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What’s the big fuss about women fighting wars next to men? This is
one of those hot-button issues that has folks lobbing verbal grenades at
each other across a vast ideological divide. Though I for one, quite
frankly, can’t imagine any woman wanting to go to battle, Capt. Barbara
A Wilson, USAF (ret.) ventilates my mind on these matters: “Women,” she
tells me in an exclusive WND interview, “have scalped Indians, clubbed
marauders, shot home invaders, led armies, defeated Roman legions,
survived Japanese prison camps, wiped out entire American helicopter
bases in Vietnam (North Vietnam women soldiers), and on and on
Much of the argument against women in combat is “rhetoric, distorted
myth, and usually from someone who has never ‘been there’ or was on
combat so long ago they don’t realize there is no such thing as a ‘front
line’ anymore. Their arguments are shallow and baseless,” contends Capt.
Wilson, who runs the outstanding website “Women Veterans: A History
of Their Past.”
Up-front, let me admit, being in the military on any level never
really interested me, despite my being both the daughter and ex-wife of
Navy veterans who fought for their country’s honor overseas. And, yes,
it is a famous family story that by accident, my mother, in an
over-zealous bout of house cleaning, threw out a medal my father won,
but I don’t think that was a political statement on her part. I was the
protester in the family, not she.
“From the American Revolution to Operation Allied Force around
Kosovo,” Capt. Wilson informs me, “women have served in some way in
every conflict. Not that they were legal in the early days. History
tells us that 33,000 women served in World War I and almost 500,000 took
part in World War II. During the Korean era 120,000 women were in
uniform and seven thousand were deployed in theater during Vietnam.
During Desert Storm 7 percent of the total U.S. forces deployed were
women — over 40,000 of them.”
No, I never wanted to be a general, a foot soldier, or even a flirty
chauffeur. If I had to choose, I’d much rather be a foreign
correspondent and write about war, or else even sit on the sidelines
rolling bandages like a Hemingway
Speaking of heroines, Capt. Wilson bills her website as a history of
women in the military from the Revolutionary War to present day. It
provides background about sexual harassment, PTSD, current women
veterans issues, and extensive information for military women, past and
present, including: “Women in Uniform, Women in War, History of Women in
the Military, Women’s Recruiting Posters, Military Women in Film,
Military Bands, Women Warriors, Military Women and Television, She
Served too — WASPs, Military Women Astronauts, The Mercury 13, Women in
Space, military women spies, military women on sheet music, military
women pilots, firsts for military women, women prisoners of war,
military women musicians.”
When I was a little girl, my father worked for the Signal Corps as an
electronics engineer, and so I could see 25-cent movies on the base.
Attending parade after parade of Army marching bands, I grew up adoring
the music of Sousa, which made me feel so
patriotic, until I realized I might have radical tendencies, a spy in
the house of love. Somehow I was deluded enough to actually grow up
believing “Make love, not war.” Silly me.
Capt. Barbara Wilson was different. Describing herself as “the
skeptical, irascible, doubting, iconoclastic Captain Critical, whose
pontificating will try to amuse, bemuse, irritate and generally annoy
anyone bold enough to stay long enough to read the random ramblings of a
self appointed distaff critic of anything and everything from new age to
old age, from god to goddesses, and from here to infinity,”
she enlisted in the
Air Force in the 1950s and became a WAF Squadron Commander, stationed at
McGuire Air Force Base, 1965-71; then taught college economics and
earned an MBA, and has resided in St. Augustine, Fla., since 1991.
As for myself, I simply cannot imagine being in battle, trained to
kill, carrying weapons, having “enemies.” I can’t even say if I had my
own country, “Xena: Warrior Princess” or
the movie “Private Benjamin” with Goldie Hawn, or the adventures of
“She” or even the
exploits of Emma Peel would be required viewing for all male newspaper
columnists publicly outspoken against women on the frontlines. We all
have our opinions, don’t we?
And yet, some women DO want to go to war. And have. “As for my
opinion,” says Wilson, “The pure and simple point is that all (military)
jobs should be open to women and men — if and only if — the women and
men are qualified, capable, competent, and able to perform them!
Missiles, bullets, biological and chemical agents, and anthrax do not
distinguish their targets by gender– both men and women die when these
weapons are used. It follows that both men and women will give their
lives defending this country, as they have for three centuries.
“To advocate denying them the right to do so because of biology —
using the archaic ‘hasty generalization fallacy’ is absurd,” she
continues, adding “Isn’t it interesting that the federal government just
lost a multi-million-dollar law suit for discriminating against women in
USIA hiring for certain jobs — yet they can still discriminate in the
Feminization of the
Military lament is
something we’ve been hearing too much about lately,” says Capt. Wilson.
“This babbling treatise belongs in the 8-track graveyard along with the
rest of the ‘Archie Bunker’ philosophies. … To advocate denying the
equal opportunity education, training and benefits of military service
to women, and to hawk the feminization lament as a reason is
condemnation without rationalization.
