11
   

Women in frontline combat roles.

 
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 10:44 am
http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/images/petro/petro8b.jpg

The First Petrograd Women's Battalion marching in the capital, 1917.

The Soviet use of women in combat was not unprecedented. During the First World War, many Russian women served in line units in support roles, and one of them, Maria Bochkareva, rose to become a non-commissioned officer. After the Russian revolution (the one in March, 1917, not the Bolshevik revolution in November), the head of the provisional government, Alexander Kerensky, authorized the formation of the First Russian Women's Battalion of Death, and placed Bochkareva in command. Many women had been pressing the government to form women's units, and of these, many were war widows with no children. Bochkareva was tough, and the 2,000 who originally joined her unit were whittled down to 300 hard-core, highly motivated troops. They were sent into action with the dispirited and often mutinous Russian regiments at the front. Bochkareva's battalion drove deep into a German line, and held on while calling for support from the men of their regiment. These troops found a stash of alcohol and got drunk, and then ran when the Germans counterattacked. Bochkareva's battalion conducting a fighting retreat (one of the most difficult things to do in combat), and returned to their starting position with 200 prisoners and having suffered about 10% casualties (of which six were killed). That's an impressive performance, but the military authorities continued to believe that the women's units wouldn't prove useful, and withdrew their support, although the units were allowed to remain in existence. About 40,000 Russian women in all volunteered in 1917. Even though disbanded, many of them retained their weapons, and fought on both sides of the civil war which followed the Bolshevik Revolution.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWboch2.jpg

Bochkareva encouraged her soldiers to shave their heads to show their dedication to their mission.

http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/109.1/images/stockdale_fig06b.jpg

Some of the officers and NCOs of the First Russian Women's Battalion of Death--Bochkareva is seated, center.

http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War/Women_Warriors/Welt-Spiegel%20-%20Women%20Warriors%20002.jpg

The Second Moscow Women's Battalion of Death was officered by men.
Rockhead
 
  -1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 10:48 am
@Setanta,
makes you wonder if they all cycled together after a while.

what a formiddable army that could be.

makes me shiver just a bit...
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 10:53 am
I see that the last picture i posted is not of the Moscow battalion, but is another photo of the First Russian Women's Battalion.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 10:53 am
@Rockhead,
Probably, that happens to women who all live in the same house.
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 11:33 am
I can tell you that when the Soviet Union invaded the Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) at the start of the war Setanta refers to, in short order it was the women soldiers that became objects of absolute dread among the civilians of those countries. They quickly gained the reputation of being far more sadistic and vicious in their treatment of locals than any Russian man. I know some Latvian old-timers who swear to this day that it's a dreadful mistake to give guns and uniforms to women.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 12:01 pm
Is anyone giving credence to the specific cultural context that women were able to serve in the military?

I believe the fact that Israeli women serve in the military, yet that was not the image of Jewish European women prior to Israel's current existence, makes me believe we just are products of our respective cultures. So, a culture where women are supposed to refrain from male activities, then women cannot be overnight warriors. First the culture, then the people follow, I believe.

If we as a society can accept women casualties in a war, that reflects, I believe, that women are not on a pedestal anymore, the way they may have been in the minds of many previously.
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 03:52 pm
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:

I am not going to do the work but about a month ago either NYT or WP did a huge story on this. The gist was that demands upon a too small force necessitated using women in front line combat roles in IRAQ. Commanders did this by shady paper work methods, where the documents purposefully misrepresented what the women were doing. Now that woman have served in combat roles for years, have done a pretty good job, and there was no ending of the universe as we know it is presumed that lawmakers will be forced to recognize reality, that is change the laws to allow women into combat roles.

theory and moral arguments have been over-run by events, they no longer apply. Reality as demonstrated trumps, the reality is that woman can do the job, do do the job, and there is no military reason not to let them do the job. Also, just as the bulk of the force is now open to openly gay individuals in the force, they are also open to women serving on the front lines. There is no danger to the unit cohesion argument to make, it has been proven to not be a problem.

