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Ask and Tell

Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out

Steve Estes

Publication Year: 2007

Drawing on more than 50 interviews with gay and lesbian veterans, Steve Estes charts the evolution of policy toward homosexuals in the military over the past 65 years, uncovering the ways that silence about sexuality and military service has affected the identities of gay veterans. These veteran voices--harrowing, heroic, and on the record--reveal the extraordinary stories of ordinary Americans, men and women who simply did their duty and served their country in the face of homophobia, prejudice, and enemy fire. Far from undermining national security, unit cohesion, or troop morale, Estes demonstrates, these veterans strengthened the U.S. military in times of war and peace. He also examines challenges to the ban on homosexual service, placing them in the context of the wider movement for gay rights and gay liberation. ###Ask and Tell# is an important compilation of unheard voices, offering Americans a new understanding of the value of ###all# the men and women who serve and protect them.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. xi-xii

Originally, I did not want to write about gays in the military. I wanted to listen. I’d read and heard so much about what pundits and politicians thought when ‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ was being debated, but I hadn’t heard from the people for whom the policy mattered most...

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pp. 1-4

Robert Stout peered through his night vision goggles at the road ahead. He was manning the m-2 Browning machine gun atop a u.s. Army Humvee. The Tigris River was not far off, and neither was the safety of his base. It had been a long night already. Stout’s platoon of army engineers had been sent to investigate an abandoned truck...

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1. The Greatest Generation

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pp. 5-28

The men and women who served in the military during World War II have become known as ‘‘the greatest generation.’’ Although there are exceptions, the majority of these veterans have been exceedingly humble about the sacrifices that they made in service to the United States...

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2. Korea and the Cold War

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pp. 29-58

It seemed as if Americans were just cleaning up the ticker tape from World War II victory parades when the Cold War began in the late 1940s. Communism eclipsed fascism as the greatest apparent threat to democracy and capitalism. Formerly allies, the Soviet Union and the United States soon faced off across an ideological...

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3. Vietnam

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pp. 59-92

During the Vietnam War era, everybody wanted to be gay—at least, every man who was eligible for the draft but who did not want to serve in Southeast Asia. Since the Department of Defense continued to view homosexuality as a ‘‘moral defect,’’ homosexuals...

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4. The Academies

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pp. 93-129

The idea for a United States military academy is almost as old as this country. In 1799, George Washington suggested the creation of such an institution in a letter to his friend and fellow Revolutionary War veteran Alexander Hamilton. ‘‘The establishment of a military academy [has] ever been considered by me to be an object of the highest national...

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5. The Women’s War for Inclusion

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pp. 130-151

Even though women had supported, fought, and even been wounded in every American war since the Revolution, they did not actually become integrated into the regular armed forces until the 1970s. In that decade, as the Women’s Army Corps (wac) and other auxiliary forces gradually gave way to a gender-integrated military, women...

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6. The Gulf War

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pp. 152-184

For gay men and lesbians in the military, the decade of the 1980s was an especially di≈cult time because of evolving Defense Department policies. In 1981 the department decreed that ‘‘homosexuality is incompatible with military service’’ and the presence of gay troops ‘‘adversely a√ects . . . the good order and morale’’ of the armed forces...

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7. The Ban

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pp. 185-209

Behind the o≈cial ban on open gay and lesbian military service lies a policy that has been continually reconsidered and revised. The passage of ‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ was simply the most public stage of this evolution. In fact, men and women within the military, the courts, and the federal government have long debated the ban. Public challenges began...

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8. Out Ranks

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pp. 210-228

In December 2003, for the first time in American history, three retired flag o≈cers publicly declared that they were gay. It is di≈cult to provide historical context for such an unprecedented event. Historians usually leave such topics to their colleagues in journalism or political science. Yet coming out for these men was a chance to reevaluate...

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9. Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq

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pp. 229-254

In the years since the passage of ‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’’ the United States has been involved in major military conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, as well as smaller operations in Haiti, Somalia, and elsewhere. Gay and lesbian service personnel have been called to serve...

Appendix 1: A Note on Oral History and Editing Interviews

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pp. 255-261

Appendix 2: Interviewees

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p. 262-262


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pp. 263-274


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pp. 275-280

E-ISBN-13: 9781469604770
E-ISBN-10: 1469604779
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807831151
Print-ISBN-10: 0807831158

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2007