“The armed forces draw their members from our modern society,” she
goes on. “It follows that the make up of the services must reflect that
society from which they are drawn.” In her view, feminism is neither
catalyst nor motivator behind women volunteering to serve. “Ask the
women who served long before feminism was a pop-culture term. Obviously
those who espouse a woman-less military also want it to be a plebeian
corps with philistine standards. They can’t abide women as a part of a
skilled modern force trained and equipped to maintain peace worldwide.
As she envisions it, the design of the military of the forthcoming
21st century is “not for a corps of blackguards and thugs led by Attila
the Hun. It is for a sleek, intelligent, synergetic group of highly
motivated and skillfully trained troops. To advocate excluding our young
women from this aspect of our nation’s future is tantamount to sedition.
Would those feminization prattlers change this motto to: ‘Be All You Can
Be — Unless You’re a Woman’?”
Sadly, most colleges and universities are “remiss” when it comes to
women’s military history, Capt. Wilson maintains, recommending Linda
Grant DePauw’s “Battle Cries and Lullabies” which gives “some great
insights to women in war.”
Here’s Capt. Wilson’s “Women Warrior Quiz Challenge,” used with her
permission. You won’t become a millionaire if you get all the answers
right, but then again, you might become quiz-show material:
1.What woman commander-in-chief of what army defeated King Cyrus of
Persia and when? The Scythian Queen Tomyris, 550 BC.
2. Who was the only woman granted a commission in the Confederate
Army? “Captain” Sally Tompkins was the first, and only, woman ever to be
commissioned in the Confederate Army. In order to keep her Richmond
hospital running Confederate President Jefferson Davis commissioned
Sally a captain of cavalry in 1861. When “Captain Sally” died she was
buried with full military honors.
3. For what dignitary did Lt. Kelly Flynn pilot a B-52 on a public
relations trip? Former Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall
4. What United States Postal Service (USPS) stamps honor military
women either individually or collectively? Name the individuals. Five
stamps honor military women — the three individuals are Civil War
Surgeon Dr. Mary Walker, Spanish American War Nurse Clara Maas and
pioneer pilot and reservist Jacquie Cochran. No stamp honors an
individual active duty military woman but two stamps — 1952 and 1997 —
feature a woman from each branch of service.
5. What Confederate States of America nurse was wounded at the Civil
War Battle of Seven Pines and also had her portrait on Confederate
money? CSA nurse Juliet Ann Opie Hopkins.
6. What woman ruler and military leader conquered Babylonia and is
said to have created The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Semiramis of
Assyria, also known as Samauramat, in the 9th century B.C. — whether or
not she created the Hanging Gardens is still controversial, but she did
7. What two stars played Major “Hot Lips” Houlihan in the TV and
movie versions of M*A*S*H — and what does the acronym stand for?
Television: Loretta Swit, movie: Sally Kellerman, MASH= Mobile Army
8. Known atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, whose amendment had prayer
removed from schools, was in what branch of service during what war?
Army WAAC, WWII, serving overseas as a cryptographer in Italy and North
9. In the movie “Courage Under Fire” what was Meg Ryan’s rank,
character name and what was her duty assignment? Capt. Karen Walden,
Rescue Helicopter pilot.
10. How was the author of “Little Women,” Louisa May Alcott,
associated with the military and in what conflict? She was a volunteer
Army nurse at the Union Hotel Hospital in Washington, D.C., and nursed
the wounded from the Battle of Fredericksburg in the Civil War.
11. What do the following acronyms stand for: WAAC, WAC, WAVES, SPARS
and WAF and in what years were they disestablished? Women’s Army
Auxiliary Corps, Women’s Army Corps, Women Accepted for Volunteer
Emergency Service, Semper Paratus (Coast Guard) and Women in the Air
Force. In 1976-78 the Disestablishment of the WAF, WAC, WAVES, SPARS and
Women Marines as separate entities — full integration of women into
their respective services.
12. What ancient woman warrior first used cavalry in battle? Myrene,
the Gorgon Amazons Queen, who conquered parts of Syria, Egypt, Phrygia.
A description of a North African battle in which she led a cavalry of
30,000 women is believed to be the earliest record of troops riding
horses into combat.
14. When were women in the U.S. military finally promoted to star
rank and who were the first ones? Not until 1970 were women promoted to
admiral/general, and the first were: Army: Brig. Gen. Elizabeth P.
Hoisington, 1970. Navy: Rear Adm. Fran McKee, 1976. Marines: Brig. Gen.
Margaret A. Brewer, 1978. Air Force: Brig. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm, 1971.
15. What Middle Eastern woman warrior actually defeated the Roman
legions on one occasion? Zenobia, who governed Syria from about 250 to
275 AD. Wearing full armor, she led her armies on horseback and during
Claudius’ reign defeated the Roman legions so decisively that they
retreated from much of Asia Minor. Also Mavia, who was Queen of the
Bedouin Saracens from 370 to 380 AD, led her troops in defeating a Roman
16. For how many years have U.S. women been “officially” in uniform?
Only 99 years — the first official step was the creation of the Army
Nurse Corps on Feb. 28, 1901.
