Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
War and Society
Gay men and women have existed in the United States and in the armed forces much longer than legally and socially permitted. By World War II, a cultural shift began within the gay communities of the United States as thousands of gay men and women enlisted in the armed forces. Military policies barred gay service members by reinforcing stereotypes that gay men threatened the wellbeing of other soldiers. Such policies fostered the idea that only particular kinds of men could adequately serve. There were two opposing outcomes for the service of returning gay and lesbian veterans. For many hiding their sexuality from public view, they were granted benefits for their service to the country. For others not as lucky, they received nothing and were stripped of their benefits and rank. With the benefits of the new GI Bill, millions of veterans attended schools and bought homes immediately after the war, and the 1950s marked a new era in the course of the United States. But the Cold War’s deep fear of communism and subversives gripped the United States at the highest levels of government and permeated to the rest of society.
This thesis examines the experiences of gay men and women in the American military in World War II and the early Cold War. Particularly after World War II, their experiences as veterans were not only limited to their time in service, but extended far into their civilian lives. This research primarily incorporates scholarly sources from 1981 to present with early gay magazines of the 1950s and 1960s and other archival materials available through the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.
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Barbera, Gianni, "Denied to Serve: Gay Men and Women in the American Military and National Security in World War II and the Early Cold War" (2019). War and Society (MA) Theses. 3.