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

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  223 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Despite the many histories of the fighting men and women in World War II, none has been written about the estimated one million homosexuals. Here is a dramatic story of these people, revealing the history of the anti-gay policy pursued by the U.S. military authorities in World War II. Two 8-page photo inserts.
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1990)
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Kaje Harper
This was a fascinating, and sometimes heartbreaking and infuriating, look at the GLBT men and women who came out while serving in the armed forces during WWII. It includes information on being gay on the home front as well.

In the 1940's, sodomy was a criminal act in the United States. Although there were many people who were openly gay, and who were often ignored or tolerated by society as long as they kept their preferences discreet, it was a precarious existence. At any moment someone might ob...more
rating: 5.5/5

This nonfiction history work presents a complex analysis of the intersection of homosexuality and society, culture, military rules and regulations, and soldiers (drafted and volunteered alike) during World War II. It doesn't paint gays and lesbians as victims but delves deep into history to find the battles fought outside of the battlefields; battles between culture and military need during wartime, imprisonment and need for practicality, vice squads and soldiers, military hierarch...more
This book was fantastic, and never a dull moment (including the Introduction). It begins with the military's policy on "screening" for homosexuals in the draft (and how psychologists thought gays and lesbians could be identified by brief Q&A or physical attributes).

The stories from those who served, interviewed by the author, were told brilliantly to keep the story moving but still bring us the personal anecdotes.
Coming Out Under Fire is a thoroughly fascinating, detailed study of a crucial transitional period in American society. It's extremely well-documented throughout, and although the author's style might be considered dry, the pages come to life because of the words and lives of the people portrayed. Berubé really did a great job of finding and putting together diverse material, and the quotes from the people he interviewed are always illuminating.

Besides the story of how gay soldiers tried to make...more
Gerry Burnie
Gerry B's Book Reviews -

If I were asked to design a definitive course on the history of Gays and Lesbians in North America, I would include three books as required reading: Gay American History, by Jonathon Katz; From the Closet to the Courtroom, by Carlos Ball; and Coming out Under Fire, by Allan Bérubé [Free Press, 1990]. Moreover, I think the students would thank me afterward for choosing books that are authoritative, informative and relatively easy to read.

For m...more
Apr 17, 2010 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: WWII Fanatics; Fans of Gay History
Recommended to Tyler by: Various Reviews
This is a well composed book, complete with photos, of the hidden phenomenon of gay soldiers in World War II.

From the archives the author pieces together the American public and government reaction to the sudden, unavoidable appearance of homosexuals in combat units and elsewhere. The unprecedented scandal fired over-active imaginations, and the nation's schizophrenic reactions demonstrate a tortured clash between public hatred and military necessity.

Animating the book are many well chosen firs...more
Jeffrey Covey
This is a compelling and readable book resulting from an important project, one of those we can be grateful were completed while the veterans were still alive to give first-hand accounts. I enjoyed watching “Bob and Jack’s 52-Year Adventure”, with its description gay life in the Army in the 1950s, and was glad to be able to step back to such a comprehensive look at what happened during the war. The gamut of experience is laid out here, from the difficulty gay soldiers sometimes had just getting...more
Apr 27, 2010 Sarra rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarra by: Vasha (Bookcrossing)
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2010, glbt
This book was fascinating and thought provoking. The writing style was somewhat dry and a little repetitive as is the nature of a non-fiction study. The author did an excellent job collecting source material from the people involved and didn't have to rely solely on statistics and case files.