17. What did First Lady Rosalyn Carter do for women in the military
in 1978? Largely through Rosalyn Carter’s efforts, in May of 1978, women
were assigned for the first time as part of the White House Honor Guard
— five women, one from each service, were selected.
18. How long have women been military pilots? The Navy, not the Air
Force, took the first step — in 1973 six women won their wings and
became the first Naval aviators. The Army followed suit in 1974 and
trained female helicopter pilots. The Air Force caught up in 1976 and
admitted women to the pilot training program. (The gallant women who
flew in WWII as WASPs were not acknowledged to be part of the military
until many years later.)
19. What two African women warriors fought to keep the Portuguese out
of Africa? Mbande Zinga (Jinga) Queen of Angola, led her largely female
army against the Portuguese inflicting many casualties while also
conquering nearby kingdoms, enjoining them to become allies to drive the
Portuguese out of Africa. Also Llinga, a warrior queen of the Congo
armed with ax, bow and sword fought the Portuguese in 1640.
20. What Asian country had female palace guards? The all-female
palace guard in 19th century Siam (Thailand) was led by Ma Ying Taphan.
Her troops were considered the best trained and most loyal of all the
King’s soldiers and were never defeated in battle.
21. What woman was known as “the silent member of Lincoln’s cabinet”
during the Civil War? Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland, who has sometimes
been acknowledged as the strategic planner of the Tennessee River
Campaign; however, her petition for compensation was turned down — even
though records indicate that both Lincoln and Stanton approved her plan.
22. What Queens actually participated in the Crusades? The most well
known is Eleanor of Aquitaine, but Marguerite de Provence, Florine of
Denmark Berengaria of Navarre and another Eleanor, Eleanor of Castile,
were also active participants in the Crusades.
23. In what campaigns did Queen Isabella, wife of Ferdinand of Aragon
and Queen regent of Spain, ride with and command the troops? Isabella I
of Castile led her armies into battle early in her reign to protect her
succession. Later during the conquest of the Moors, she rode into battle
once more — however she was better known as a genius at both military
tactics and supplying armies in the field.
24. Renee O’Connor has played “sidekick” to what fictional woman
warrior? Gabrielle on television’s “Xena, Warrior Princess.”
25. Princess Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan was a spy in what war and for
what country? WWII British working behind the lines in France with the
French Resistance — she was captured and executed by the Germans.
26. What actress/comedienne was overseas in three wars and in what
capacity? Martha Raye as both an entertainer and as a nurse in WWII,
Korea and several tours in Vietnam.
27. Who were the first two women in space and when? In 1963 Cosmonaut
Valentina Tereshkova was the first Russian woman in space and in 1983
Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in orbit.
28. Who were “The Mercury 13”? When NASA began training the Mercury
astronauts 13 American women had qualified for astronaut duty. Without
warning, and without explanation, in July 1961, NASA cancelled all
further testing of women. The “Mercury 13” women were unable to get
answers from NASA — even though these women had all proved to be more
than suitable for space flight.
29. Approximately how many women have given their lives in service to
this county in major conflicts? Two thousand would be a conservative
estimate. Some historical records verify the fact that over 60 women
were either mortally wounded or killed at various battles during the
Civil War. Twenty-two women died as a result of service in the Spanish
American War. In WWI there were 22 deaths among Yeoman (F), 27 Navy
Nurses died, several hundred Army Nurses died of disease, two were
killed by direct enemy action, and many volunteers with the Red Cross,
YMCA, lost their lives. The estimate is well over 500 for WWI. More than
500 military women lost their lives during World War II and 38 WASP
pilots died with no military status. Eighteen women didn’t survive the
Korean Conflict. At least 65 military and civilian women died serving in
Vietnam. Sixteen military women lost their lives during Desert Storm and
five military women have lost their lives in peacetime while on duty
including the East Africa Embassy bombing.
30. How many women have served in the U.S. military? Counting the
known women veterans — nearly 2 million women.
31. (Ego question) who was the first woman in the Air Force to obtain
a BA on “Operation Bootstrap” and subsequently become the first enlisted
woman to obtain a commission through Officer Training School? The
creator of this copyrighted quiz, Captain Barbara A. Wilson, USAF
From the beginning of time, nothing was accomplished without women,
declares Capt. Wilson, “and nothing has been ignored more than their
Who among us knows this: the Amazons, or the warrior women of the
Sauromatae, notes ancient Greek historian and geographer
Herodotus were “bound
by marriage-law decreeing no girl shall wed till she has killed a man in
battle. Sometimes a woman died unmarried at an advanced age, unable in
her whole lifetime to reach that (initiatory) goal of man-slaying. And
so the Sauromatae continued to observe their ancient customs, frequently
hunting on horseback with their husbands, sometimes even unaccompanied;
in war taking the field; and dressing identically to the men.”