Women Soldiers in Korea: Troop Viewpoints

In April 1972, the Department of Defense implemented new policies toward greater utilization of women in all military specialties, with the exception of those involving “direct combat or unusual physical demands”. This policy of greater inclusion and utilization had a delayed impact on the Eighth United States Army (EUSA), the Army Component of United States Forces Korea, which had long been a force composed of men operating under the threat of hostile action. In addition to the difficulties of incorporating women into additional U.S. military roles, the U.S. had to deal with alliance issues in that Korean culture is traditionally male-oriented. This 1972 memorandum by the Department of Defense sheds insight into the military’s longstanding exploration of the greater role and utilization of women within the military. The study and recommendations also helped smoothe the path that eventually resulted in more families, instead of primarily single men being assigned to Korea. This study is a reminder that U.S. alliance management can take many forms. Placing more women and more families in Korea demonstrated the depth of the alliance. North Korea also had to consider that any attack on Seoul or South Korea had a higher price as it would more likely be perceived as counter-value because of the presence of more women and more families. This study precedes about four decades earlier the U.S. military’s January 2013 announcement ending its formal policy of excluding women from combat, and opening direct combat jobs to enlisted women in the future, but the trendlines have been clear for some time.

The purpose of this research was to identify problem areas associated with assigning female soldiers in increasing numbers to the Eight United States Army in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The researchers used survey questionnaires to examine the situation from the viewpoints of individual enlisted EUSA soldiers and unit commanders. The memorandum identifies areas best addressed by direct command action and issues best addressed more appropriately by long-term education.

Bolin writes:

“Analysis of the response indicated that women soldiers were most strongly and consistently different from men in favoring an expanded role for women in the Army. All groups were against a direct combat role for women.” [page 9]

This report was released to the Nautilus Institute under the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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