbow bumps are making a comeback.