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Or why are in times of war,

significantly more boys born than girls?

The Returning Soldier Effect is a phenomenon that soldiers who returned from wars are more likely to father sons than other genders leading to an effect that during war times more boys than girls are born.

How was this effect discovered?

During a study conducted in 1954 by MacMahon and Pugh in the United States, the two scientists came to a surprising conclusion. Originally, they had wanted to investigate how many white children were born in the U.S. during the Second World War. But while they were doing this, they discovered one of the most incredible phenomena in the recent history of science. They noticed that during the Second World War more boys were born than girls and that this effect can be seen in several countries participating in World War II like Austria, the U.S., Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK (only for Italy and Spain there was no significant change of the gender ratio). However, they were not able to come up with any explanation for this.

In their search for answers, the U.S. scientists also examined the birth rates in earlier centuries and came to the conclusion that always during and after a war, more boys than girls were born. For a long time, there were no explanations for this “returning soldier effect”, as scientists called it – until evolutionary researchers put forward an interesting theory.

What is the reason for the Returning Soldier Effect?

One of the first explanation for the Returning Soldier Effect was that it is just an evolutionary phenomenon. As sons have a higher expected reproduction rate than daughters during and immediately after wars in which many men die this theory was proclaiming a general preference by nature for boys in order to increase human reproduction. However, this theory is not rational as it is impossible for parents to know in advance how long a war may last.

Another explanation by Grant was saying that not the father but the mother had a higher impact on the sex of the offspring. Grant was assuming that the more testosterone a mother is having in her blood the higher the chance for giving birth to a son. During war years women had to be “harder” and “tougher” and as a result, they have more boys, presumably because their testosterone levels increase during wars.

Scientists however are skeptical about that theory as there is no proof for a mother’s impact on a child’s gender. In addition, this theory also cannot explain why the gender ratio remains high even a few years after the end of the war.

The most likely explanation for the Returning Soldier Effect

The most common theory however comes from a study of British soldiers that showed that survivors of a war are, on average, taller than the fallen soldiers. From an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense because it can be assumed that larger men are also stronger and therefore have more strength and endurance.

At the same time, it was also demonstrated that the probability of giving birth to a boy is high when the parents are tall. The “returning soldier effect” is therefore based on the fact that during a war on average taller men tend to survive and that the probability of them having a boy is higher than among smaller men.

Why do taller soldiers have a better chance of surviving in a war?

There are actually two main theories to explain why taller soldiers have a better chance of surviving in a war. The first theory states that taller soldiers tend to be physically stronger and fitter giving them a natural advantage in fights with smaller and weaker soldiers.

A second reason might be that height is also correlated with intelligence. More intelligent soldiers might reach a higher military rank reducing the chance of being involved in dangerous situations due to their relative seniority.

How big is the impact of that effect?

The impact of the returning soldier effect during and after war times might not be huge but still significant. The following figure shows how the number of boys born per 100 girls born changed in Germany over time. As you can see the number of boys born is increasing during and after the first and second world war.

Is the Returning Soldier Effect still relevant?

The days of the First and Second World Wars and other major wars are long gone, and the question remains whether the “returning soldier effect” will continue to have the same effect as observed in those times. Statistics show that this is no longer the case, despite the war in Iraq, the Ukrainian crisis or the Syrian conflict. Once again, the question is: why? But here, too, scientists have found a very plausible answer.

The reason for this is that the way in which war is waged has changed. Instead of focusing on large battles, wars nowadays rely on effectively deployed troops and state-of-the-art technology. Not as many men go to war as in those times, and accordingly this also means that more men survive – in absolute terms. The evolutionary selection of larger men resulting from wars in those days no longer plays a role, and the same goes for the “returning soldier effect”.

Courtesy of onlyfunfacts.com

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Reprinted by permission from https://rarehistoricalphotos.com

Twenty-one American soldiers refused to return to America at the end of the Korean War.

On 27 June 1953, the United Nations Command (UNC) and North Korean Communist forces signed an armistice ending three years of fighting in Korea. Although the American-led UNC failed to win the entire peninsula, it successfully repelled Communist attacks south of the 38th parallel. Moreover, though contrary to the 1947 Geneva Convention, which mandated the wholesale exchange of all POWs, President Truman’s policy of voluntary repatriation proved highly successful: 47,000 Chinese and North Korean prisoners of war struck a propaganda blow against their Marxist governments by choosing not to return to their homelands.

