Coming Out Under Fire

The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II

Twentieth Anniversary Edition

By Allan Bérubé

416 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 46 illus., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7177-5
    Published: September 2010
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9964-9
    Published: September 2010
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4026-4
    Published: September 2010

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Awards & distinctions

Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Nonfiction

During World War II, as the United States called on its citizens to serve in unprecedented numbers, the presence of gay Americans in the armed forces increasingly conflicted with the expanding antihomosexual policies and procedures of the military. In Coming Out Under Fire, Allan Bérubé examines in depth and detail these social and political confrontation--not as a story of how the military victimized homosexuals, but as a story of how a dynamic power relationship developed between gay citizens and their government, transforming them both. Drawing on GIs' wartime letters, extensive interviews with gay veterans, and declassified military documents, Bérubé thoughtfully constructs a startling history of the two wars gay military men and women fough--one for America and another as homosexuals within the military.

Bérubé's book, the inspiration for the 1995 Peabody Award-winning documentary film of the same name, has become a classic since it was published in 1990, just three years prior to the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which has continued to serve as an uneasy compromise between gays and the military. With a new foreword by historians John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, this book remains a valuable contribution to the history of World War II, as well as to the ongoing debate regarding the role of gays in the U.S. military.

About the Author

Allan Berube (1946-2007) was a community historian and author of numerous essays and articles.
For more information about Allan Bérubé, visit the Author Page.


"A timely and valuable perspective. . . . Coming Out Under Fire, the product of more than 10 years of research, of digging into archives and interviewing scores of veterans, is the story of how—out of necessity—the military coped with this large influx of homosexuals, and how gay men and women coped with the military. . . . Particularly in the context of [the] debate over who has the right to fight and die for his or her country, Coming Out Under Fire is well worth reading."

—Doris Kerns Goodwin, New York Times Book Review

"A pioneering work . . . original and well-documented. . . . Mr. Bérubé deserves plaudits for making a strong contribution to our knowledge about those who marched to a different drummer."—Herbert Mitgang, New York Times

"Extraordinary. . . . What is most fascinating about Bérubé's book are not the cases of gay oppression but the evidence of official acknowledgment of a gay presence within the military . . . whose numbers were far greater than anyone had imagined at the onset of the war. . . . Coming Out Under Fire succeeds by describing in detail the prejudice and social change of a turbulent era . . . [and adds] important information to the current debate over the military's battle to keep homosexuals out of the armed services." —Randy Shilts, San Francisco Chronicle

"Both a classic in the field and still the definitive work on its subject. Nothing surpasses it." —Regina Kunzel, author of Criminal Intimacy

"At last, the definitive work on gay heroes and heroines of World War II. Their gallantry was in bold contrast to the cravenness of their detractors. A profoundly moving work."—Studs Terkel, author of The Good War

"A fascinating, poignant and infuriating document that affords legions of American veterans their first authentic homecoming. Allan Bérubé deserves a medal."—Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City