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The War Nerd March 7, 2006
Women at War & in Drag
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email

FRESNO -- When I was a kid, girls didn't get to play soldier. War was a boy's game, played with dirtclods, with maybe a nice sharp rock stuck in the clod if you really hated the guys you were fighting. That was the Heroic Age, the Homeric era of Bakersfield. We had a code, damn it. One time Lisa Royster, this bucktoothed sister of a friend of mine, tried to join the wars and got herself dirtclodded back to her dollhouse by a rare united volley from both sides, which just shows you how chivalrous we were.

Now they tell us women have to get equal time, some Title IX deal where the feds have decreed girls not only have to get equal volleyball funding but a full and fair chance of getting blown up by an IED. Which is why we've already had 52 American women KIA in Iraq. Officially women aren't supposed to be in frontline combat units like infantry or armor, but nobody told the Iraqis about this frontline.

The fact is, any US soldier or vehicle, anywhere in Iraq, is a target, so banning women from certain kinds of service doesn't do a thing to keep them safe. It just means your Congressmember can send off a form letter saying he did his best to keep our daughters out of the Ramadi Inn where Jessica Lynch stayed before she got fake-rescued. In other words, it's all a crock.

Back in the day, women knew their place in wartime, which was running away screaming when the village got jumped. If they didn't make it to the treeline, well, things were likely to get a little rough, with rape being one of the traditional perks of victory. War is when guys like me could finally get some cooperation from the girls, like at swordpoint. Most women were sensible enough to deal with that, and usually signaled their, uh, recognition of the hostile takeover by baring their breasts. This told the victorious Goth or Saracen raider, "Hey, congrats on the victory, here's your peace dividend, no waiting!"

Maybe it wasn't the kind of deal Dianne Feinstein would approve of, but people weren't such wusses back then, they just tried to roll with the punches and stay alive. Africans still deal with reality like that, but the rest of the world goes around trying to pretend they just can't imagine such crude doings.

Well, just you do-gooders wait for the next big warquake, when the crude runs dry. You'll see the old ways come back in about zero-point-zero seconds, and the do-gooders will be the first berserkers to jump off the longboats and get down to the rape and pillage.

What's really funny is how the liberals are running two totally opposite lies about women and war lately:

1. War is a mean, bad, sexist thing, and besides...

2. Women have always been brave soldiers who were right there on the battle front!

To prove #2, a bunch of professors have been collecting stories about girls who dressed up as guys and went to war. These so-called historians say all the big European armies of the 18th and 19th centuries were crammed with butchy girls passing as men. After reading a bunch of sites promoting this lesbian crap, I finally understood why the ancient Greeks went into battle naked: they were just trying to make sure their ranks weren't inflated with millions of dykes in drag.

I'm not saying it didn't happen. Until the 20th century, most European armies were all-volunteer in the traditional way, meaning if a press gang caught you in a dark alley and you had two arms and legs, they'd knock you on the head and when you woke up, you were in uniform, having volunteered while you were out cold.

Soldiering wasn't an elite profession, more like a way to avoid hanging. Some armies, like the 18th-century Prussians', were officered by local boys but soldiered by any scum the press gangs could grab.

Nobody was in a mood to ask you about your past, and since these people bathed about once a year, whether they needed it or not, a girl didn't have to worry about those embarrassing locker-room scenes you get in teen crossdressing comedies.

So no doubt, plenty of country girls who didn't look forward to getting beaten by the hubby every night and popping out a kid every year must have stolen their brothers' clothes, smeared a fake axle-grease mustache on, and practiced lowering their voices an octave or so with a view to a military career.

Even in the Civil War -- you know, the 1860s, the most sexually twitchy era in history -- some women passed as guys and saw combat. One of them, a freaky girl named Jenny, called herself Albert D. J. Cashier (I just like her alias somehow, thought I'd put it in) and enlisted in the Illinois Volunteers. She served till Lee surrendered, and -- I love this quote -- "was never suspected to be anything more than likeable, shy, and very brave."

In other words, sharing a tent with hundreds of hairy vets for over three years, nobody noticed she was a girl. Which tells you a lot about hygenic standards in wartime.

Jenny, or Albert, liked the whole man thing so much she stuck to it, undiscovered, all the way into the 20th century. In fact, that newfangled technology was what revealed her little game: at the age of 66, she got into a car crash and when they prepped him for surgery some brilliant diagnostician noticed that him was a her.

So basically, what we've got is another reason to love war: it allowed the sistuhs back then to express themselves free of gender roles, and all that crap.

War was a great way for a Civil-War era girl with a taste for Melissa Etheridge and womens' softball to break out of those old stereotypes, see the world, even go courtin' the girls -- some of these butch chicks even fought duels over the "affections" of camp follower girls.

But after seeing pictures of some of the women who supposedly passed as guys, I can't help suspecting that desperate recruiting officers worried about making their cannon-fodder quota let them in knowing damn well they were more or less female. Take a famous case, this British woman named Dorothy Lawrence who spent WW I reporting from the frontline in drag. You can check out a photo of her on Wikipedia:

Now you look at that picture and tell me if you think she could pass for a guy, even in the mud and blood of the trenches. She's got big wide hips, narrow shoulders, short arms and small features. She couldn't pass for a man anywhere, even at a Democratic Party Convention.

