Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association

Pallas Athene Insignia & Award

Insignia & Goddess
Pallas Athene was selected as the insignia of the Women's Army Corps. Designers from the Heraldic Section of the Quartermaster General's Office, Headquarters, Department of the Army,

… hit upon the idea of a head of Pallas Athene, a Roman and Greek Goddess associated with an impressive variety of womanly virtues…She was the goddess of handicrafts, wise in industries of peace and arts of war, also the goddess of storms and battle, who led through victory to peace and prosperity. Accordingly, the head of Pallas Athene, together with the traditional US, was selected for lapel insignia, cut out for officers and on discs for enlisted women.

In 1947 at the first Pallas Athene Luncheon of the Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association, she descended to earth to greet the convention honoring her. The first Pallas Athene appeared in full costume and gave a sophisticated, dignified and affectionate discourse about the WAC's and a tradition was born.

Each year at the Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association annual convention Pallas Athene Luncheon, the goddess returns to earth to comfort, admonish, educate, and inform her members about the convention city, special legislation pertaining to Veterans, special events of special members of the association and a host of other subjects.

In her speech, Pallas Athene also refers to Mount Olympus and her various Greek and Roman mythological attributes - emphasizing her role as goddess of wisdom, contemplation, handicrafts, the professions, the arts, and war, but most of all her civic duties as guardian of the household.
The name Pallas characterized in goddess as the brandisher of lightning's and often her Palladium, or sacred image, holds the brandished lance high in the air. As goddess of storms and thunderbolts, she was called Pallas Athene. Her Latin name, Minerva is connected with the Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin words for mind. (The WAC's affectionately called her "Minnie"). At birth Athene sprang, full grown and dressed in armor, from the forehead of Zeus, King of the Gods, and represented the intellectual aspects of war.

She was the Goddess who caused people to awake and therefore, the Goddess of Wisdom. As Goddess of Wisdom she pleaded for justice tempered with reason and mercy. She was also patroness of arts and crafts being particularly skilled in spinning and weaving.

Athene's symbol was the Owl, which appeared as the aegis on her shield. She is also associated with the cock, the serpent, and the crow. The olive tree, which she created in a contest with Poseidon, the Sea God, was sacred to her. (The Romans also showed the head of Medusa, the Gorgon, that turned to stone all beholders, as her aegis).

Pallas Athene's entrance to the convention luncheon is as dramatic as the hostess chapter can make it. Her arrival at the luncheon is sometimes announced by clashing cymbals, trumpets, martial music, etc. Usually she starts her journey to the speaker's table in darkness and the lights are raised as she slowly approaches it where she addresses the audience. Her speech is concluded with the words, "Bring me my nectar and ambrosia". Dry ice is placed in a metal goblet so it vaporizes, and the women's Army Corps Veterans Honor Guard ceremoniously presents a platter of fresh fruit to Pallas Athene.

The Pallas Athene Award

Both the Women's Army Corps and the Pallas Athene emblem have been retired from active Army service. Yet, those traits and values embodied in the Pallas Athene concept continue to have relevance for Army women today. By presenting its Pallas Athene Award to outstanding college and university women ROTC cadets, the Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association demonstrates its belief that the traditions of service, patriotism, and loyalty, so much a part of the contribution of Army women past and present, can be passed to a new generation.

Since 1983, the Pallas Athene Award has been presented annually by the Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association to the outstanding Army Senior ROTC Program woman cadet in each of four ROTC Regions. (In December 1992, one of the Regions was deactivated. Various college and university military science departments nominate candidates; a board of Army officers in each of the three regions selects winners. A member of the Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association chapter in the area usually makes presentation.

  1. Cadet must be outstanding women military science IV cadet who will be graduating within the academic school year.

  2. Cadet must be in the top 50 percent of her military science and academic class.

  3. Cadet must have successfully completed the ROTC Advance Camp or Nursing Advanced Camp.

The Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association Pallas Athene Award consists of three parts:

  1. The award medallion, which is handsome in its finish of satin bronze, and measures three inches in diameter and one-fourth inch, in thickness. The insignia of the Women's Army Corps and the name of the award are shown in relief on the medallion's obverse. On the reverse the winning cadet's name and the year of the award are engraved under the words, outstanding cadet, and ringed by the words, Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association.

  2. Since the 1990-1991 academic year, a cash prize of $300 has been presented, in addition to the award medallion to each of the annual Pallas Athene Award winners.

  3. A three-year associate membership in the Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association is also presented to each of the three annual award winners.