“Unfortunately, we got a reputation for being in Vietnam only for the officers. Some of that stemmed from the fact that the Red Cross rules said we were only supposed to date officers. And sometimes we wanted to eat with the enlisted men and the officers insisted that we eat with them. We struggled with that because we really felt we were there to be with the enlisted men. It was a fine line we had to negotiate, but I know several Donut Dollies who married enlisted men they met in Vietnam.”
– Nancy Smoyer, Donut Dollie. Excerpt taken from Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered by All Sides by Christian G. Appy. (via vietnamwarera)
“I didn’t know one GI in Vietnam who was a zealous anti-communist. Just about every one of us merely wanted to put in our time and get home alive. I was lucky and did just that. But today, I’m not certain if I did the right thing by going to Vietnam. I did nothing I’m ashamed of. But I didn’t have to go, and I took part in a war that probably should not have been fought.”
– Marc Leepson (via vietnamwarera)
“Let no one think for a moment that retreat from Viet-Nam would bring an end to conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson in his address at Johns Hopkins University: “Peace Without Conquest.” 7 April 1965.
This quote, specifically the words “appetite of aggression” are meant to call to mind the aggression exhibited by Germany and Japan during the opening acts of World War II. If a policy of appeasement is followed in this situation, it will encourage aggressors. This was the lesson of WWII and immediate action must be taken in Vietnam to avoid this, so argues Johnson.
In this speech, Johnson also touches upon the rhetoric of Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King, Jr. The president also outlines the desire, even the plan, to spread his War on Poverty to Southeast Asia. He wanted his Great Society to be global, and evidence of that is seen in this speech.
“The study further found that some 26 percent of those who had received less than honorable discharges felt ‘guilt and shame,’ while 12 percent reported ‘confusion and collapse’ from the ordeal. More than half said the bad discharges affected their ability to get jobs–it was routine then for prospective employers to check all veterans’ discharge papers. In the long term, most gay GIs managed to weather the significant psychological distress and recover. The researchers found that 58 percent of the veterans who had received less than honorable discharges had considered suicide in the aftermath of their investigations and release from the military. Those who succeeded obviously were not around to be interviewed.”
Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 164.
The study mentioned was conducted by Drs. Colin Williams and Martin Weinberg from the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1972. It was “one of the first studies conducted on men receiving gay-related discharges from the military.”
“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: , , .
“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.
“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 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.
“‘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: , 
“The progay but antiwar alignment would have repercussions for decades to come, particularly for those Americans who were gay and chose to serve in the U.S. military. The gay movement was against all forms of oppression, but it wanted nothing to do with the anguish of gays in uniform. In late August 1969, a week after a land mine blew Leonard Matlovich apart, the radical You Committee of the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations meeting in Kansas City resolved, ‘The homophile movement must totally reject the insane war in Vietnam and refuse to encourage complicity in the war and support of the war machine, which may well be turned against us. We oppose any attempts by the movement to obtain security clearances for homosexuals since they contribute to the war machine.’”
– Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 96.