Integration of the Air Force

Published 11:02 am Thursday, January 20, 2011

I was assigned to the Headquarters of the Air Training Command at Scott AFB in Illinois when President Truman ordered the services to be integrated.

There was no announcement, no fanfare or drum roll. We just found two black men in our bay of the barracks one evening. It was a non-event, because we knew them both, as well as a good many others. We also knew several WAFs, but we did not live with them either.

I don’t know where the black guys had lived, but the WAF (Women’s Air Force) barracks was out beyond the hospital in a restricted area. Our squadron was moved temporarily into the former WAF quarters, and we discovered that the showers and johns were in individual stalls, not wide open. I have no explanation for that, it is just an observation.

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It was fun and games immediately with our black friends. One of them drove the General’s car and the other was his “gardener” who maintained the grounds around the quarters. In those days, most blacks were assigned as cooks, to the motor pool or the Air Police squadron. Now you will find them doing all the jobs anyone else does.

Same goes for the women; there is no WAF any more. They lived in the same building, different floor, when my son was in the Air Force, about 30 years after I was..

Now the Congress has decided that homosexuals may serve openly. We had one in our barracks, but I would not have realized it had some of my buddies not told me.

Some of the rougher airmen would return from a weekend in town and report “rolling a few queers.” I then had to learn that they were not using that word the way older people here did. When I was growing up, if they commented that someone was queer (pronounced “kwar,” so it was a while before I realized what word they were using) it meant merely that the person was a little strange or weird in their ways, somewhat unlike us more “normal” people.

Years later, a choir lady informed me that the ministers of music I knew in that city were of that persuasion! (I did not ask how she knew!) Our church secretary was heard to lament that “those people” had ruined a perfectly good word: gay!

The best-selling book when I was still a youth, “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay,” was not about sexual preference, and I don’t think the line “Don we now our gay apparel” in the Christmas carol has anything to do with cross-dressing.

The saying was, “It takes one to know one,” and that’s fine with me. I don’t want to know that any more than I want to know any other intimate details of my friends’ lives.

I like them as people, not as some “designation,” sexual, political or otherwise. A friend observed that “a friend is someone who likes you, even though he knows you.” But I think there are some things we just don’t need to know, and I am not talking about what you have tattooed where the sun does not normally shine. I’m not curious about that, either.

I do have to question whether it is good policy to have women and homosexuals in combat.

Do women really want to kill people? Maybe some do; I know of one female sniper who is deadly accurate.

Do women want to risk what will happen to them if captured? Is it OK to have people making love in foxholes when they need to be alert to danger and not compromise the safety of their comrades in arms?

War is a dangerous and deadly business, and warriors are best not distracted by opportunities in combat that should be available only on R&R. Just my opinion, but think about it.

I sincerely hope that this “new order” turns out to be another non-event, so that we all can go about our lives in peace and harmony.