Serbia – Milunka Savic, most decorated female combat veteran in the world.

In 1912 Milunka Savic joined the Serbian Army. She was twenty-four years old and the Balkan League (an alliance between Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, and Bulgaria) declared war against the Ottoman Empire. Milunka’s brother Milun was called to service against the Ottomans, but his declining health inspired Milunka to cut her hair short and join in his stead.
She fought courageously, was injured four times, and remained undetected in nine consecutive campaigns during the first conflict from November 1912 to March of 1913. In the next Balkan conflict, which took place from June to August of 1913, she went into her 10th battle where she was struck in the chest and her sex was discovered during treatment. “Just as is my luck, the bullet went right into my chest.” (
Her commanding officer was not happy to discover one of his best soldiers was a woman. Though women were not allowed to be combatants in the Serbian army, he did not want to lose Milunka so he asked her if she would like to move to the nurse’s unit. Milunka clung to her patriotic fervor and insisted on keeping her position. The officer told her to give him a day to think about it and Milunka, who only wanted to fight for her country, dug her heals in to wait for his answer. Seeing she would not move until his acquiescence, the c/o granted her request and sent her back to fight with her unit, the Iron Regiment where she held rank as Corporal, within the hour.
Though Milunka fought in the two major Serbian conflicts disguised as a man, when World War 1 rolled around, she entered the conflict as an undisguised woman.
In 1914, the Austro-Hungarian forces invaded the Serbian regiment again and again. During the third invasion, at the battle of Kolubara, though the Serbs were huge underdogs, the enemy forces far outnumbering theirs, they pushed the enemy from their country. Milunka was awarded the Order of the star of Karadjordje during the battle of Kolubara and went on to earn so many medals and honors that she became the most decorated female combat veteran in the world.

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Lance Corporal Savic. Photographer unknown, public domain photo. Permission in Serbian.

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