General Barrow on Women in Combat

Hattip to Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report.  General Robert H. Barrow, 27th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, testifies against women in combat in 1991.  Every word he said then is equally true today, but now our Generals and Admirals tend not to be war fighters like Barrow, but politicians in uniform.

Barrow was an expert on combat.  He dropped out of college in 1942 to enlist in the Marine Corps as a buck private who rose to drill instructor and then went to officers candidates’ school.  After he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant he spent much of the War fighting behind Japanese lines in China as a guerilla.

During the Chosin Resevoir Campaign in Korea he and his company took the vital pass at Koto-ri against a larger and heavily fortified Communist Chinese force.  For this he earned the Navy Cross, the second highest award for valor in the Marine Corps.  Here is his Navy Cross citation:

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Robert H. Barrow (0-23471), Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Commanding Officer of Company A, First Battalion, First Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Koto-ri, Korea, on 9 and 10 December 1950. Ordered to seize and occupy the high ground on Hill 1081 dominating the pass below and held by a heavily-fortified, deeply-entrenched enemy of approximately battalion strength controlling all approaches to his company’s objective, Captain Barrow boldly led his company up the ice covered, windswept, razor backed ridge in a blinding snowstorm and, employing artillery, mortars and close air support, launched a well-coordinated attack. With his forward assault platoon suddenly brought under withering automatic weapons, small-arms and mortar fire from commanding ground as they moved along the narrow snow-covered ridge toward a bare mountain top studded with hostile bunkers and foxholes, he fearlessly advanced to the front under blistering shellfire, directing and deploying his men and shouting words of encouragement as they followed him to close with the enemy in furious hand-to-hand combat. Reorganizing his depleted units following the bitter conflict, he spearheaded a daring and skillful enveloping maneuver, striking the enemy by surprise on the right flank and destroying many emplacements as he continued the final drive up the steep slope in the face of heavy automatic weapons and grenade fire to secure the objective with a total loss to the enemy of more than 300 dead and wounded. By his gallant and forceful leadership, great personal valor and fortitude maintained in the face of overwhelming odds, Captain Barrow aided immeasurably in insuring the safe passage of the FIRST Marine Division through this hazardous pass, and his inspiring devotion to duty throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

While in Vietnam he commanded the 9th Marine Regiment.  During this command he earned the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for valor in the United States Army.  Here is his citation for that medal:

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Robert H. Barrow (0-23471), Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters, Ninth Marine Regiment, THIRD Marine Division (Reinforced). Colonel Barrow distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions during the period from 22 January to 18 March 1969 while commanding a regiment in Operation DEWEY CANYON in Quang Tri Province. Throughout the eight-week campaign in the Da Krong and A Shau Valleys, Colonel Barrow remained with the forward elements of his command, directing their insertion into enemy-held territory. Despite adverse flying conditions, he made numerous low-level reconnaissance flights in his command helicopter. Under his supervision, his troops swept the determined North Vietnamese forces back to the Laotian border, decimating countless fortifications and base camps and confiscating prodigious quantities of communist weapons and munitions. Despite the continuous hostile artillery and rocket bombardment of his command post, he persisted in retaining his position in close proximity to the enemy activity. During one concentrated attack on his post, he repeatedly exposed himself to the withering hostile fusillade in order to direct the repulsion of the enemy. After the two-month operation, his regiment confirmed over one thousand three hundred dead and accounted for tremendous amounts of captured North Vietnamese equipment. Colonel Barrow’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Marine Corps.

Among General Barrow’s many other decorations was a Silver Star, the third highest award for valor in all the armed services.

A favorite cant phrase of the Left is “speaking truth to power”.  That is precisely what General Barrow did in 1991.  He had seen war at its worst, and thought that as much as humanly possible women should be spared that experience.  Today the time servers and mediocrities who infest the upper echelons of our military are only too happy to follow the civilian leadership in introducing women into the combat arms with no care whatsoever for the women who will die as a result and the battles this nation will lose.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. “…but now our Generals and Admirals tend not to be war fighters like Barrow, but politicians in uniform.”