Maybe it made her feel better to believe people took her for a guy, but I bet the Tommies started telling dirty jokes the second she moved on to the next trench interview.

This whole topic makes me kind of uncomfortable, so let's just move on to the Russian girls, who as far as I can tell are the only ones who were totally able to fight magnificently without turning into medical freaks who had to shave twice a day. I have to salute you Russian woman warriors for that.

The USSR mobilized its women more effectively than any other power. Nazi Germany was the least efficient, according to Albert Speer's memoirs. I guess all that old-fashioned ideology got in the way. Funny to think of the Nazis as softies, but in all kinds of ways they actually were. It was the Soviets who were really tough.

Stalin wasn't squeamish. He got called a lot of things, but not squeamish. So once all the boys of the class of '41 were dead (and that didn't take long, the way the Germans were rolling up whole armies in the summer of '41), he called up the girls. Russian women were the logistical base of the Red (later Soviet) Army. They drove the trucks, ran the trains, manned (so to speak) the communications networks. And saw plenty of combat too, not only in partisan warfare but in some of the Russians' most effective frontline units.

The coolest of all these units was the 586th Fighter Regiment, an all-female outfit that flew Yak-1's against the Luftwaffe's Ju88's and Bf-109s. At least two of the women in the 586th earned Ace status before the war was over. And if you don't mind me being sexist for a second here, both these aces were pretty durn cute. I even have kind of a crush on one of them, Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak, who was credited with 11 solo kills and three team kills. And, plus, you can see her picture on this Spanish commie site I found and IMHO she looks really nice. Geez, ever since I saw Sharapova win that tournament I seem to have this Russian-girl thing. Anyway, here's Lydia:

She was shot down in 1943, and the Soviet command feared she'd been captured. That would have ruined her career as a Soviet propaganda symbol, because Stalin was a little bit prejudiced against Soviet soldiers who got themselves captured, as in he considered them traitors and was already warming up a nice unheated barracks for them once the war was over. Luckily for Lydia, it turned out she hadn't been captured at all, just died in the crash, which was perfectly OK and patriotic.

Comrade Stalin had this generous rule that if you died, you didn't have to ride the G-for-Gulag Train to Yakutsk. In fact, if you could prove you were dead, you were automatically let off your 16-hour shift when the temperature fell below minus 65 degrees. So Lydia got to spend the rest of the war in a nice comfy grave.

The other combat role Soviet women really did outstanding in was as snipers. Some of these Russian girls notched up serious three-figure kill totals and managed to stay cute doing it. The top gun among them was this really gorgeous Ukranian girl named Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Dumb name, great girl -- by the end of the war she had, get this, 309 little notches on her stock. Which shows you how incredibly effective a good sniper can be over the course of a long mobile war like the Eastern Front, '41-'45. They say Lyudmila found a notebook on the corpse of one of the Wehrmacht snipers she killed that listed more than 500 kills. So she not only took out three companies of enemy troops but by killing this uber-sniper saved Lord knows how many Soviet soldiers.

You could argue that Lyudmila had the combat effectiveness of a battalion. And what a profile! Check out her picture at this seriously cool site in honor of the Soviets' top sniper rifle, the Mosin-Nagant:

The only negative on Lyudmila is the fact that Woody Guthrie wrote a song about her, and it may seriously be the worst song in the history of the world. I don't know why people think Guthrie was so great, but if you want to be deprogrammed from that notion, just read these lyrics he dedicated to Lyudmila:

Miss Pavlichenko's well known to fame;

Russia's your country, fighting is your game;

Your smile shines as bright as any new morning sun.

But more than three hundred nazidogs fell by your gun.


In your mountains and canyons quiet as the deer.

Down in your bigtrees [SIC] knowing no fear.

You lift up your sight. And down comes a hun.

And more than three hundred nazidogs fell by your gun.

God, that's lousy writing. Too bad nobody ever gave Lyudmila clearance to take out ol' Woody before he got to that chorus: "Pliz, Comrade, I haff clear head shot at zees 'singer,' pliz let me take it, or I must shoot self from ze agony of ze listening!"

I've seen pictures of Guthrie with a sticker on his stupid guitar reading, "This machine kills fascists." I hate commie posers like that, taking credit for kills he never earned. Just compare a phony like that to Lyudmila, who went to war, did her job brilliantly, and managed to stay a real woman right through it.

Well, we won't get anybody like her any more. So much of what made war worth doing died in '45. That's the Nazis' real crime, if you ask me: they ruined it for everybody except the damn suits.

From now on, women in war is going to be buzzcut Hillarys with pictures of their girlfriends in their cockpits and a sex-bias lawyer waiting for their first disciplinary hearing. It's probably somebody's idea of a good time, but not mine. Just makes me want to make that move to Eritrea, where men are men and women still fight with babies on their backs.

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Gary Brecher
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