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Moroccan Goumiers, the only WWII soldiers to bring their women to the battlefield

During World War II, French authorities, which sent Moroccan soldiers to fight in Italy, decided to allow these tribesmen to bring their women to the battlefield. The policy was meant to help quell rape and pillage cause by the Goumiers.

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Moroccan Goumiers in WWII. / Ph. DR

They were the subjects of the sultan of Morocco, and at the same time, unbeatable soldiers who were part of the French Army of Africa. They are Goums, or Moroccan Goumiers, a big number of Berber tribesmen who fought alongside the Allied Forces in World War II.

They were skilled men who gained the reputation of being great fighters. They helped the Allied Forces win battles in Tunisia, France and Italy between 1942 and 1945. But aside from their fierce behavior in battlefields, they were the only World War II soldiers to have their wives and women accompany them to war.

This privilege, however, was not a way of rewarding these skilled tribesmen in uniforms. Unfortunately, the decision was taken as a «solution» to a bigger «problem». Deployed to Italy by the French to fight the Axis forces, Moroccan Goumiers unleashed mayhem.

History accounts attest that the Goums «raped hundreds of Italian women» during their campaigns in the country, recalls Micheal Clodfelter in his book «Warfare and Armed Conflicts : A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures» (McFarland, 2017).

To other historians, the decision was a punishment to these soldiers who «along the course of their campaigns from Tunisia, to Corsica, Italy, France, Germany, and finally Austria, they acquired a reputation of their savage appearance, acts of indiscipline and sheer atrocity», said British historian James McDougall, referring to the rapes in Italy.

Female camp followers in WWII

Indeed, the stories of Moroccan Goumiers «raping Italian women» forced the French, which controlled Morocco at the time, to act quickly on the situation.

According to an Anthropology essay entitled «The Moroccan Goumiers : Origin and History», it is explained that while Moroccan soldiers «indulged in rape, theft, pillage and murder», the head of the Fifth American division «under which the Goums were supervised» had to think of a «preventive action».

While «law transgressors» were executed, the «French decided to bring Berber women to Italy through the US Navy LST to prevent future misconduct». According to the essay, this move made of these Moroccans «the only soldiers in World War II that brought their women with them».

The same account is confirmed by Edward L. Bimberg, a veteran of World War II who worked as a writer on military subjects. The latter recalled in his book «The Moroccan Goums : Tribal Warriors in a Modern War» (Greenwood Press, 1999), that «the French authorities sought to defuse the problem by importing numbers of Berber women to serve as ‘camp followers’».

In others words, Goumiers had Moroccan women, staying with them during war in «rear areas set aside exclusively» for them, Bimberg stressed.

Although it was exceptional and deemed a madness when compared to other soldiers, the decision yielded positive results. According to the essay «The Moroccan Goumiers : Origin and History», «surprisingly, the policy did help in quelling rape and pillage but the disgrace did not disappear».

Indeed, the history of these alleged «rapes» was the subject of several books, a national stela and a film that rendered homage to the Italian women raped by Moroccan Goumiers.

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