How have these women done in hand to hand combat with male opponents? Can you provide some documentation for hand to hand combat effectiveness?
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 07:05 pm
How often, Brandon, do you think any significant engagement hinges upon hand-to-hand combat? Do you believe that mere physical bulk will determine the outcome in hand-to-hand combat?

This is just more of that "weaker vessel" horseshit.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 07:51 pm
@Foofie,
Quote:
If we as a society can accept women casualties in a war, that reflects, I believe, that women are not on a pedestal anymore, the way they may have been in the minds of many previously.


Partly, but much more important to being accepted with-in the force is demonstrating that many women have the emotional strength to keep their **** together during combat. Not all women, there are some who join the military without the capability to be of assistance to the mission, but they are easily found out and moved to a position were they can do little or no harm. There are many women who can adapt and be successful in the masculine military culture, and not always is this done by adopting the persona of a butch dyke. I know of many good female soldiers who go to a great amount of work to keep their hair long, and off duty act all woman and on duty never let the guys forget thst they are women, but who can still do all the army stuff with great skill.
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 07:54 pm
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:

Quote:
If we as a society can accept women casualties in a war, that reflects, I believe, that women are not on a pedestal anymore, the way they may have been in the minds of many previously.


Partly, but much more important to being accepted with-in the force is demonstrating that many women have the emotional strength to keep their **** together during combat. Not all women, there are some who join the military without the capability to be of assistance to the mission, but they are easily found out and moved to a position were they can do little or no harm. There are many women who can adapt and be successful in the masculine military culture, and not always is this done by adopting the persona of a butch dyke. I know of many good female soldiers who go to a great amount of work to keep their hair long, and off duty act all woman and on duty never let the guys forget thst they are women, but who can still do all the army stuff with great skill.


You could have just ended your reply with "Partly." The rest is extraneous to the one point you quoted from my post.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 07:59 pm
@Foofie,
Quote:
You could have just ended your reply with "Partly." The rest is extraneous to the one point you quoted from my post


Your explanation is secondary, I am giving the primary reason why women have won the right to combat roles in the military. Explaining why your explanation is second rate is not extraneous to your explanation.
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 11:36 pm
@Brandon9000,
Quote:
How have these women done in hand to hand combat with male opponents? Can you provide some documentation for hand to hand combat effectiveness?


When's the last time you heard of any such thing as 'hand-to-hand combat' taking place on a modern battlefield? Most soldiers today wouldn't know what to do with a bayonet if they were issued one. Do M16s even have a bayonet capability? I somehow doubt it? In modern warfare you seldom even see the enemy you kill.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 01:32 am
@Merry Andrew,
Some special forces people go around sneaking into places and cutting people's throats and such....met up with an Oz SAS guy who'd been sneaking into Taliban leaders' compounds with a few other fellas and doing that just recently.

Given the need to sneak in, murder the people you are ordered to kill, and sneak out undetected, it's likely your sneakiness and quickness that are being tested mostly.

That's the only hand to hand...or hand to back..stuff I have heard of in a long time....but there may be soldiers who choose to run in and wrestle their opponents to the ground for all I know.

I suppose it might be discouraged and all by officers....although a few berserkers might be pretty impressive, especially if they stripped naked and painted their bodies and all. They used to upset ancient armies a bit, as I recall.

Anyway, Brandon's stuff is just nutso anyway and utterly misses the point.


In the proposal being floated, you either do or do not meet the strength criteria.

If you meet 'em, presumably you can kill people close up, or a long way away.

Strength is strength.



0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 03:30 am
In the experience of the United States Army, the soldiers did not like using the bayonet. The only time Americans routinely used the bayonet was during our revolution. During our civil war, soldiers very rarely used the bayonet, making those occasions upon which they did use them noteworthy. S. L. A. Marshall, long the doyen of the Army historical division, wrote extensively about the reaction to combat of individual soldiers. During the second world war and the Korean war, he was a part of teams who went around to debrief private soldiers as soon after an engagement or campaign as possible. He has written on several occasion about the reluctance of American soldiers to use the bayonet, and about how effective it was in the Korean war when they could be brought to do so--it scared the Bejesus out of the Chinese.

