loretta collier ), 1990what factors drew collier H u m a n i t i e s
Primary Source Assignment #3
Read the following primary source document related to the Cold War period of the United States. Answer each of the questions below. Answers should demonstrate that you understood the question and that you have used the primary source in order to support your answers. Answers should contain material quoted from the document and/or the course textbook and provide analysis/explanation of how the quoted material supports your response. Answers should employ the standard rules of English spelling and grammar. When quoting, cite the court transcript and/or the Evans textbook in your response.
A Lesbian Recounts Her Korean War Military Experience (Loretta Collier), 1990
- What factors drew Collier to military service? According to Collier, what behavior did she and other lesbian service members project while on active duty?
- What strategies did the military pursue in the effort to terminate her service?
- What were the personal repercussions for Collier as a result of her dishonorable discharge?
You know, I never entered the military with the idea of finding other lesbians of having any sort of affairs or anything. I entered the military knowing that I was a lesbian, but also knowing that I wanted to do what was right by military standards and stay there! But, by God, when I got into basic, I thought I had been transferred to hog heaven! No damn kidding! Lordy! But I was smart enough to know that doing anything would be my downfall. And like I said, I really wanted to stay in. There was no doubt in my mind, from the time I raised my hand and was sworn in until the day I was discharged, that that’s where I wanted to be. I liked everything about it. I loved the parades, I loved the uniform, I loved… even liked taking orders. I liked standing at attention. I liked getting out there on the field, standing there at parade rest for an hour and a half waiting for a parade. I liked everything about it. I even liked KP. I even liked everything about. You would have thought that they would have been smarter than to have kicked someone out who liked KP!
I did very well. I did very well. I was up at two o’clock ironing my uniforms, and when the whistle blew at 4:30 to get up, man, I was out there and loved it. The challenge was great, and I went for it with gusto. Yeah, I was made squad leader. I remember our trainer was a corporal by the name of Tater, and everyone called her Spud. I have pictures of her and her lover, Powers, was also there, and Corporal Nichols, who was a dyke, just like they were. They were all affiliated with our flight. Even though there was never anything mentioned, you know, there was that bond that exists that is never acted upon or never mentioned. But the rapport – that was there, and I had that. Actually, once we recognized the bond, believe it or not, we pretty much stayed away from each other. In retrospect, I’m sure, it was the survival instinct. I guess we all seem to have it…
I would stay with this gal over the weekend, and I figured, now, when I put on my civilian clothes and go into Sacramento, that’s my weekend and what I do has no bearing on what’s going on at the base. So I had this relationship with Marie and there were never any problems, until right around the spring of 1953, when basketball season had ended… and the OSI started stalking me. My theory is that periodically they’d go through the bases and go on these purges. They would start first with all the women who were involved in athletics and then move from there with any info they had gotten, to snare other women.
They opened my mail. They’d get me up in the middle of the night and take me over to the OSI office for questioning. They’d look under my mattress for anything that I might have hidden, any material, letters, notes, Valentines, just anything that I might have hidden that could be incriminating. They’d call me from work or they’d come down and personally escort me back to the OSI office. I was embarrassed being called away from work. I’d just say, “I have to see the OSI,” and off I’d go and come back whenever I was released. Sometimes I’d be there ten minutes. Sometimes I’d be there two hours. Most of the time, I would say if I had to make an average, probably forty to forty-five minutes, but their short times were in the middle of the night, just enough time to get me up, awake, out of bed, and disturb my whole night…
The next time they called me in, I said, “Well, what do I have to sign?” They surprised me by saying, “Tell us about your relationship with Marie.” I wasn’t sure what that had to do with my own discharge, particularly since she was a civilian, but I did. I told them all about my relationship with Marie. A day or two passed and they never bothered me. Then they called me again and said, “Okay, now we need to hear this story again,” so I had to tell them again. I left, and the very next day, the major called me in again and said, “I’ve been contacted by the OSI, and you’re going to have a hearing in about a week.” I was shocked, and said, “A hearing, what for?” “Well, yes, in order for them to do the paperwork on this and get your discharge, you have to go through a hearing.” And I said, “Is that the same as a court-martial?” And she said, “Yes.” To protect herself, she was quite detached and official-acting. It was a pretty sad scenario as I recall.
Once the “court-martial” was in session, nobody read me any rights, told me I could have a defense counsel, or that it was my right to have somebody on that board representing me. I was like a lamb to slaughter. They asked me things like: Did I think that my homosexuality had an adverse effect on my Air Force performance and my military performance? Did I think that being a homosexual in the AF influenced other people? Did I realize that I was a security risk being a homosexual? Those were the kinds of questions, but never anything at all as far as “Is there anything you want to say?” until the end, the very end.
The entire process took about fifteen minutes, including my comments. And when I was allowed to speak, I said, “Well, about the only thing I want to say in my defense is that I don’t think I deserve this, to be released, to be discharged from the service, because I feel that my record speaks for itself, that I have never done anything injurious or harmful to anybody else.” You know, I was totally career-oriented, and I reiterated to them the fact that I had planned on being a thirty-year Waf and was exceptionally gung ho as far as the AF was concerned. Obviously, all my words fell on deaf ears…
I was pretty devastated. I was pretty numb, but honestly, I think what I felt was relief that I wasn’t going to go through that anymore. However, the down side was that the impact of an undesirable discharge had never occurred to me, neveroccurred to me. I knew it wasn’t an honorable, I knew it wasn’t the general that I was promised, but the force of it never dawned on me. But I was grateful to be out from under all that pressure and all that investigation. It wasn’t until two weeks or so after I was discharged that I realized the impact of this discharge. Two pieces of paper arrived in this envelope telling me all the things I couldn’t do because of my undesirable discharge. I could no longer vote. I didn’t have any benefits. I could never work for any government-affiliated agency or company. I could not do anything with any state-run organization or state supported agencies like education or any civil service that had to do with prisons. I couldn’t be involved in anything that had to do with security because I could never get a security clearance. I couldn’t even work for the post office! You know, all these places where I could never work, the list went on and on…