Women in the military have a long history, although their role in combat has always been controversial. This week, the Pentagon announced that American women soldiers will be allowed to fight in combat. With that announcement, the US becomes the 12th country to allow women to the front lines, along with countries such as Italy, Norway, Serbia and Israel. Their presence, however, is hardly a new phenomenon.
Here are some photos of women in militaries around the world over the past 50 years.
Cambodian women soldiers advance with male counterparts toward the besieged town of Romeas 40 miles northwest of Phnom Penh on Jan. 24, 1973.
AP Photo/Chor Yuthy
North Korean female soldiers march during a mass military parade in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Kim Il Sung on April 15, 2012.
AP Photo/Vincent Yu
A Norwegian female soldier, part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), puts a shoe onto an Afghan child’s foot at a mobile medical center in Mazar-e-Sharif, north of Kabul, Afghanistan on March 25, 2007.
Female soldiers receive training on rocket launchers at the Women’s Military Academy in Tripoli on Jan. 18, 1986.
AP Photo/Giulio Broglio
An unidentified female soldier walks along the beach at Ein Fashka at the northern end of the Dead Sea, Israel, carrying her assault rifle on Sept. 27, 1989. The army recommended troops carry weapons with them at all times.
AP Photo/Max Nash
Recruit Angelia Wingle, of Lyons, Georgia, shines her combat boot as she sits on a bunk in the barracks at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. in September 1977.
AP Photo/Lou Krasky
Private Dajana Bartczewski wears a full camouflage helmet and camouflage paint on her face during German army manuevers near Augustdorf on Jan. 9, 2001. It was the first time that female soldiers joined a military exercise in combat units and were permitted to handle weapons.
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
An Israeli woman soldier holds a rifle during a march near Ein Yahav in southern Israel on Dec. 20, 2006. The Israeli army once only allowed female conscripts in clerical or support jobs. Today, Israel is the only country in the world with a mandatory military service requirement for women.
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
A Hungarian female soldier joins Bosnian Army soldiers’ exercise during hostile situation training near Tuzla, 70 kms north of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on March 6, 2008.
AP Photo/Amel Emric
Young female cadets at a parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on Nov. 7, 2010.
AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev
A North Korean female soldier stands guard along the waterfront of the Yalu River at the North Korean side of the Chinese border town of Hekou, northeast of Dandong, China, Monday, March 23, 2009.
AP Photo/Andy Wong
Israeli Army female soldiers, usually dressed in blouse and skirt, take to jeans and oversized men’s winter uniform overcoats after chilly rains and dropping temperatures on Oct. 31, 1973 near Merom Golan, Golan Heights, Syria.
AP Photo/Horst Faas
Female soldiers march during a military parade commemorating the 20th anniversary of the failed coup attempt by President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 4, 2012.
AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos
Female recruits of the Kachin Independence Army, one of the country’s largest armed ethnic groups, rest in their barracks at a training camp near Laiza in Myanmar on April 17, 2010.
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan