Gay G.I. Love Letter - World War 2

  • BIG_N_TALL

    Posts: 2190

    Aug 15, 2010 7:34 AM GMT
    I happened to run across this love letter last year when I was doing research in school for a paper regarding LGBT history.

    Well, this letter has an ending that I'm slightly confused about. I know such letters are a rare find from this period since very few men had the courage to express their same-sex attractions in person, let alone in writing, for fear of being persecuted.

    Something has been nagging at me for a while about this letter... did Dave, Brian's boyfriend, die? It's not explicitly clear, at least not to me, but I thought I'd see what you guys think. The sentence, "We vowed we’d be together again 'back home,' but fate knew better – you never got there," is making wonder if the boyfriend died. This is the full letter:


    Dear Dave,

    This is in memory of an anniversary – the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop – curtains made from barrage balloons – spotlights made from cocoa cans – rehearsals that ran late into the evenings – and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel – perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran – a misunderstanding – an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.

    Drinks at “Coq d’or” – dinner at the “Auberge” – a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured – muscatel, scotch, wine – someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible – a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player – competition – miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms – the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea – pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.

    The happiness when told we were going home – and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.

    We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better – you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that whereever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.

    Goodnight, sleep well my love.

    Brian Keith

    ----------------

    Regardless, I hope you enjoyed this piece of history. Let me know what you think about the boyfriend's fate. I found this respective letter in a database search a while back, however 365gay.com has it posted online in article about the recent efforts to repeal DADT. The URL is... http://www.365gay.com/news/the-final-letter-a-love-letter-from-a-gay-wwii-gi/
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    Aug 15, 2010 11:51 AM GMT
    That was nice. My guess is he was killed.
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    Aug 15, 2010 12:20 PM GMT
    wow...
  • kittar

    Posts: 314

    Aug 15, 2010 12:34 PM GMT
    "This is in memory of an anniversary – the anniversary of October 27th, 1943,"

    The "memory" part also indicates that the letter could potentially be written using the same type of "in memory" found on headstones..

    Reading this, a bittersweet feeling rushes over me. It is filled with a lot of memories that were shared exclusively between the two men.. Fun memories, funny memories, sad memories... ones that could only be fully shared and cherished by the men alone. The ending makes me think of the tragedy of war... The tragedy especially of the mix of war and love. A tragedy so strong that it could cause this man, in the 1940s, to abandon all consideration of fear, embarrassment, guilt, and condemnation to write an unreceived letter to the one he loved and lost...

    Beautiful.
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    Aug 15, 2010 12:54 PM GMT
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Aug 15, 2010 1:00 PM GMT
    Amazing letter, thanks very much for sharing it with us.

    Imagine what those two felt in an atmosphere of war and absolute isolation
    (from each other). You think about that and you have an appreciation for how far tolerance has gone (not that we have arrived by any measure, but at least it is discussed and some progress made). At that time, it wasn't even acknowledged in public.... never.

    The ending is amazing. He did probably die, but I'm the kind of person who always wants to know more.... had I discovered that letter, Ryan, I'd probably want to find out who these two guys were and what in fact did happen......to both of them.

    Thanks again for sharing that.
  • hartfan

    Posts: 1037

    Aug 15, 2010 4:11 PM GMT
    Thanks for posting. Very haunting letter. The images are already burned into my brain.
  • BeingThePhoen...

    Posts: 1157

    Aug 15, 2010 4:20 PM GMT
    WOW. That was incredibly beautiful.
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    Aug 15, 2010 4:27 PM GMT
    That was moving. Brought tears to my eye.

    My take on the ending, is different. I think Dave just never showed up. He promised, but "fate" took him elsewhere. Who knows? Maybe returned home and suffered an attack of "homophobia" and he married and had kids.

    Maybe he just viewed this romance as a wartime connection.

    There are many stories of lovers parting, vowing to find each other again, only to find one of them not as invested emotionally....in a different environment...finding someone different.

    Sad but true.
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    Aug 15, 2010 4:33 PM GMT
    If anyone hasn't already, read the poems of Wilfred Owen, a famous gay British war poet (and to a lesser extent Siegfried Sassoon).

    Very moving stuff.
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    Aug 15, 2010 4:33 PM GMT
    I feel like he Dave died, since he never got back home, or he lost his courage to meet Brain when he got back.
    Thanks for sharing the letter, things like this show us how our struggles are nothing as compared to some other folks. I hope you can find more about Brian and see if we all can get to know about them.
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    Aug 15, 2010 4:36 PM GMT
    TigerTim saidIf anyone hasn't already, read the poems of Wilfred Owen, a famous gay British war poet (and to a lesser extent Siegfried Sassoon).

    Very moving stuff.


    Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" was set to nine of Wilfred Owen's poems.

    http://www.its.caltech.edu/~tan/Britten/britwar.html
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    Aug 15, 2010 4:41 PM GMT


    My Mom had posted this on her facebook...its a World War One Song from what I was told.
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    Aug 15, 2010 4:42 PM GMT
    how great....icon_smile.gif
  • BIG_N_TALL

    Posts: 2190

    Aug 16, 2010 3:24 AM GMT
    I'm really glad know everyone found it interesting - though I personally find it incredibly heartbreaking.


    HndsmKansan saidAmazing letter, thanks very much for sharing it with us.

    Imagine what those two felt in an atmosphere of war and absolute isolation
    (from each other). You think about that and you have an appreciation for how far tolerance has gone (not that we have arrived by any measure, but at least it is discussed and some progress made). At that time, it wasn't even acknowledged in public.... never.

    The ending is amazing. He did probably die, but I'm the kind of person who always wants to know more.... had I discovered that letter, Ryan, I'd probably want to find out who these two guys were and what in fact did happen......to both of them.

    Thanks again for sharing that.


    This is the sort of stuff I could spend hours upon hours at the library doing my grad school thesis on. I would love to get more info about Brian and Dave, but I think it might be close to impossible to find out who they were.

    I feel slightly conflicted about researching this topic though. I find it incredibly interesting to study this material (military history/LBGT studies), but I also find it so very depressing. I remember reading about a G.I. from WW2 who described what it was like, from his perspective, in the European theater.

    Apparently, "hook ups," in a contemporary sense, was the thing to do because you never knew if the person you became attached to emotionally would die the next day. This G.I. evidently made just that mistake and became emotionally attached to his "hook up" buddy.

    His buddy was killed one day, and the soldier said that he went to an abandoned barn in the countryside, and just cried. He said, he "was totally alone again." I got the impression that after that, he didn't make that mistake again - it was strictly sex from then on, presumably at least during the war.

    Like I said, it's really difficult to find this sort of material from that period, but I think I would enjoy it so much more to be the person who goes out to find it. From what I gather, very few scholars/PhDs have even bothered to try.
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    Aug 16, 2010 3:27 AM GMT
    thanks for sharing