From the Archives: Jim Webb, “Women Can’t Fight”

Welcome to our feature where we highlight thought-provoking and interesting pieces from Washingtonian's decades of archives. Today, it's a 1979 article from Jim Webb (now a Virginia senator) on why women should not be allowed in military combat.

Women Can't Fight

By James Webb

"Your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable—it is to win wars," Douglas MacArthur told the 1962 West Point class. In this story, a Naval Academy graduate, a combat veteran of Vietnam, says the country's fighting mission is being corrupted, with grave consequences to the national defense. One of the main problems, he says, is women.

 From the November 1979 Washingtonian

We would go months without bathing, except when we could stand naked among each other next to a village well or in a stream or in the muddy water of a bomb crater. It was nothing to begin walking at midnight, laden with packs and weapons and ammunition and supplies, seventy 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.

When we stopped moving we started digging, furiously throwing out the heavy soil until we had made chest-deep fighting holes. When we needed to make a call of nature we squatted off a trail or straddled a slit trench that had been dug between fighting holes, always by necessity in public view. We slept in makeshift hooches made out of ponchos, or simply wrapped up in a poncho, sometimes so exhausted that we did not feel the rain fall on our own faces. Most of us caught hookworm, dysentery, malaria, or yaws, and some of us had all of them.

Read the full article.

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