Should Women Be Allowed into Combat?

October 13, 1989

Report Outline
Special Focus

Introduction

Earlier this year Canada removed virtually all restrictions keeping women in the military out of potential combat positions. Many feminists say the United States should follow Canada's example. But some military experts believe there is a conflict between fully integrating women into the military services and maintaining the strength and readiness of the armed forces.

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Overview

In time of war, the United States has always sought to shield its young women from the brutal experience of combat. That burden has been borne by men—men like former Secretary of the Navy James Webb, who served as a young Marine officer in Vietnam.

“It was nothing,” Webb recalled, “to begin walking at midnight laden with packs and weapons and ammunition and supplies, 70 pounds or more of gear, and still be walking when the sun broke over mud-slick paddies that had sucked our boots all night. We carried our own gear, and when we took casualties we carried the weapons of those who had been hit.

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Women in the Military