Hand grenades and females in the military.

Is it true that the military started producing more lightweight, less lethal hand grenades in order to accomodate female recruits who could not throw them far enough to escape the blast and shrapnel?

I’ve heard this from a number of sources. The only reason I tend to doubt it is because, to the best of my knowledge, females still are not allowed in the Combat Arms MOS’s.

No. It’s not true.

Women couldn’t throw them far enough? Have you seen “A League of Their Own”? Or watched a local women’s softball club? I don’t think throwing a grenade far enough would be any problem at all.

How heavy is a standard fragmentation grenade? A concussion grenade? I imagine they would be pretty substatial pieces of hardware, but they are designed to be lobbed good distances (albeit by big military guys).


When I was in basic training we were taught a stiff-armed lob upon completion of which you would be under cover. In all the WWII pictures of guys throwing grenades I’ve never seen anyone throw one that way. All those I have seen throw it like you would a rock or a baseball.

Is it that in the excitement and confusion of battle people forget or is it because the stiff-armed lob doesn’t work all that well in actual practice? How about it you ex-doggies?

By the way, there are females flying F-14’s which I’ve got to assume calls for a combat MOS.

Well, to quote my lieutenant, “throw it like you’d throw a rock at a cat”.

I always assumed he was a dog person.

What, pin your target under your heel and then drop the heaviest grenade you can find on it? That seems counterproductive. Plus the laughter would give away your position to the enemy.

I couldn’t believe my eyes upon reading the quote from the House testimony (posted by cynic) - so went to the site to look it up. Yup. And it gets worse.

I’m all in favour of equality - but that just means an equal chance to compete. I concede that there are a wide range of skills necessary in the military and that if someone’s particularly good at, say, cryptanalysis you don’t insist on three mile runs with full pack … but to impair combat efficiency to meet gender goals puts the cart before the horse.

And there I was thinking that Toronto was the most benighted city on earth, because there are ethnic and sex-based physical requirements for firefighters … even though most people would prefer the biggest and strongest person available carry them from their burning bedroom.

Here’s the thing that the CMR generally forgets – the vast majority of actual training comes after people have left Basic Training. What BT does is weed out those who just plain cannot hack it physically, mentally or emotionally. Then they get sent to an actual unit, combat or otherwise, where they really learn how stuff works.

You’ve heard of the crawl-walk-run principle? Basic is crawling. AIT is walking. It’s not until you get to your unit that you’re running.

[Chief Wiggum voice]
That’s some fine weeding out, boys.
[/Chief Wiggum voice]

I’ve never been in the military (except for a year of cadets back in grade 8) … so I’m more than ready to defer to those who know.

But surely if you lower the bar in the early stages while insisting strictly on combat-readiness by the time the soldiers are ready to go, you’re only shifting the point of failure?

In the Canadian army (twelve years ago), I was taught to throw it like a baseball–that’s exactly what they said, “throw it like you’d throw a baseball.”

The purpose of the straight-arm lob is to toss the grenade in a high arc, causing the grenade to land after falling nearly straight down, so that it doesn’t bounce or roll–in other words, so it stays where it lands. A baseball, by comparison, is less accurate to throw because it could skitter or bounce several more yards.

However, what someone finally figured out was that just about everyone knows how to throw a baseball, and it’s a far more natural motion than the lob. In lob training, they had problems with people who wouldn’t release the grenade from their hands soon enough, basically driving the grenade directly into the ground in front of them.

It’s also easier to throw a grenade like a baseball from a prone position–when you’re under fire, standing up for a proper lob is frowned upon.

In one of the most unusual fights of in the annals of U.S. Naval history, a destroyer escort, the USS Buckley rammed the U-66 on May 6, 1944. Depending on who tells the story,* the Germans appear to have attempted to board the American ship. The Americans, lacking enough firearms, distributed grenades among the sailors, who reputedly did very well for themselves because everyone in those days knew how to throw a baseball.

  • One account I read claimed it was the last time the order “prepare to be boarded” was issued on a USN ship; others claim that fearful American sailors beat off Germans trying to surrender. Most accounts agree that a coffee cup was used as a weapon, and in a perhaps unique twist, the U-66 definitely, intentionally counter-rammed the Buckley. The U-66 eventually went down, and the Buckley managed to rescue over half of the U-66’s crew before limping to dry dock. The whole story appears to be the basis for the Robert Mitchum vehicle, The Enemy Below, which in turn appears to be the inspiration for a Star Trek TOS episode, “The Balance of Terror.” In that episode, Mark Lenard played the role of the Romulan ship commander; he later went on to portray Spock’s father, Sarek, in the following season.

So there, I’ve gone from “do girls still throw like girls” to Spock’s old man in one hijack. Do I get inducted into the geek hall of fame or something?

Sofa King, you are a geek god.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled thread.

For one thing, those numbers are wrong. They’ve raised the women’s requirement.

For another thing, so what? That’s to get INTO Basic training.

A huge component of combat readiness is knowing your unit. Their battle drills, their strengths and weaknesses, their individual foibles. Studies have shown, over and over again, that a collection of individually high-trained people thrown into combat will consistently get their asses kicked by people who have been training together.

I’ve tossed two real grenades in my career (12 years - Canadian Reserves) and there were two elements about that day that stand out the most:
[li]Before letting us have the real ones, the range controllers gave us each a practice grenade that made a little “ffft” sound and let out some smoke when detonated. My toss was sufficiently girlish (far more so than any of the women present) that one of range guys told me I’d better not toss the real one like that (ouch!). While waiting my turn, I dug up grenade-sized rocks from the dirt parking lot and practiced tossing them. That’s what I get for growing up in a non-sports household.[/li][li]When the function of the range safety officer was explained to us (he has the responsibility of getting the soldier clear in case of a mishap), I decided early on that he’d better watch out for his own ass, because if something bad happened, I wasn’t going to wait around for instructions.[/li][/ul]

“Heroes for Sale” by Hans Helmut Kirst (ISBN 0 00 222396 1) is set in the training ground for a super-elite German unit in WW2. One of the training exercises (which appals some of the less gung-ho officers) involves a topless cylinder of sandbags about ten feet in diameter and six feet high, surrounded by three concentric rings of foxholes.

The platoon being trained stands around the sandbag cylinder amidst the foxholes, starting at a radius of six or seven yards and increasing progressively. They then take turns throwing live grenades into the cylinder … and whenever anyone misses it’s time to dive into the nearest foxhole.

Now, this is obviously not a wholly rational training exercise (which is the literary purpose of putting it in the novel). But can anyone venture an opinion on whether it has any meaning (in the sense of not killing everybody in the unit and really, really encouraging accurate throwing)? And was it ever done, or did Kirst manufacture the incident from whole cloth?