Blue Discharge - Association With Homosexuality

Association With Homosexuality

The United States military had a long-standing policy that service members found to be homosexual or to have engaged in homosexual conduct were to be court-martialed for sodomy, imprisoned and dishonorably discharged. However, with the mobilization of troops following the United States' entry into World War II, it became impractical to convene court-martial boards of commissioned officers and some commanders began issuing administrative discharges instead. Several waves of reform addressing the handling of homosexuals in the military resulted in a 1944 policy directive that called for homosexuals to be committed to military hospitals, examined by psychiatrists, and discharged under Regulation 615-360, section 8. It is unknown exactly how many gay and lesbian service members were given blue discharges under this regulation, but in 1946 the Army estimated that it had issued between 49,000 and 68,000 blue discharges, with approximately 5,000 of them issued to homosexuals, while the Navy's estimates of blue-discharge homosexuals was around 4,000. The period of time covered by these estimates is unclear.

The psychiatrists responsible for creating and implementing screening procedures to exclude homosexuals from military service, initially supported giving gay service members blue discharges. However, when they learned of the difficulties that blue-ticket holders faced in civilian life, they urged the military to discontinue the practice. William C. Menninger, who served as the Director of the Psychiatry Consultants Division for the Surgeon General of the United States Army from 1944 to 1946, tried to persuade the military to issue honorable discharges to gay service members who had not committed any crimes during their military service.

One press account said the purpose of administrative blue discharges, "discharges which are not dishonorable but are based on habits or traits of the individual that make his continuation in service undesirable", was the need to return soldiers to civilian life as quickly as possible: "to get the non-disabled soldier back into the nation's economic life with as little delay and red tape as possible, and to help him solve his own personal problems such as unemployment, educational opportunities or finances."

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