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Coming Out Under Fire Paperback – April 1, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743210719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743210713
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,228,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on March 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II," by Allan Berube, is a fascinating and well-written piece of American history. The author draws from a rich variety of sources in order to tell this story. Among the topics he covers are the following: the process of being inducted into the armed forces in that era, the experiences of gay people in the training phase, gay social life stateside (particularly in the major port cities), the threat of harassment by military police, the role of military psychiatrists in our culture's evolving understanding of homosexuality, and the experiences of gay soldiers in combat.

Berube also reveals the tensions that occurred within the military establishment as efforts were made to refine and reform policies dealing with homosexuality. He discusses the interrogation and imprisonment of gay troops. Other interesting topics covered are gay slang and coded language, and the use of female impersonators in GI shows like "This Is the Army."

The book includes a number of black-and-white photographs and reproductions. There is also a note on sources used, such as interviews, letters, and government documents. There are also extensive endnotes. Throughout the book, Berube brings forth the voices of many WW2 veterans. Ultimately he looks at the impact of WW2 on the evolution of gay culture and political activism. I consider this book to be an essential companion to Randy Shilts' monumental "Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military," which focuses on the post-WW2 era. "Coming Out Under Fire" is a remarkable achievement: poignant and inspiring, it is a valuable addition to the fields of both lesbian and gay studies and military history.
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Format: Paperback
It has taken me almost FOREVER to write this book review, which is a real pity, since this is the only book about 'gays in the military' that you really should bother reading. I read it last summer, when I was living in Northampton, Massachusetts. The region is widely viewed as a lesbian mecca, and while this statement is too extreme, it has a large kernel of truth. There are many lesbians (god bless 'em) in the area, and they are very socially and politically active. I would recommend they read a book Honorable Discharge: Confessions of an Army Dyke. (You can find that on Amazon.com) Not that I agree with the premise in that book--as the reader will see shortly, Berube's book is much better-- but they are more likely to relate to the issues discussed, as they are from a woman's perspective. Berube--while touching on the issue of lesbians in the military ('butches', as he calls them often)-- spends most of his text on the male perspective.
Gay activists expecting to see a book that falls into the "Gays were fine in the military until Ronald Reagan and all those born again Christians came along" are gonna be REAL REAL disappointed in THIS text. Being gay was no problem in the military until psychiatrists developed cute little oppression theories and wondered if it might be more 'compassionate' to dismiss gays from the armed services. When did THIS happen? Why, just prior and during WWII! The primary motivation was to get respect for their profession of psychiatry and if that meant a few hundred--few thousand--few hundred thousand, by now--gays in the US armed forces had a tougher go of it, well, that was just too bad.
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1 Comment 23 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
The value of this book lies in its compilation of first-person, firsthand stories from WWII veterans about being gay or lesbian and in the service during the worst war ever fought. From how they answered the single psych screening question at induction: "Do you like girls?"; to the gleeful sneaking around in basic or on base; to the heartbreaking stories of lovers losing each other on the battlefield, and the shocking humanity of straight comrades who found out; to the awfulness of being outed and the shame of the blue discharge--the vets' stories make this book worthwhile. When the book delves deep into policy discussions, or asserts its thesis that the GLBT experience in WWII helped structure the gay liberation movement of a generation later, it loses impact. Still, a worthwhile and necessary addition to any library about gay history, or World War II.
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By A Customer on February 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Simply stated, this was not an easy book to read. One has only to scan the first chapter to begin cringing at the shameful way that gay and lesbian soldiers were treated by their own government.

It can certainly be said that The United States of America has more to be proud of than most nations. Our achievements are many and justly celebrated. However, there are episodes in our great nation's history which cause us to feel anger, contempt and sorrow. We must remember that it was "we the people" who allowed the near genocide of America's indigenous peoples; the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Africans; the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII; the persecution of American Leftists during the McCarthy era; and, just as egregious, the wanton and callus betrayal of American soldiers who's only crime was being born gay or lesbian.

Stories of inhuman degradation at the hands of a malicious psychiatric community bent on establishing a solid and permanent reputation within the medical community, are plentiful.
The great majority of these men and women served the Untied States with distinction. That their patriotism was met with contempt, and their lives often ruined by a "blue" discharge, is a stain on our nation's honor.
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