It is not actual physical strength which makes a soldier effective in close combat, and certainly not with the use of the bayonet. The Dahomean and Ashanti "Amazons" used knives and spears, and used them against European troops using the bayonet. The Russian women in the First Russian Women's Battalion of Death were using the bayonet against the Germans in 1917. As i've noted already twice now, references to upper body strength are just variants on that old chestnut about the "weaker vessel."
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 04:24 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

How often, Brandon, do you think any significant engagement hinges upon hand-to-hand combat? Do you believe that mere physical bulk will determine the outcome in hand-to-hand combat?

This is just more of that "weaker vessel" horseshit.

It's just a question. Do you know the answer? Certainly the purpose of an army is to make war and war can always include physical combat.
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 04:26 am
@Merry Andrew,
Merry Andrew wrote:

Quote:
How have these women done in hand to hand combat with male opponents? Can you provide some documentation for hand to hand combat effectiveness?


When's the last time you heard of any such thing as 'hand-to-hand combat' taking place on a modern battlefield? Most soldiers today wouldn't know what to do with a bayonet if they were issued one. Do M16s even have a bayonet capability? I somehow doubt it? In modern warfare you seldom even see the enemy you kill.

This is not an answer to my question. Obviously, if one envisions only wars in which one presses buttons, then anyone could do it, even the handicapped.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 05:14 am
@Brandon9000,
Yes--i would say that the answer is that engagements the outcome of which has hinged on hand-to-hand combat have been extremely rare in the last few centuries, and especially within the last century. I would also say that mere physical size will not necessarily determine the outcome in hand-to-hand combat. A woman skilled in martial arts will make a monkey out of a linebacker who simply attempts to flatten her using his larger size.

It has long been held in military historical circles that after the spread of the use of the bayonet, the outcome of combats involving the bayonet were determined by the moral aspect, and by nothing else. That is to say, it has long been held (and many military historians claim) that the side launching a determined bayonet attack will win every time. Despite initial heavy casualties, those using the bayonet will almost inevitably rout their opponents, because soldiers simply won't stand up to a bayonet attack. In bayonet combat, the effectiveness of the individual soldier is determined by their skill with the bayonet, and not their size. There are many similar circumstances in which it is the "moral" attitude which matters, and not numbers nor size. At the battle of Murfreesboro or Stone's River during the American civil war, Joe Wheeler (a famed Confederate cavalry commander) continually harassed Federal lines of communications, to great effect. However, when he tried that against the corps commanded by George Thomas, that didn't work out so well for him. Thomas was something of a martinet, although he took very good care of his men, who usually cheerfully accepted the strong discipline. Thomas was using the 11th Indiana Regiment of United States Volunteer Infantry as field police--today we would call them combat MPs. When Wheeler's cavalry attacked Thomas' trains, the initial response was predictable--the drovers and the carters ran, abandoning their cattle and their wagons. But the commander on the scene called on the 11th Indiana, who shook out a line and formed for "repel cavalry," which meant that the front rank knelt with bayonets fixed, and the rank behind them stood with bayonets fixed, and prepared to receive the charge of Wheeler's cavlary. The 11th was magnificently disciplined, and Wheelers cavalry broke before coming to grips with the Indiana infantry. They were, of course, badly punished by the musketry fire of the Indianans as they rode away. The 11the then "advanced bayonets" and the herds and wagons of Thomas' train were quickly recovered. The entire engagement lasted less than an hour.

