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Guide to the World War II Project Papers, 1892-1996
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Separated Material
  • Related Material at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: World War II Project Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1892-1996
    Accession number: 1995-16
    Creator: Allan Berube
    Extent: 36 Boxes
    Repository: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
    San Francisco, California.
    Abstract: This collection contains the research files and oral history interviews of the World War II Project. The research and interviews were conducted by historian Allan Berube and they resulted in the publication of his book, Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II (1990), and in a documentary film of the same name directed by Arthur Dong for DeepFocus Productions in 1994.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society, except as follows: Many interviews conducted by Berube contain restrictions, see releases in Series 2. Berube has retained copyright to his own unpublished writings and his slide show, "Marching to a Different Drummer." Copyright to transcripts of interviews conducted by Arthur Dong is retained by DeepFocus Productions.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], World War II Project Papers, 1995-16, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

    Acquisition Information

    Items donated to the GLBT Historical Society by Allan Berube in 1995, with an accretion in 2000. Additional items donated to the GLBT Historical Society by Arthur Dong in 2003.

    Organizational History

    The World War II Project was initiated and directed by community-based historian Allan Berube. Berube already had been involved in community politics and in the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project (SFLGHP) when in 1979 a neighbor gave him a cache of discovered correspondence between a gay GI and his friends. This series of letters, Berube claimed, "changed my life," as they allowed him to enter "the secret world of gay soldiers who served in the Army during World War II." At that point he decided to "set out to uncover and make public their hidden stories."
    Berube developed an ambitious research agenda that eventually included interviewing dozens of gay male and lesbian veterans, reading hundreds of World War II-era newspapers and magazines, and obtaining several thousand pages of previously classified government documents. From these materials, he developed a set of ideas and conclusions, which were continuously honed through repeated presentations of a 90-minute slide show that he called "Marching to a Different Drummer." Along with the slide presentation, Berube presented his initial findings in feature articles in the Advocate (October 15, 1981) and in Mother Jones (February/March 1983).
    Being an independent scholar, Berube could not rely upon the conventional sources of funding available to scholars affiliated with academic institutions. Instead, he developed a unique and successful method for raising the monies necessary to cover the costs of researching, interviewing, and writing. From its inception, the World War II Project had been a project of the SFLGHP, which beginning in 1983 received its funding through the Capp Street Foundation. In 1985 the World War II Project obtained an independent affiliation with the Capp Street Foundation, thus making it a project parallel but not subordinate to the SFLGHP. Through the Capp Street Foundation, the World War II Project, as directed by Berube, initiated a direct-mail campaign and a monthly-pledge program to help fund research costs; the Project also established an Advisory Committee and published a newsletter that was distributed to donors, interviewees, and scholars. These unique fundraising activities allowed Berube to assemble his research and draft chapters for his book, Coming Out Under Fire, which was published in 1990. The book won great critical praise, including a Lambda Literary Award. Partially as a result of his World War II Project, Berube was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow (the so-called "Genius Grant") in 1996.
    In 1993 Berube was hired by DeepFocus Productions to work as a historical consultant on a documentary film version of his book. The film was directed by Arthur Dong and was released in both broadcast and theatrical formats in 1994. Materials produced for the documentary film project, including new interview transcripts, have been donated to the Historical Society by Arthur Dong and DeepFocus Productions and have been integrated into the World War II Project Papers.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The World War II Project Papers contain assorted research files relating to the history of homosexuals in the military. The period covered ranges from 1892 to 1996, but the vast majority of the holdings are from 1941 through 1947 and specifically relate to the issue of gay men and lesbians who served in the military during World War II. The collection has several strengths, including nearly 100 oral history interviews (from both the book and documentary film phases of research) primarily conducted with gay male and lesbian veterans; personal correspondence and papers that reveal the subjective experiences of homosexuals while serving in the military (see, especially, the Harold Clark Papers in Series 3); several thousand pages of declassified military documents relating to the surveillance, regulation, and disciplining of military personnel sexual behavior and orientation; and photocopies of several hundred published articles discussing sexuality, psychology, and military service. Also of interest are the Project's administrative files, which include information about how Berube obtained funding and correspondence Berube received from oral history interviewees and individuals who read his articles published in the Advocate and Mother Jones. The collection also includes a complete copy of the 1957 "Crittenden Report" that examined the situation of homosexuals in the United States Navy and several boxes of subject files relating to the social and cultural history of the Second World War.
    Note: Only interviews transcribed expressly for the World War II Project are contained within this collection. These original transcripts are located either in Series 2 (Oral History Interviews) or in Series 7 (Documentary Film Project, interviews conducted by Arthur Dong for DeepFocus Productions). The GLBTHS is currently transcribing previously un- or partially-transcribed interviews; these transcripts will be filed along with other transcripts in the GLBTHS Oral History Collection.


    The collection is divided into 9 series:
    1. Administrative Overview
    2. Oral History Interviews
    3. Personal Papers
    4. Subject Files
    5. Government Documents
    6. Writings
    7. Documentary Film Project
    8. Audio-Visual
    9. Artifacts

    Separated Material

    Items removed the collection totaled about five boxes and included the following materials:
    • Writings: Four boxes of duplicate and surplus chapter drafts and galleys from the book, Coming Out Under Fire were returned to Berube.
    • Photographs: A few photographs, including a publicity still from Irving Berlin's "This Is The Army," have been removed to the GLBTHS Ephemera Collection; photocopies of the photographs have been retained within the World War II Project Papers.
    • Transcripts: Duplicate copies of transcribed interviews have been returned to Berube.
    • Video-Tapes: Video-taped interviews and video-tapes from the National Archives have been returned to Arthur Dong, DeepFocus Productions.

    Related Material at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

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