Homosexuals in the Military: A Sailor Answers Bob Barr



Homosexuals at sea The Other Side of the Story

by Allan Slaff

On 13 June, the Wall Street Journal printed an op-ed piece by former congressman Bob Barr entitled “Don’t Ask, Who Cares” in which he argued that barring homosexuals from openly serving in the military was unfair, un-American and counterproductive. Mr. Barr writes that he has become deeply impressed with the growing weight of credible military opinion which concludes that allowing gays to serve openly in the military does not pose insurmountable problems for the good order and discipline of the services. With all due respect to the two authorities that he refers to, ex Senator Simpson and General Skalikeshveli, both of whom I greatly admire and respect, neither of them have any first hand idea of the sociological problems of going to sea in a man of war.

I strenuously disagree with Mr. Barr and his military authorities, and I would like very much to offer “The other side of the story”. Since I am a retired naval officer, I shall write to what I know well and that is going to sea in a man of war. I served in eleven ships of the Navy and had the unique honor of commanding four combatants including the heavy guided missile cruiser Albany all of which, by the way, were at the time considered among the finest combatants in the Fleet.

In a combatant ship our bluejackets are literally packed into berthing compartments, typically holding about 40 men. They are afforded minimum privacy even under the most enlightened habitability standards. As a nod for the need for some human privacy the modern enlisted bunks are fitted with a privacy curtain which they may close. Public nakedness is the reality of enlisted life in Navy ships and that pertains to the heads, and wash and shower rooms as well.

Our ships get underway for months at a time. The typical deployment when I was in the Fleet was for nine months and I understand that that is still typical. Thus, those compartments become the bluejackets’ home for very long periods of time. There is no such thing as going home ashore after your watch or if you are in a liberty section so that you may enjoy the company of your homosexual partner. There are of course occasional liberty ports but liberty for enlisted personnel usually expires in the late evening. The Fleet doesn’t even enter port for replenishment. All of that is done underway.

Now assign a few homosexuals into that living compartment when all of them including the homosexual are very young and when their hormones are at their most powerful and you have an invitation to disaster. It would be akin to inserting a few heterosexual males into an all female compartment where nakedness is a way of life and sending them off for months at a time. Impossible! And thus it would be exactly the same for the homosexual in a heterosexual male compartment.

As Mr. Barr correctly points out, the homosexual has as fine an intellect as the heterosexual. They thus eventually and inevitably they will be advanced in rating. As petty officers they will be in a position of powerful authority over men of lesser rating and thus in a position to exert exquisite sexual pressure on their subordinates.

For these very apparent sociological reasons it would be a disaster to change the present policy. It would reap havoc on the fighting efficiency of the Fleet and good order and discipline so necessary in a man of war. It just cannot happen.

Allan Slaff


Thank you (foot)notes:

Allan Slaff submitted this letter to the editors of The Wall Street Journal.

Credit to John Howland at USNA At Large.

Barr says,

Why? First, true conservative political philosophy respects the principles of

individual freedom and personal privacy, particularly when it comes to what

people do in private. The invasive investigations required to discharge a

service member are an unconscionable intrusion into the private lives of

American citizens. Worse, while supporters of don’t ask, don’t tell claim the

policy only regulates behavior and not identity, the distinction is

disingenuous. A service member could be discharged for being overheard

remarking that, “I can stay later today since my partner will be taking the dog

for a walk.”


You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. Larry G says:

    Your speculations notwithstanding, accepting homosexuality in military organizations causes none of the traditionally forecast harms. The Brits are now recruiting at gay-pride marches, for goodness’ sake. To quote the New York Times (“Gay Britons Serve in Military With Little Fuss, as Predicted Discord Does Not Occur,” New York Times, May 1, 2007, available at


    “Since the British military began allowing homosexuals to serve in the armed forces in 2000, none of its fears — about harassment, discord, blackmail, bullying or an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness — have come to pass, according to the Ministry of Defense, current and former members of the services and academics specializing in the military. The biggest news about the policy, they say, is that there is no news. It has for the most part become a nonissue.”

    The matter seems no longer to be one of opinion.

  2. Pat Patterson says:

    The linked article admits to have zero statistics to prove or disprove the change. It contains two anonymous stories and quotes from the officers involved in implementing the change. Hardly proof!

    What begs to be answered is how many homosexuals, exclusive of the US military definition, are serving in combat units apart from the RAF and the RN? Where the manpower needs and actual conditions are mightly different from the RA.

    I think we can look to the Athenian military to see that homosexual liasons were strictly a matter of one person having power over the other. Which as the Athenians found out limited the effectiveness and cohesiveness of their army to one and a half generations. Just enough unity to tactically defeat the Persians and then have their empire dismembered by the Spartans, Corinthians and the Thebans.

  3. Chris Beck says:

    The argument above is completely outdated and based on nothing more than conservative Christian beliefs. All Navy units, with the exception of SPECWAR are now CO-ED. Does this mean that Sailors can’t control their sexual hormones and just go around having sex all the time, NO it does not. The way our country is handling this matter is just modern day biggotry. In the 1940’s African Americans could not serve in combat because they supposedly could not see at night, NOT TRUE. Up unitl the mid 90s women were not allowed to serve in sea going combat units because they were thought to be inferior and weaker than their male counter parts, NOT TRUE. Today we go after homosexuals because we are afraid they will not be able to control their hormones, that is obsurd. It is time for us to judge people solely based on their on the job performance and understand that it does not matter if they are male or female, white or black, or gay or straight.