Homosexuality in the military has always been a controversial topic. Mainly because the military assumes that sexual orientation in some way reflects on ability to carry out the necessary functions of a sold...more
What I found most fascinating about this book is how the military's anti-gay policy was almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. Before cracking down on gays, it seems like they lived a relatively normal existence within the military, and it wasn't until they were stigmatized and forced to remain wholly within the closet that problems such as homophobia, stress and morale came into play. It's also pitiful how little has been done to change military policy since WWII. DADT isn't much of an improve...more
This is a non-fiction book, history, really, but so much of it reads like a good detective novel. For gays and lesbians this is just such a good, enlightening and yes, empowering story. It’s also very instructive, as Berube tells us about the coastal origins of what we know today as the American gay community. Today I watched a YouTube video of American soldiers in Afghanistan dancing together to a Lady Gaga song – it’s somehow comforting to know that queer soldiers were doing the equivalent all...more
I found this fascinating, intriguing, and frustruating. There were so many contradictions of thought regarding the prescence of gays and lesbians in the military, some were reviled, others were celebrated. Tragic consistency is mostly in the post-war period, as discharged veterans often found greater difficulties when in possession of "blue papers" that often explicitly indicated their sexual orientation. These men and women often endured time spent in mental hospitals or brigs as the military d...more
This. I feel, is a story that needs telling..
It was broadcasted on PBS some years ago,
and. I must say, it more than interesting..
Just as African-Americans fought for the
right to serve in all branches of the armed forces,
during WWII, young gays and lesbians did their
part. And, many had found out about themselves.
and also found out, while serving, that they were far from alone..
Another 'must-read', whether one is straight, or, gay..
I had read it a third time, and, it is still enlightning..
This was a sweeping and fascinating account of the experience of gay and lesbian servicepeople during World War II. It's a very comprehensive book, touching on trends in psychology, institutional changes in the military, and an oral history-based account of the experiences of individual gay and lesbian GIs. Has a brief but interesting discussion of advocacy on behalf of queer ex-military personnel at the end. This book pairs very well with Randy Shilts' "Conduct Unbecoming."
Cody VC
Jul 07, 2011 Cody VC rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cody by: Katie
Put together very well. Would have been nice to see at least one mention of gender variance beyond drag &c., but given when the text was written it gets a free pass in that regard. Parts of the conclusion and his notes on being blocked from sources are particularly interesting in light of the current climate wrt gay/lesbian/bisexual people in the military.

Definitely a recommended read for anybody interested in military history, regardless of queer bent.
David Sullivan
VERY good book. It opened my eyes to a neglected part of history. Sometimes sad to read because of the way the United States government and the military treated citizens just for being bi, gay, or lesbian. Hundreds of thousands served with honor. Depending on the region of service and the manner of commanding officers,many were accepted and honored; others castigated and disgraced. It's history: and we should know it.
This is one of the earliest books that looked at gays and lesbians in the military. Berube traced the development of homosexual communities and societies to the social disruption caused by the exigences of war. He also traced the origins of aspects of gay and lesbian culture, such as camp, to non-combat military live. This book is well written and an engaging read even for non-specialists.
This was published in 1990 but it's still topical. It's well written and has lots of primary sources, but beyond that one can tell that this was a subject the author (RIP) was passionate about. I had to read it quickly so I didn't burn a hole in my stomach lining; some passages were that infuriating.
Apr 17, 2009 Ali rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Anyone who is interesting in LGBT history
Though this text is more or less focused on the development of gay men's history and the uprise of queer San Francisco post-WWII and the segway of the safe haven of the gay bar in 1950's McCarthy era. An excellent piece, RIP, Allan Berube.
Jun 10, 2011 Monica added it
Read excerpts for a history class. It was interesting to consider how people coped with different sexualities in such a unique setting--training and fighting in WWII. It's definitely not an aspect of WWII I'd ever considered before.
I could not get through this book...I marked as read, but read very little. Too much like a textbook for me. The history is interesting, just not a good read for pleasure.
Helena Sheibler
An important and entertaining book. I'd like to see a documentary come out of this. Great stuff.
A strong, well-focused take on gay and lesbians in a unique place.
amazing, amazing, amazing history.
Georgie marked it as to-read
Apr 19, 2014
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  • The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America
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Alan Berube, founder of the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project, is best known for his 1990 book about homosexual life in the military during World War II. He died last week at age 61.
More about Allan Bérubé...
My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness Sexualwissenschaft Und Sexualpolitik: Spannungsverhaltnisse in Europa, Amerika Und Asien My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History

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