Coming Out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II

Coming Out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II

Coming Out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II

Coming Out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II

Synopsis

During World War II, as the United States called on its citizens to serve in unprecedented numbers, the presence of gay Americans in the armed forces increasingly conflicted with the expanding antihomosexual policies and procedures of the military. In Coming Out Under Fire, Allan Berube examines in depth and detail these social and political confrontation--not as a story of how the military victimized homosexuals, but as a story of how a dynamic power relationship developed between gay citizens and their government, transforming them both. Drawing on GIs' wartime letters, extensive interviews with gay veterans, and declassified military documents, Berube thoughtfully constructs a startling history of the two wars gay military men and women fough--one for America and another as homosexuals within the military.



Berube's book, the inspiration for the 1995 Peabody Award-winning documentary film of the same name, has become a classic since it was published in 1990, just three years prior to the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which has continued to serve as an uneasy compromise between gays and the military. With a new foreword by historians John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, this book remains a valuable contribution to the history of World War II, as well as to the ongoing debate regarding the role of gays in the U.S. military.

Excerpt

When Coming Out Under Fire was first published twenty years ago, gay and lesbian history had barely passed beyond its infancy. Jonathan Ned Katz had produced two enormous and rich documentary collections demonstrating that same-sex love was a topic with a history and that there was sufficient evidence to write about it. John Boswell had composed a major study of Christianity and homosexuality in Europe from the Roman era to the Middle Ages. Lillian Faderman had written a broad survey of romantic love between women in Western Europe and North America from the sixteenth century to the twentieth. There were historical studies of homosexual political movements in Britain and the United States. Some scattered articles, three “special” issues of scholarly journals, and an important anthology filled out the picture. One could read it all in a single summer, yet still have time for a relaxing vacation.

* See Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Crowell, 1976) and Gay/Lesbian Almanac: a New Documentary (New York: Harper & Row, 1983); John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1981); Jeffrey Weeks, Coming Out: Homosexual Politics in Britain from the Nineteenth Century to the Present (London: Quartet Books, 1977); John D’Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: the Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983); Martin Bauml Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr., eds., Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past (New York: New American Library, 1989). the special issues of journals were Radical History Review, Spring–Summer 1979; Salmagundi, Fall–Winter 1983; and signs, Summer 1984.

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