Edward Field was born on June 7, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York, a city that would become a major setting in his work. Field grew up in Long Island and played the cello over radio station WGBB with the Field Family Trio. After a short stint at New York University, he enlisted in the air force in 1942 and flew twenty-five missions over Europe.
Field never thought of being a poet until his last day of basic training in the air force when a Red Cross worker handed him a Louis Untermeyer anthology of poetry. He finished the collection during a three-day train ride to Colorado and knew then that he wanted to be a poet. Field had also discovered the poetry of Cavafy, who would be an influence and inspiration throughout his career.
Field began his career in the air force as a clerk/typist. However, he did not like to think of himself as a clerk/typist, so he transferred into the aviation cadets. It was around this time that he began to open up sexually. Although he claims to have been innocent about the gay world, he still knew that he could not be open about his desires while in the military. Homosexual activity was punishable by law and by other men who “might even beat you up after having sex with you” (“Gay Days” 8). Not wanting to be rejected by the air force, Field remembers being too scared to respond to a bunkmate who made sexual overtures toward him.
Later, Field was sent to England, where he participated in missions flying B-17s over Germany. His crew crashed in the North Sea (see the poem “World War II” from Variety Photoplays) and were sent to a town near Liverpool to recover. Shortly thereafter, Field met a gay poet who opened him up not only to the poetry world but also to the gay world. He was directed to a gay club called The White