Fifteen British sailors and marines were captured by Iran on March 23, and the only woman among them was singled out as a prime propaganda tool during their 13 days in Iranian hands. Seaman Faye Turney's captivity again has focused attention on the issues of women at war.
1 Historians believe hundreds of women, disguised as men, fought on both sides of the American Civil War. Among them was Loreta Velazquez, a Confederate soldier who reportedly wore a specially padded uniform and fake facial hair. According to her memoir, she fought in the first battle of Bull Run and at Shiloh. Her disguise was discovered when she was treated for shrapnel wounds.
World War II. Forced out of action by her wounds, she went on a publicity tour in 1942 and boasted about her exploits. "Dead Germans," she said, "are harmless."
3 Israel's compulsory military service includes women. But after the nation's initial war in 1948, they were barred from close combat. Retired U.S. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, in his book "On Killing," cites two problems the Israelis encountered with women in combat: The sight of a female soldier being killed or wounded seemed to trigger "uncontrolled violence" among her male comrades. Also, Arab fighters were reluctant to surrender to a woman. Since the 1990s, Israel has liberalized its policies on women in combat.
4 In modern times, Vietnamese women have been especially fierce fighters, according to David E. Jones in his book "Women Warriors." A unit of markswomen supporting the South Vietnamese government had a policy of wounding Viet Cong fighters with a single shot, then beating them to death with their rifle butts to save bullets. Ming Khai, an anti-French Vietnamese fighter in the 1940s, wrote a poem in blood on her prison cell wall. The last lines were: "The sword is my child, the gun is my husband."
5 Joyce Mujuru, who is one of the two vice presidents of Zimbabwe under the autocratic Robert Mugabe, commanded guerrillas in the fight against white rule in the 1970s and claimed that she single-handedly shot down a helicopter with an AK-47. She was given the nickname Teurai Ropa, which means "Spill Blood."
6 Women represent about 15 percent of the U.S. military and 10 percent of the American force in Iraq. More than 160,000 female troops have been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East -- 20 times the number of those who served in the Vietnam War. In Iraq, more than 70 female U.S. soldiers have been killed and 450 wounded.
7 Black Hawk pilot Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade north of Baghdad in 2004, was defeated in her race for Congress last November in Chicago's suburbs. Now she's director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs. Many people know the bare outlines of Duckworth's ordeal, but the details are heartbreaking. Her Web site, tammyduckworth.com, includes a journal by husband Bryan Bowlsbey:
"It was necessary to tell her that she had lost her legs, as she felt the phantom pain in the appendages, and didn't understand why the pain meds weren't taking that away."
8 An Iraq war veteran, former Army Sgt. Kayla Williams, wrote a racy 2005 memoir called "Love My Rifle More Than You" that was frank about sexual activity between male and female soldiers. " The Army is not a monastery," she wrote. "More like a fraternity. Or a massive frat party. With weapons."
9 The problem of sexual assault against female soldiers is gaining greater notice. Journalist Helen Benedict, writing last month in salon.com, quoted Spec. Mickiela Montoya as saying that she kept a knife with her at all times: "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis. It was for the guys on my own side."
10 A 1999 study found that 5 percent to 6 percent of Army women were pregnant at any one time. And yes, the military has maternity uniforms.
Mark Jacob is the Tribune's foreign/national news editor.
10 things you might not know about women at war
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