In September, however, 23 American prisoners of war also refused repatriation, sparking a nationwide debate among journalists, politicians, military officials, psychiatrists, and the soldiers themselves. During a 90-day cooling off period, the GIs were held in the neutral zone at Panmunjom, but only two changed their minds in response to entreaties by U.S. officials and letters from the GIs’ families.

The commonly accepted reason at the time was that they were brainwashed while held prisoner. This was effectively confirmed by 149 other POWs held by the Chinese/North Koreans who “reported that their captors had waged a systematic effort to break down their beliefs and entice them to collaborate”. Time and Newsweek published articles looking for defects in the 21, to explain why they were able to be brainwashed. The magazines blamed reasons such as alcoholism, STDs, low IQs, and being “diseased”.

Race played an important role throughout the nationwide debate, especially since three of the 21 non-repatriates were black. Discussion of the black non-repatriates in the white press highlights public perceptions of Communism and civil rights in the mid-1950s. For example, many publications noted the special effort the Chinese had made to woo black American soldiers, how they had stressed that in their Marxist nation all members of society were treated equally.

During the 90 day cooling off period all 23 US soldiers were held on neutral territory. The 2 that left the group were court-martialed for desertion and collaboration, one was given a 20 year sentence and the other 10. The remaining 21 were dishonorably discharged and journeyed in China.

Once in China the soldiers were sent to a collective farm to work. Within 1.5 years three of them ran away and sought refuge at the British Embassy in Peking. By 1958, 7 more of the soldiers had left China. By 1966, only two remained in China. One of the 21 returned to the US in 1965 and explained his actions in 1953 as being motivated by “anger by the recall of his idol, General Douglas MacArthur, who favored the use of nuclear weapons to end the war. During his two years as a prisoner, he increasingly felt abandoned by America”

One of the three black soldiers (who returned to the US in 1966) explained that discrimination in US was the reason he went to China in 1953. In 1991, he said: “Brainwashed? The Chinese unbrainwashed me. The black man had his mind brainwashed long before the Korea War”. As the soldiers trickled back to the US, an additional reason was revealed: A handful apparently had informed on their fellows while in POW camps, and rather than rejecting the economic and political situation in the United States they were simply afraid to return.

Brainwashed, choice, or fear? What do you think?

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The terrain features of the war in Korea (1950-1952) often resembled the mountains of Italy during World War II. And like those campaigns, horses and mules found a valuable role as pack animals, going where trucks and jeeps could hardly reach.

The Eighth U.S. Army and South Korean forces captured Pyongyang, North Korea on 19 October 1950. In this photo of Pyongyang on that day, South Korean General Shin Sang-Chul, Commander of the 7th Division (left) and another officer are mounted on horses captured from the North Korean Army. Photo: Seoul Times.

The horse had no official U.S. military duty in the Korean War, with Cavalry fully mechanized since the early 1940s and draft animals' work taken over by motorized prime movers. The Army still had two active mounted organizations, the 35th QM Pack Company and the 4th Field Artillery Battalion, both stationed at Camp Carson, CO. However, they were not sent to Korea during the war and were deactivated on 15 February l957.

Some horses were maintained by individual units and veterinary services were provided in Korea. Since the Chinese Communists and North Koreans used mules for transport, it was inevitable that some would be captured by American and allied forces. In their 1951 spring offensive against South Korea, the Communist forces used pack mules for supplies. During the U.N. counterattack north from Seoul in late May 1951, the Communists abandoned their animals as they were forced back. 1st Cavalry Division captured many of the pack animals, using standard 6 x 6 trucks to move them to temporary depots. The mules were found to be thin and sick but were quickly restored by candy, sugar, and cereal from 5-in-1 Small Detachment Rations. The captured mules were then used for transport, particularly in the rugged mountainous areas where they brought in rations, ammunition, barbed wire, steel stakes, mines, and other supplies.


One of the mules captured from Communist forces in Korea was found to have a standard U.S. Army brand (called a Preston Brand), number 08K0. When that brand was located in Army records with the mule's history, it was found that he had been dispatched to the China-Burma-India theater during World War II, possibly with the Mars Task Force. At the conclusion of WW II, he was transferred to the Nationalist Chinese Army. The mule must have been later captured by the Communist Chinese, then moved to the fight in Korea, finally ending up back in the hands of the U.S. Army after more than six years. He had his picture taken, then dutifully went back to work on a pack train.

Article and photos are from olive-drab.com

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