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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This carefully researched and documented book is must reading for members of Congress, military policy makers, veterans, and every American who is interested in how the events of World War II still affect our lives today.—Representative Patricia Schroeder, former member, House Committee on Armed Services

A pioneering work . . . original and well-documented. . . . Mr. Berube deserves plaudits for making a strong contribution to our knowledge about those who marched to a different drummer.—Herbert Mitgang, New York Times

A timely and valuable perspective. . . . Coming Out Under Fire, the product of more than 10 years of research, of digging into archives and interviewing scores of veterans, is the story of how—out of necessity—the military coped with this large influx of homosexuals, and how gay men and women coped with the military. . . . Particularly in the context of [the] debate over who has the right to fight and die for his or her country, Coming Out Under Fire is well worth reading."
—Doris Kerns Goodwin, New York Times Book Review

Extraordinary. . . . What is most fascinating about Berube's book are not the cases of gay oppression but the evidence of official acknowledgment of a gay presence within the military . . . whose numbers were far greater than anyone had imagined at the onset of the war. . . . Coming Out Under Fire succeeds by describing in detail the prejudice and social change of a turbulent era . . . [and adds] important information to the current debate over the military's battle to keep homosexuals out of the armed services." —Randy Shilts, San Francisco Chronicle

A fascinating, poignant and infuriating document that affords legions of American veterans their first authentic homecoming. Allan Berube deserves a medal.—Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City

From the Publisher
"Both a classic in the field and still the definitive work on its subject. Nothing surpasses it."
-Regina Kunzel, author of Criminal Intimacy

"The definitive work on gay heroes and heroines of World War II."
-Studs Terkel, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Good War

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807871775
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 9/7/2010
  • Edition description: Twentieth Anniversary Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 278,099
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Allan Berube (1946-2007) was a community historian and author of numerous essays and articles.

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Table of Contents

Foreword John D'Emilio Estelle B. Freedman vii

Preface and Acknowledgments xv

Introduction: "Why We Fight" 1

1 Getting In 8

2 Fitting In 34

3 GI Drag: A Gay Refuge 67

4 "The Gang's All Here": The Gay Life and Vice Control 98

5 The Fight for Reform 128

6 Pioneer Experts: Psychiatrists Discover the Gay GI 149

7 Comrades in Arms 175

8 Fighting another War 201

9 Rights, Justice, and a New Minority 228

10 The Legacy of the War 255

A Note on Sources 281

Notes 289

Illustration Credits 361

Index 363

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