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GAYS IN MILITARY: In Vietnam era, Army made it work

Letter by David O. Seal, Tacoma on Dec. 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm with 20 Comments »
December 6, 2010 1:36 pm

There have been several responses lately to the challenge from one letter writer for the Marines to “man up” and drop their resistance to the don’t ask, don’t tell repeal. These responses challenge the right of anyone not a Marine now or then to state their views.

I don’t qualify either. I was merely an Army draftee, serving during the Vietnam era. But the Army then didn’t seem to have a problem with homosexuality.

I was morning report clerk for a headquarters infantry company in Germany in 1970-71. I typed up Article 32 charges for sodomy, pressed by German nationals against American GIs.

My two commanding officers, one a helicopter pilot from upstate New York, the other ROTC from Kansas, had one criterion: Is he a good soldier? In the cases I dealt with, they were, and charges were either dropped or prosecuted minimally.

We lived in an old Wehrmacht barracks, and trained in the field under primitive sanitation conditions. Privacy was non-existent. Homosexuality was never a problem, and we obviously had homosexuals – the word “gay” wasn’t used yet. And we were a combat arms battalion.

If the Marines need some help with their fears, maybe they should call on the Army. Or on any male in town who belongs to a health club. We can calm them down. And we promise not to hold their hand.

Leave a comment Comments → 20
  1. David, your experience is very similar to my 12 years of active duty, primarily in Germany and VietNam. I did not know that sodomy was ever prosecuted in Germany during the time you mention, but Germany had both urban and rural areas with different outlook on such things, so I’m not surprised. There were several out gays in the service, and it was never a problem except for harassment in a few companies where the commanders would encourage it or not vigorously stop it. In units where there was an expectation of teamwork and fair treatment of all service members, I did not see any problems.

  2. It seems to me as though much has been made of this when it’s unnecessary. I’m guessing that most troops have always been well aware that there are gays in their units and, as suggested here, don’t much care as long as the soldier or sailor is doing his/her job well.

    Of course there are errant micreants who will behave badly, in the military and out of it, but all the broohaha over this seems contrived by people who don’t know how to function unless they remain victims.

  3. aislander says:

    If it worked so well, and even tuddo (!) agrees that it did: why change the policy?

  4. fbergford says:

    OK dudes…this isn’t 1971 in Germany with an army full of draftees. This is an all volunteer force that are sticklers to the UCMJ. DADT only effects those who wear the uniform, it doesn’t effect civilians. Thank you for your input when it is not needed.

  5. the3rdpigshouse says:

    Maybe we should just forget the social experimentations with our military and keep the gays out in the civilian polpulace where they belong!!!

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  7. bobcat1a says:

    Affect and effect seem a lot alike but they’re not. My 8th graders have a problem with that but adults should not.

  8. aislander, we didn’t have DADT when I was in the service. We had rules against homosexual conduct that was disruptive to morale. Similar rules were in place about adultery, and that was enforced about the same, meaning almost never. We had the draft, so a broad spectrum of people were in the service. I may not have had as much of a problem with DADT if the law was really what people called it. The services could always “ask”, there was no prohibition on investigating any complaint, valid or not and making a person testify if they were gay or not. The service member just couldn’t “tell”. The DADT policy really does bar any homosexual from serving and bars any homosexual behavior, even a kiss between men, even in strict privacy. It bars gay people from service or anyone even if they “demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” .

    Anyone could bring a complaint about another service member having a “propensity” or “intent” as shown by being seen at a gay bar or living with a member of the same sex or overheard talking with their a partner and during the investigation, the service would ask the service member if they were gay.

    If you read the stories and listen to the testimony of the people who are trying to stay in the service, then you will see that the policy was never “Don’t Ask” , it was “no gays”.

  9. jake840 says:

    from fbergford : “DADT only effects those who wear the uniform, it doesn’t effect civilians.”

    So a gay in the military doesn’t have friends or a partner outside of the military where DADT would affect their life and how they socialize with their military friends?

    I can tell you it does affect civilians that are friends or partnered with someone who has to keep a secret that they are gay.

  10. Are you kidding bobcat? Misuse of EFFECT and AFFECT among adults, especially those educated in the last 30 years, is common, and it’s just one of hundreds of “most common errors” that I see among supposedly educated people, from lawyers and doctors to even, yes, some teachers!

  11. beerBoy says:

    The attempt to effect others’ use of the words effect and affect will not affect me and will not have an effect on my affect.

  12. Dave, I am a Viet Nam era Marine and there were gay marines back then just like there were gay soldiers, sailors, airmen, and probable more than a few Congressmen.

    ALL, Do not mistake the ramblings of a pampered prince on the pentagon as reflecting the beliefs of the entire Marine Corps.

  13. aislander says:

    We really shouldn’t correct the grammar and usage of others in a format in which it is not possible to edit our contributions–unless provoked by another member’s doing exactly that…

  14. During my stint in the sixties, they did ask, and, if you didn’t tell, you dang sure better not come out of the closet. That was the express route to a dishonorable discharge, before something worse happened to you. Of course, we are so much more enlightened now. Just ask Private manning.

  15. Nice word play bBoy

  16. bobcat1a says:

    fbergford : “DADT only effects those who wear the uniform, it doesn’t effect civilians.”
    Did Jim Crow only AFFECT black people in the south?

  17. JudasEscargot says:

    velmak says:
    December 7, 2010 at 11:36 am
    During my stint in the sixties, they did ask, and, if you didn’t tell, you dang sure better not come out of the closet. That was the express route to a dishonorable discharge, before something worse happened to you. Of course, we are so much more enlightened now. Just ask Private manning.

    Just ask Perry Watkins. They asked, he told, they knew, they hired him to perform drag…..THEN….a “Velmaktype” made a fuss and tried to drum him out. He lived comfortably until his death on the lawsuit settlement.

    Perry Watkins was born in Missouri in 1948. The United States Army drafted him in 1968. During his entrance examination, he stated that he was homosexual when military officials asked him, yet they still admitted him. Disproving ideas that openly gay soldiers would be threatened by homophobic peers, Watkins stated that everyone on the base knew that he was gay. He dressed in drag (under the name Simone), and the Army publicized it rather than castigating him for it.[2] When he challenged the military’s anti-gay ban, the 9th Circuit court decided in his favor, in Watkins v. United State Army, 875 F.2d 699 (1989).

  18. JudasEscargot says:

    Begging pardon – Ask his historical documents. He can’t answer from the grave.

  19. Judas, I wasn’t in the army. As usual, you shoot off your mouth without engaging your wee little brain. In a more intimate setting, that would be hazardous to your health.

  20. beerBoy says:

    Oh boy! virtual tough guy talk on the internets! Don’t you just love those fantasy games where you can take on personas that compensate for your reality based short-comings?

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