The Persian Gulf War changed the face of combat. It brought women's military roles into the spotlight, in large part via the mass media, and showed that many women performed combat roles similar to those of men during the conflict. The war was thus an impetus for changes in laws that had prevented women from serving in combat assignments. In past centuries, because it was not culturally acceptable for women to serve in combat, surprising numbers joined secretly under assumed male names. After defining exactly what is meant by war and combat, this work presents historical and present-day views of the involvement of women in the military. The impact of regulations on women in combat is analyzed, as is the role of the American public in the controversy. Female combat is put into context with sociological theory; also discussed are readiness, cohesion, ability, sexuality, equal opportunity and family issues.