At the first battle of Balaclava in 1854, known to the English participants as the battle of the Causeway Heights, when the Turks had been swept from the redoubts on the heights, about 7,000 Russian cavalry threatened the flank and rear of the Anglo-French army besieging Sevastopol. The only troops to oppose them were Lord Lucan's cavalry division (about 1200 men) to the west of the Russians, and the fewer than 600 men of the 93rd Highlanders to the south, supported by a detachment of Royal Marines. The Highlanders were attacked by the Russians first, when about 2000 cavalrymen were sent against them. They formed "repel cavalry" with bayonets fixed, and emptied as many saddles as possible as the Russians approached. The Scotsmen didn't flinch, and the Russians turned aside without pressing the attack. Dispatches by telegraph to England lead people to speak of the "thin red line of heroes," meaning the Highlanders and Marines. So, even men in skirts can be pretty damned formidable with 16 pounds of gun and a 28" bayonet in their hands.

Lord Lucan was not on very good terms with his brigade commanders, especially Lord Cardigan who commanded the Light Brigade. Lucan gave his orders, and then withdrew to a nearby eminence to watch the battle develop. Lord Cardigan would later get into a bitter controversy with Lucan over his orders, both because he failed to support the Heavy Brigade, and because he squandered his Light Brigade in a pointless attack at the end of the battle. However, General Scarlett commanding the Heavy Brigade had no problem with initiative, nor with Lord Lucan's orders (the men were unimpressed with their divisional commander, and referred to him as Lord Look-on, meaning he would do nothing if left to his own devices). After the Highlanders and Marines had repulsed the Russian cavalry, and seeing a grey mass of Russian cavalry at the western end of the Causeway Heights and still threatening the flank of the Anglo-French position, Scarlett decided to attack.

The charge of the Heavy Brigade wasn't much of charge as these things go--they were too close to reach a speed much more than a trot, and several of Scarlett's subordinate commanders initially hesitated. At the outset, about half of Scarlett's brigade (about 300 men) joined him as he personally lead the attack on the Russian cavalry. Scarlett's other troopers eventually joined the melee. Scarlett had confronted about 4000-5000 Russian cavalry with his 600 man brigade. The portion he attacked was about 2,000 Russians, about the same number as had attacked the Highlanders. Scarlett's charge caught the Russians flat-footed, and after some fierce fighting, they withdrew. They left about 50 dead and 200 wounded behind, while Scarlett's brigade had about 100 casualties. The Royal Horse Artillery arrived at about that time, and dissuaded the Russians from reforming and counterattacking.

All of that was followed by the completely useless and horribly bungled attack of the Light Brigade, which is about all anyone seems to know about the Crimean War. But the two main engagements of the first battle of Balaclava--the repulse of the Russian cavalry by the Highlanders and the Marines, and the charge of the Heavy Brigade point out the issue of "moral" ascendancy in combat. (I'm not inventing that use of the word moral, it's been used that way for a long time.) In the case of the failed Russian attack, the Highlanders and Marines were obviously prepared to stand there and receive the Russians with the bayonet, and the Russians were not prepared to press the issue. Scarlett's cavalry was prepared to attack the Russians with the saber, even though they were initially outnumbered by more than six to one, and the Russians were not prepared to stand and take it. Neither engagement lasted for more than ten minutes. The Russian cavalry were not defective, nor were their officers. In both cases, the troops they faced had gained "moral" ascendancy over them in terms of close combat.

The exact same conditions applied 40 years later when the all-women regiment of the Dahomeans attacked the French troops. The African women were prepared to go in with spear and knife and fight it out toe-to-toe, and the French, with their modern rifles and their bayonets, were not prepared to do that. Size had nothing to do with it, the women initially gained the moral ascendancy over their opponents, and that was what mattered.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 05:29 am
I have an error in that post--the standard socket bayonet used by the Highlanders and Marines would have been 18" long, not 28".
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 05:30 am
@Setanta,
Amazing photographs, Setanta. Very interesting reading, too. Thanks.

Quote:


http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/images/petro/petro8b.jpg

The First Petrograd Women's Battalion marching in the capital, 1917.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 05:32 am
@msolga,
Thank you, Miss Olga. When i went looking for photos, i found a treasure-trove at an English-language, Russian military history site.
 

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