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Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf Hardcover – May 1, 1993


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (May 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031209261X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312092610
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.7 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,291,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

At times it reads like a novel with many characters whose stories are woven into one overarching story.
Michael J. Mazza
I was amazed that they were interested in the stories in the book as well as touched at their outrage at the discrimination I was reading to them.
Marlo Messina Rees
I was returning from overseas and had a layover at Westover AFB, MA, site of one of the most intense witch hunts in military history.
A. Stedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Marlo Messina Rees on July 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because my Great Aunt is a retired Colonel in the US Army, and she is a Lesbian. She was interviewed for this book and is quoted in the book. Therefore, I wanted to have a copy of this book because I feel it holds a part of my family history.
I got my copy while at work, and immediately flipped through to find the sections that spoke about my Aunt. I started reading out loud to my co-workers, and pretty soon, a small group had gathered and was raptly listening to me read aloud. I was amazed that they were interested in the stories in the book as well as touched at their outrage at the discrimination I was reading to them.
This book is very interesting and talks about a part of history many people do not realize. I'd always been so proud of my Aunt for being one of the FEW women Colonels in her day, yet I never realized the scrutiny she lived under in the Army and the constant fear of being "outed" as a Lesbian.
Gay people have contributed greatly to our United States Military, and this book recognizes that fact as well as opens our eyes to the discrimination that gay women and men fighting for our country had to face, an added burden that didn't fall on the shoulders of the heterosexual soldiers.
I would strongly recommend this book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. Eichholz on February 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I knew one of the Navy men detailed in this book and the author nailed this one on the head. I was a Navy wife for many years, until my husband retired. In the great witchhunt years, when no stone was left unturned and no method nasty enough, I saw sailors who did their jobs well and with honor, but who were systemically chased and hunted down until they were forced out of service because they chose to care for someone of the same sex. I also saw innocent heterosexuals threatened and blackmailed in order to help NIS make a charge against their potential targets. There was nothing mean enough or underhanded enough that the NIS wouldn't do to make a charge stick, even resorting to lies and innuendo to force someone to entrap a suspected gay or lesbian. It shouldn't matter who you love or desire...as long as a person does his or her job with professionalism and honor. Try telling that to investigators who work without honor. The military policy is deeply flawed and I believe it has to change. Amazing, isn't it...the military swears to defend its' people, yet will go to great lengths to destroy a selected few, because of ignorance of its' own making.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
I was raised on military bases for much of my younger life, with a career-military father who, when this topic became a big topic in the early 1990s, said to me: 'I don't see what the big issue is with this. They were always there, and we knew that.' That was a surprise to me.

Randy Shilts, better known perhaps for his book (later constructed into a telefilm) 'And the Band Played On...', about the AIDS crisis, turned his journalistic eye and talents to one of the last great approved discriminations in America -- that of the institutionalised disapproval of the military (one of the largest economic forces in America, and one of the largest employers and providers of training and benefits) of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people within the ranks.

Shilts begins his discussion historically, looking back over the history of the United States as to how this issue has been dealt with. Actually, there isn't that much information for the longest period (1778-1954), understandably as (as the Victorians would have phrased it), the love that dared not speak its name in fact rarely did. This 750+ page tome devotes a mere 19 pages to this historical period, in which Shilts argues that there was back-and-forth acceptance and rejection of gays in the military. This perhaps is wishful thinking on his part -- one could even argue that 'gay' didn't exist in quite the same way then as now (sociologically speaking), so to address the issue then as now would be difficult to compare.

Throughout the rest of the text, Shilts examines, largely through personal stories and accounts, of how the armed forces viewed, disapproved, and rooted out military personnel suspected of same-sex activity.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is very well written regarding the history of gays and lesbians in the U.S. military and all the problems they have faced. Additionally, Randy Shilts does an excellent job of incorporating the history of women in the military and the prejudice's they continue to face in a "manly, macho" society.
This book was well researched regarding the military's ban on gays and lesbians, their struggles and their fight against the services to continue to serve proudly in the U.S. military. Many of these fights were faught in the military's court and when exhausted, in the civilian court to ensure they were given fair treatment. All this is thouroughly documented in this classic book. Also, Shilts incorporates studies supressed by the Pentagon that unit cohesion, morale and welfare of soldiers will not be negatively affected by allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.
Lastly, Shilts does an excellent job of incorporating different soldier's struggles and life histories into the dates and times of other soldiers.
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