Way It Was
Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired
article reports on life in the military
during the McCarthy period, when the
services were actively attempting to
ferret out and discharge
In 1956, I was a
young officer serving on active duty with
the U.S. Army. Witch hunts were underway
throughout the military to ferret out
"homosexuals," who were regarded
as inherently unstable, subject to
blackmail, and likely to be disloyal to
the United States.
When I entered
the military, I had been required to fill
out a form which asked whether I had
"homosexual tendencies". The
choices were "yes" and
"no". I checked "no"
because I wasnít sure about myself.
During college, I had felt somehow
attracted to my roommate in a way I did
not experience with others. But surely
that did not mean I was a homosexual. So I
Years passed. The
Korean War ended. I was given steadily
more responsible assignments.
Commendations and awards followed.
Eventually, I was called to a meeting at
post headquarters at which I was urged to
accept a regular commission and make the
Army my career.
And then I fell
in love with a fellow officer, and he with
I was in panic.
It was no longer possible to deny the
reality of my deepest fears about my
sexuality. I was alone. If I spoke to
anyone, immediate discharge would follow.
I would simply "disappear" from
duty within a few hours with a
less-than-honorable discharge in my hands.
After a week, I
decided to consult my Catholic chaplain
about what to do. I had been an almost
daily communicant when he said Mass at the
post chapel. The look of disgust and
hatred on his face when I told him my
story is burned in my memory. "Should
I resign my commission?" I asked him.
"Perhaps you should," he
answered. That ended the interview.
interview, my sturdy Catholic faith began
to fracture, like a bone under stress. I
could not square the hatred and lack of
understanding I had encountered with the
clarity of my love for my friend and the
feeling of coherence and peace it gave me.
My friend and I
remained attached to one another for 30
years, until he died in the mid-1980s.
Twenty years further on, as I write this,
I still miss him.
As the years
unfolded, more questions arose about my
faith, and I repeatedly encountered
clerical faces filled with hatred,
intolerance, or a simple lack of
understanding. Today I am an agnostic.
I thought hard
about my chaplainís advice that I should
resign my commission. However, I knew I
was mentally stable. I knew I was not a
security risk or subject to blackmail, and
that I was fully able to serve my country
loyally. I knew that the military had
invested a large amount of money training
me for my job. And I knew that I was doing
a good job, perhaps even an outstanding
So I decided to
remain in the Army. Promotions followed.
Eventually, I retired as a full Colonel
after 32 years of military service. My
separation certificate says that I served
"honorably and well". I
think I did.