Jim Webb Is Still Paying For Saying ‘Women Can’t Fight’

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In 1979, a young Marine officer named Jim Webb penned a 7,000-word essay for Washington Magazine entitled, “Women Can’t Fight.”


Now, it’s come back to haunt him almost 40 years later.

A group of Naval Academy graduates have requested the alumni association reconsider an award expected to be given to Webb, who served as a Virginia senator and ran for president in 2016, because of the essay, reported The Capital Gazette.

"There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat,” Webb wrote in the article. “Their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation.”

Webb is expected to attended the alumni association’s Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony, which recognizes alumni whose character exemplifies the values of the officer corps and have dedicated their lives to service.

When the essay resurfaced, Webb attempted to make amends through the release of a statement in a publication called The Capitol.

“Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article," Webb wrote. "To the extent that this article subjected women at the academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.”

The decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to give its Distinguished Graduate Award to Webb was "a hit to the gut," wrote 1981 graduate and retired Cmdr. Laureen Miklos in an email to The Capital Gazette.

Miklos contacted the alumni association to express her concern that Webb's essay, which she says is still referenced by midshipmen, gives credence to students and officers alike who don’t believe women belong at the Naval Academy.

A 1968 graduate of the Naval Academy, Webb served as a rifle platoon and company commander in the Vietnam War. His valorous actions there earned him a Navy Cross and two Purple Hearts for injuries that ended his career. In 1977, he entered politics and served the state of Virginia.

"It's kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can't just look down and see it," diver Jeff Goodreau said of finding the wreck.

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

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