- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

LONDON — Sending women into front-line combat units will reduce the British armed forces' efficiency, increase costs and could prove "little short of criminal," a study by a leading military authority has found.
In a warning to the Ministry of Defense, the research uncovered widespread evidence that female soldiers undermined the battlefield effectiveness of troops.
The study was conducted by Martin Van Creveld, a specialist in international conflict who lectures regularly at army staff colleges, by examining the integration of women into armies in Israel, in Europe and in the United States.
His findings will influence Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, who is due to announce his decision on whether to lift the ban on women joining the infantry, the Royal Armored Corps, the Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force Regiment.
The heads of the three armed services and the chief of the Defense Staff, Adm. Sir Michael Boyce, are preparing recommendations to Mr. Hoon on the subject, with a final decision expected this month.
Mr. Van Creveld, whose book "Men, Women and War — Do Women Belong in the Front Line?" is to be published on Sept. 13, found that women lack the physical strength needed for fighting at close quarters.
Their relative weakness could, in some cases, put themselves and their comrades in unjustifiable danger, which he described as potentially "criminal."
In the book, Mr. Van Creveld quotes a study of recruits at West Point in the United States showing that after eight weeks' training, men typically develop 37 percent more power in the lower body than women, and do 48 percent more work at the leg press.
The U.S. Army has calculated that the average woman recruit has 59 percent of the upper body strength of her average male counterpart and 72 percent in the lower body.
Women are more vulnerable to injury than men, the research found. A study of 310 volunteers in the United States found that women are twice as susceptible to leg injuries and five times more prone to broken bones of all types.
Mr. Van Creveld found that anecdotal evidence of women fighting in historical conflicts was unreliable. Stories of female warriors, Amazons, were myths, he said, adding: "There is no more reason to believe they ever existed any more than Barbarella or Wonder Woman did."
Myth also surrounds the roles of women in more contemporary armed forces, including the Soviet Red Army, the U.S. forces and the Israeli Defense Force, Mr. Van Creveld argues. Although Israel called up women more than any other modern army, few served in the front line, and were conscripted for shorter periods than men.
Women also accounted for a small proportion of troops in the U.S. armed forces, Mr. Van Creveld found. During the Vietnam War, there were only eight American women among the 57,000 dead. Of the 388 Americans killed in the Gulf War of 1991, 13 were women.
He witnessed women training for the Israeli army in scenes he described as bordering on farce. When men and women recruits set out on runs, the men were soon out of sight. During stretcher drills, women struggled to cope with the weight of their male colleagues.
Women in front-line units increased costs because separate facilities were needed for a relatively small number of recruits.
Active-duty and former army officers have echoed the book's findings. Col. Mike Vickery, who commanded the 14th/20th Hussars during the Gulf War, told the Sunday Telegraph: "Being shut down in a tank for hours on end in combat could be very difficult with women in a unit. It can mean having to urinate in a bottle, for example. Handling ammunition is tough for the loader. Hardest work falls to the driver, who relies on leg strength as much as arms and hands. After a difficult day driving, you often have to replace the tank tread, which is hard enough for three men at the best of times."
An artillery commander added: "So far, women have proved excellent in training, but they haven't been tested in war."
A British Defense Department spokesman said: "The chiefs of staff have a very large amount of information on the issue to consider. They will make their recommendations in due course."


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