American airmen in front of Royal Lao Air Force North American…

American airmen in front of Royal Lao Air Force North American T-28 Trojans at Udorn Royal Thair Air Force Base, circa 1971-1972. Submitted by a veteran.

“On Organization Day, Simone was onstage and proved such a success that other units invited Perry…”

“On Organization Day, Simone was onstage and proved such a success that other units invited Perry [Watkins] to perform for them. He soon acquired an agent, who booked Simone in NCO and enlisted men’s clubs throughout Europe. Ever since he was a kid with the Tacoma City Ballet, Perry had wanted to be an entertainer. Now he had finally achieved his dream, in the Army. As Simone.”

Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 156.

In between enlistments in the Army, Sgt. Perry Watkins, a gay black man, developed a drag act with the name of Simone, and performed at a gay bar in Tacoma, WA. When he was stationed to a Pershing missile unit near Frankfurt, West Germany, Watkins brought along all the clothes and accessories necessary for his act. In a strange twist, he wound up performing as Simone for his unit’s Organization Day.

For more about Perry Watkins, see these posts: [1], [2], [3].

“SSG Willy Reichelt gives the word to move to crew members of…

“SSG Willy Reichelt gives the word to move to crew members of his M113 APC after picking up the ARVN troops who will accompany them. 1970.” [Official US Army photo. ID SC655904]

“Libidinous GIs hardly had to leave the base for their adventures. The swimming pool at Tan Son Nhut,…”

“Libidinous GIs hardly had to leave the base for their adventures. The swimming pool at Tan Son Nhut, for example, had a reputation as one of the most active gay cruising areas that side of Fire Island. There were usually gay men available for dating among civilian personnel at the USO libraries. For gay soldiers, Sydney became a favorite R and R [rest and recuperation] site–with those cheerful guys who could not seem to get enough of American men. Singapore also featured a rousing gay scene, although this tended  to attract more gay Australian and New Zealand soldiers, who were in Vietnam as part of a multinational alliance. The in-country R and R center at Vung Tau was also known for wild gay partying. Discharges on the grounds of homosexuality still occurred in Vietnam, but there was growing tolerance of gay servicemen there, unmatched at stateside duty stations.”

Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 149-150.

See this quote for what life was like in rear areas of Vietnam.

“Dirty Dozen,” an M110 self propelled howitzer, 82nd Artillery…

“Dirty Dozen,” an M110 self propelled howitzer, 82nd Artillery Regiment, US Army, at LZ Dottie, 1970.

“By the time Air Force Captain Bill Oyler made it to Nha Trang Air Base above Cam Rahn Bay to fly…”

“By the time Air Force Captain Bill Oyler made it to Nha Trang Air Base above Cam Rahn Bay to fly with the Ninetieth Operations Squadron, gay airmen in the States had filled his address book with the names of scores of other gay pilots stationed there. Between Nha Trang and the larger Tan Son Nhut base near Saigon, Oyler knew about one hundred gay pilots. When he transferred to Thailand, he met between 150 and 200 more gay Air Force personnel.”

Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 149.

Capt. Bill Oyler arrived in Vietnam in 1971.

See this quote for what life was like in the rear areas of Vietnam during the early years of the war.

“These acts of insolence, her refusal to date male airmen, her outspoken belief that she deserved the…”

“These acts of insolence, her refusal to date male airmen, her outspoken belief that she deserved the same opportunities that men had, all contributed to certain suspicions. As it was, the other airmen were convinced ‘all’ the WAFs [Women’s Air Force] were dykes, and they were not shy about saying so. Finally, the base commander decided to move. [Penny] Rand recalls being called into the JAG [Judge Advocate General] office and being greeted by two young male lawyers, both captains. One opened by saying a terrible sickness was spreading among the women on the base, lesbianism. Lesbians had  been harassing the other women, he said, and they wanted to put a stop to it.
          Penny did not believe a word of it. She had seen plenty of sexual harassment all right, and it came from heterosexual males, not lesbians. Given the fact the women all lived in one barracks, she did not think there was much going on that she did not know about. But the lawyer said that, yes, it was happening, and he wanted to know who in the barracks was lesbian. ‘We’re doing this to protect you,’ he said.”

Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 142.

Penny Rand realized she was a lesbian during her junior high years. After seeing a woman in military uniform, she decided that perhaps she would find women like herself in the military. Those who were independent and would not rely upon a man. She found that in the Air Force, but she also found that the opportunities she thought would exist there were not as widespread and advanced as she thought. Not only that, but the WAFs were told they were to support the men’s morale and this meant accepting their advances. Rand began to reject the acts of femininity that her officers tried to enforce on the women.

Artillery forward observer team with the 35th Inf. Reg.

Artillery forward observer team with the 35th Inf. Reg.

“‘You are not a homosexual,’ the psychiatrist told Jerry Rosanbalm confidently….”

“‘You are not a homosexual,’ the psychiatrist told Jerry Rosanbalm confidently. ‘You’re neurotic.’
         According to the doctor, whatever homosexual feelings the Army captain may have had were merely the aftereffects of the trauma he had suffered during the Tet offensive. With therapy, he would be cured.
        With this pronouncement, the psychiatrist signed off on Jerry Rosanbalm’s last physical in the United States Army. It was a strange conclusion, Rosanbalm thought. His file was full of his open affirmations of his homosexuality, but he saw the military logic behind it. If homosexuals were security risks and bad soldiers, as the Army insisted, then a decorated war veteran who, by their own  barrage of polygraph tests, was not a threat to national security could not be a homosexual. That ruling allowed Rosanbalm to retire like an ordinary wounded soldier at 50 percent disability.”

Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 119-120.

See these posts for more information about Jerry Rosanbalm: [1], [2]

Conduct Unbecoming

For those following the Pride Month posts featuring LGBT+ service members, you’ll notice I’ve been quoting one book a lot. That book is now on sale in the Kindle store for $1.99.

Go get Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the US Military by Randy Shilts. It is more than worth $1.99, an easy read that I’m blowing through.