    There always have been such. I just think now there are far more such individuals. They are also more inclined to cave due to the current political climate.

  2. Many great generals have risen through the ranks. The Revolution that removed the nobility’s monopoly of officer corps produced Hoche and Masséna, Renier, Soult and Ney, to name only the most celebrated.

  3. I meant Jean Reynier. the names were off the top of my head and, alas, I did not check the spelling!

  4. All except for Hoche who died in 1797 soundly thrashed during the Peninsular War by the aristocrat Wellington who purchased his lieutenant-colonelcy! High military talent I think is a form of genius and can come out of the most unlikely backgrounds. Roman politicians of dubious morality, Corsican half pay lieutenants of artillery, aristocratic fops, semi-literate slave traders, Virginia planters, etc. It is no accident I think that the ablest military leaders tend to arise during the “big wars, that make ambition virtue” when from necessity you have men entering the military that would not have done so otherwise as a career choice.

  5. Something the General said in the first sentence (“This should not be about women’s rights.”) merits elaboration. Anytime I hear someone advocating any change in military policy on the basis of civil rights, my blood boils. Anyone who has experienced military life or has even a cursory understanding of such knows that there is no such thing as civil rights in the military. And it has to be that way. I wish there was at least one politician in uniform or civilian who had the guts and/or sense to say that!

  6. Dear General Barrow,
    Your comments today make me proud to have served under you as a Marine when you were our Commandant in the early 1980’s. Semper Fi and May GOD bless you.
    Respectfully, Manny Erazo, Corporal, USMC 1st Marine Division.

  7. Yes, as the retired general testified it’s all about the feminist agenda.

    So I have a modest proposal. At age 17 and a half each female is asked “Do you repudiate feminism and all its works?” The ones who cannot swear “yes” go straight into boot camp and then into combat. Oathbreakers later in life? Same thing. Alice Paul would be proud.

  8. Don, don’t forget the Huntingdonshire squire with no military background or training, Oliver Cromwell. A pity he was on the wrong side! The only man to have risen from the raks to become a Field Marshal in the British Army was Sir William Robertson (1860-1933). Many think that Bill Slim did the same, but this is untrue; he joined the Birmingham University OTC in 1912 and was commissioned as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in 1914.

    The Chosin Reservoir battle was one of the hardest-fought in any conflict, and yet the Korean War isn’t much remembered these days. A couple of weeks ago there was a letter in the press from a veteran of 41 Independent Commando Royal Marines which fought with the USMC in that battle.

    It was said at the time that the ORBAT of the Chinese army was:
    3 X Horde = 1 X Human Wave. 3 X Human Wave = 1 X Inexhaustable Reservoir of Chinese Manpower. When I started my military training in 1969 the Regular instructors, many of them Korea veterans, used to refer to a hypothetical enemy as “hordes of screaming Chinese”.

  9. Cromwell is a prime example John of military talent brought forth by events. As far as I know Squire Cromwell prior to the Civil War had expressed little interest in anything having to do with the military.

    “Many think that Bill Slim did the same,”

    One of the best commanders of World War II and certainly the best writer to attain high rank in the British Army. His Defeat into Victory has a treasured place in my library along with his Unofficial History.

    “and yet the Korean War isn’t much remembered these days.”

    Too true John and it is a shame since it was an important conflict. I believe that the casualties that the Communist Chinese encountered in Korea had a salutary impact on limiting Mao’s adventurism. The accounts of many Chinese veterans are eloquent as to the devastating impact of Allied airpower on their operations.

