Fields, WWII Veteran
Fields comes across like an ordinary 91 year old.
He's serene, happy, healthy, and gregarious.
He's also a World War II Veteran, and very out and
gay. He's got an infectious smile that makes
you want to hug him like a teddy bear; and he's so
easy going that he doesn't mind if you do. The
only clue that he is someone special is the little
piece of cloth with the rows of WWII ribbons pinned
to his old garrison cap which he wore to march in
the New York City Pride Parade this year. Oh,
and then there was the little sign saying "GAY
WWII VET" which he proudly and gleefully
carried past a million thunderously cheering
spectators on Fifth Avenue and down Christopher
so many of The Greatest Generation, He was drafted
into the Army in 1941 as a Private. After
the war, he decided that the Army was a good life
and stayed in, rising right through the ranks,
over the course of 28 years of service,
becoming a Warrant Officer, Chief Warrant Officer,
2nd Lt., Lt., Captain, and ultimately retired as a
Major in 1974.
decorations include: the WWII medal, American
Defense Ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Ribbon,
American Campaign Ribbon, National Defense Ribbon,
German Occupation Ribbon, The Armed Forces Reserve
Medal, Philippines Liberation Ribbon with Bronze
Star, and The Philippine Independence Ribbon.
his training in the Army Infantry at Camp Wheeler
in Macon Georgia, he served in the Philippines,
and the allied occupation of Germany.
photo by: Tony Bretton
the Philippines, he worked tracing lost American
personnel. As he tells the story, Philippine
citizens wrote down the names, from dog tags, onto
the wrappers of cigarettes issued by the Red
Cross, and hid them under latrines during the
Japanese Occupation. In 1944, these
'records' were carefully retrieved and used by the
Determination of Death Committee to inform
families and arrange benefits.
In 1951, in the occupation of Germany, he was
an adjutant, starting his career in administration
and as a JAG officer.
was not fun to be a gay person in the
service," he said. He had to
participate in many sodomy court martial trials.
"It broke my heart," he said sadly.
But there was nothing he could do; and sadly even
today, all these years later, the same
circumstance still exists in America's armed
forces. For himself, he had little trouble
finding casual companionship. It was the
life he chose, serving his country patriotically
and faithfully, sacrificing a lifetime of personal
freedom. As he approaches his 92nd birthday,
Major Willet Fields, US Army Retired, still enjoys
ballroom dancing and spends time with his peers at
SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment).
His esprit is evident even today. When I
asked him what to tell a young gay man about to
join the Marines; he said, "Do it if you have
a mind to, if you feel you can handle it; make a
life of it. Be careful. Its a good
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