Who was Elizabeth P. Hoisington?

Introduction

Elizabeth Paschel Hoisington (03 November 1918 to 21 August 2007) was a United States Army officer who was one of the first two women to attain the rank of brigadier general.

The first two military women to achieve General Officer rank, Brigadier General Anna Mae Hays, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps (left), and Brigadier General Elizabeth P. Hoisington, Director, WAC (right), with Mamie Eisenhower on their promotion day, 11 June 1970.

Early Life

Born in Newton, Kansas, on 03 November 1918, Elizabeth Hoisington was a 1940 graduate of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

Military Career

During World War II the United States Army expanded opportunities for women beyond nursing by creating the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Hoisington enlisted in the WAACs in November 1942 and completed her basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. At the time, women were required to serve in units before they could apply to Officer Candidate School (OCS), so Private Hoisington went to a WAAC aircraft early warning unit in Bangor, Maine. The company commander recognised her talents and made her the first sergeant soon after her arrival. She later said that she then sought out the most grizzled male first sergeant she could find and asked him to teach her what she needed to know. She said that he did such a good job that when she reached OCS she never had to open a book.

Hoisington was commissioned in May 1943 as a WAAC third officer. When the auxiliary became the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) a month later, its officers changed to standard army ranks, and Hoisington became a second lieutenant. She deployed to Europe, serving in France after D-Day. Hoisington continued her career after World War II and advanced through the ranks to colonel as she commanded WAC units in Japan, Germany, and France and served in staff assignments in San Francisco and at the Pentagon.

Hoisington was appointed the seventh director of the Women’s Army Corps on 01 August 1965, and served from 1966 to 1971. As director during the Vietnam War she visited WACs serving in Saigon and Long Binh in September, 1967. According to some sources, Hoisington discouraged sending army women to Vietnam because she believed the controversy would deter progress in expanding the overall role of women in the army.

On 15 May 1970, President Nixon announced the first women selected for promotion to brigadier general: Anna Mae Hays, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, and Hoisington. The two women were promoted on 11 June. Hays and Hoisington were promoted within minutes of each other. Because they were promoted in alphabetical order, Hays was the first woman in the United States Armed Forces to wear the insignia of a brigadier general. The Hoisington and Hays promotions resulted in positive public relations for the army, including appearances on the Dick Cavett, David Frost and Today shows. Hoisington, who was noted for her quick smile and ebullient personality, also appeared as a mystery guest on the popular game show What’s My Line?

Hoisington retired from the army on 01 August 1971.

Family

Hoisington’s grandfather, Colonel Perry Milo Hoisington I, helped to organise the Kansas National Guard. Her father, Gregory Hoisington, was a graduate of West Point and a colonel in the army. He was a direct descendant of Ebenezer Hoisington, a founder of the state of Vermont and a soldier in the American Revolution.

Hoisington’s brother, Perry Hoisington II, was a United States Air Force general. Elizabeth Hoisington’s 1970 promotion made them the first brother and sister generals in the United States military.

Death and Burial

Hoisington died in Springfield, Virginia, on 21 August 2007, at the age of 88. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. She was survived by a younger brother, Robert (d. 2020), and a sister, Nancy (d. 2012).

Decorations

  • Army Distinguished Service Medal.
  • Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster.
  • Bronze Star Medal.
  • Army Commendation Medal.
  • Women’s Army Corps Service Medal.
  • American Campaign Medal.
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Service Star.
  • World War II Victory Medal.
  • Army of Occupation Medal.
  • National Defence Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.
  • Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 (France) with Star.
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