  10. “I have a modest proposal. At age 17 and a half each female is asked “Do you repudiate feminism and all its works?” The ones who cannot swear “yes” go straight into boot camp and then into combat”

    I’m curious as to what you think “repudiating feminism and all its works” means. If it means rejecting the “right” to abortion, or rejecting the idea that all differences between men and women are purely cultural and that women and men can never, ever be held to different standards, that I can dig.

    If you mean renouncing the right to vote, the right to equal pay, or agreeing to let your husband or a male relative approve all your decisions and financially support you instead of being responsible for yourself… that’s another story. The latter sentence, by the way, does NOT refer to women who freely agree to become stay at home mothers. I have nothing against that at all; however, there WAS a time when women were not encouraged to pursue higher education or learn skills beyond domestic and secretarial work because it was assumed that their future husbands would support them. I believe women need to be PREPARED to support themselves and their families and make their own decisions even if they plan on being SAHMs because even the most faithful husband could die or become disabled, or lose his job. If that is a “feminist” point of view that means I should be marched off to the front lines immediately, so be it.

  11. John Nolan

    You could have added the Cambridge graduate,Thomas Fairfax, who was reading for the bar at Gray’s Inn, when he joined his future father-in-law, Sir Horace Vere in the Brabant campaign in 1628.

    Along with Philip Skippon, a professional soldier, he was the co-founder of the New Model Army.

    Another change of career was that of Vauban, a poor orphan, whom a kindly Carmelite trained in mathematics and geography, with a view to his becoming a land surveyor. He volunteered during the Fronde and had to refuse the first offer of a commission, on account of poverty.

    On a personal note, my only trip in a hot air balloon was in one offering flights over Vauban’s fortifications at Neuf-Brisach, even though I thought it rather dear. In retrospect, I would gladly have paid double.

  12. Elaine Krewer

    St Augustine is very good on the difference between the sexes.

    Commenting on Genesis 1: 27 (And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them) he says, “Some people have suggested that it was now that the human mind [interiorem] was made, while the human body came later, when scripture says, ‘And God fashioned man from the slime of the earth’ (Gen 2:7); so that where it says ‘he made’ (1:26), it refers to the spirit, while ‘he fashioned’ (2:7) refers to the body. But they fail to take into account that male and female could only be made with respect to the body…”

    Later, he observes, “still the woman too, who is female in the body, she too is being renewed in the spirit of her mind [mentis], where there is neither male nor female…”

    Like Plato before him, he rejects the idea of a specifically female mind. Indeed, the idea of treating men and women as if they belonged to two different species (which is what having two different kinds of mind would amount to) came in with the Romantic Movement.

  13. Apart from the fact that the Korean War was the only successful military action conducted under the aegis of the UN (of course the US played by far the major part) I think that it is of considerable significance. The Cold War was part of my life. We won. And by “we” I refer predominantly to the United States. The Pax Britannica had its effect in the 19th century, and the Pax Americana in the 20th. I hope civilized values can still prevail in the 21st.

  14. My Uncle Ralph fought in Korea John. Protestant though he was he treasured a rosary that a Catholic family in California gave to him on his way to Korea. The Father of the family told him he carried it with him through his service in the trenches in World War I. Uncle Ralph wore it around his neck through some of the bloody hill battles in 51-52. When I think of our, meaning all those who cherished freedom, victory in the Cold War I always think of Uncle Ralph, who could do a hilarious Donald Duck imitation, and the rosary.

  15. Donald, it would be interesting to trace the origins of prayer beads and their various adaptations. I know the rose was a grand emblem in the West during the Middle Ages, and it became the symbol for many things spiritual. It was first a pagan symbol.

  16. No, I don’t mean that. I mean that the rose was a pagan symbol, which became incorporated into the prayer beads—hence, rosary.

  17. The rose was emblematic of erotic love in the ancient world. It was platonized by the church and become a symbol of Christian love and was later associated with the Virgin Mary. The rose is seen in medieval architecture, literature such as The Divine Comedy and The Rose, and became aesthetically linked with the rosary. The rose has always been fertile with meaning.

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