This is a column opposing the use of women in combat, but let me tell you what kind of column this is not. It’s not going to slam you with the same old arguments about women being weaker, less able to carry a wounded man to safety, destroyers of “unit cohesion” and the “Band of Brothers.” And we know in Israel, they found the men soldiers turned their attention away from the enemy to protect their women. We all know the “ladies’ tee is closer to the green than the men’s tee,” and there are no women in the NFL.
This is what Einstein would have called a “thought experiment.” If it makes its point, you will come to realize you really oppose women in combat, too, and have all along; you just let your good nature and your love of equality run away with things and you got this one wrong. No harm done. Erring on the side of equality is among the least serious of errors.
I served in the post-World War II “mixed” army. There were blacks and whites and more foreign men than you might expect. There was a little-known law that allowed foreign men of military age to come to America, join the military, go fight in a terrible war in Korea and – if you survived, Congratulations! You were an American! That America had tremendous appeal.
Throughout history there have been “unmixed” units, specialized units. America’s “Red Ball Express,” an all-black unit in World War II, kept the gasoline coming from the west coast of Europe to Gen. Patton and his eastward-storming tanks. We had a “Nisei” unit, all Americans of Japanese descent who served in the Italian theater. Both those units served with distinction.
There was a Jewish brigade attached to the British Eighth Army. Imagine being a Jewish fighter (whose official nationality was “Palestinian”!) watching Nazi Gen. Rommel’s lines break at El Alamein in Egypt, beginning the longest and fastest retreat in military history!
There were Free French, Free Norwegian, Free Danish and others who’d managed to escape their occupied homelands, uniformed and in their own special units. They were mostly based in England.
Dutch Marines training in Cherry Point, N.C., caused some hilarious moments during the war when less-educated Carolinians mistook their guttural Dutch language for German. Gen. Anders led a Polish Army fighting the Nazis in Italy. There was an all-Brazilian unit fighting on our side in Italy whose troops had never seen snow before. Their American allies were more than slightly amused to see them spooning snow into envelopes to send home to their families in Brazil!
The Germans had their special units, too, and we can be thankful that the Nazi fortunes had sunk so low in late 1942 that the German Sixth Army besieging – and being destroyed by – Soviet forces at Stalingrad had to call upon their fascist Romanian allies to guard their flanks. The point here is not to insult Romanians on their fighting skills, but to report faithfully that they were miserable. The Soviet forces encircling von Paulus’s German Sixth Army cut through the Romanians like a hot knife through a pat of soft butter. The remnants of the German Sixth Army surrendered early in 1943, and everybody knew Germany was through.
Now, suppose for a moment that you’re a battlefield commander and your decoded message from headquarters tells you both of your flanks are going to be guarded by all-female infantry units.
Why are you frowning? Your op-ed article and the speech you gave at an inauguration banquet, that had the president smiling, insisted the time had come to judge all infantry-persons by merit, not gender. Might your timepiece be running a little fast? Are you perhaps thinking you’d rather have Romanians?
Are you really saying females are fighting equals? Oh, we know they can be as individuals, but are you sure there hasn’t been any “standards erosion” in the all-female units you’re receiving?
Aren’t you really saying, “I think we can sprinkle some fighting women to serve alongside our fighting men without causing too much damage”? Are you thinking victory in war, or political correctness in theory?
We got this one right in 1941. Those posters of American women in uniform did not say, “I can fight as well as you can!” They said flat out in big English words, “I’m releasing a man for active duty!”
Women have proven their worth and valor in combat far beyond anybody’s ability to denigrate them. Nationalist China fielded women with rifles and bayonets against the Japanese. Tito’s Yugoslav Partisans fighting Hitler showed the courage and ferocity of women fighting the hated invader. The avenging Soviet women marching with their men westward toward Berlin may be my best example.
I’ll never quit admiring the fighting women of my lifetime.
And I’ll never quit believing men should do the fighting. Women should do the backup. And politicians who’ve never worn a uniform should keep their opportunistic mouths shut on the matter, except maybe to ask, “Forgive me, Ma’am. Whose Purple Heart is that?”