Between 1963 and 1966 the Navy discharged between 1,600 and 1,700 enlisted members a year for homosexuality. From 1966 to 1967, however, the number of gay discharges dropped from 1,708 to 1,094. In 1968, the Navy ejected 798 enlisted men for homosexuality. In 1969, at the peak of the Vietnam buildup, gay discharges dropped to 643. A year later, only 461 sailors were relieved of duty because they were gay. These dramatic reductions occurred during the period of the service’s highest membership since World War II.
The flexible enforcement of the antihomosexual regulations was not without precedent. From their adoption in 1943, implementation of such rules has been almost entirely dependent on the manpower needs of the services at any particular time. In his research on gays in World War II, Allen Berube discovered that during the height of the final European offensive against Germany in 1945, Secretary of War Harry Stimson ordered a review of all gay discharges during the previous two years, with an eye toward reinducting gay men who had not committed any in-service homosexual acts. At the same time, orders went out to “salvage” homosexuals for the service whenever necessary… The Army’s official history of psychiatry in World War II reports that in the Thirty-eigth Division, commanders often merely reassigned to different regiments those soldiers who made passes at other men. In these cases, the history records, “this was the last that was heard of the case”…
The Korean War also saw a dramatic plunge in gay-related discharges. In the fifteen years before Vietnam, for example, the Navy, the service that kept the only records on the issue, typically meted out 1,100 undesirable discharges a year to gay sailors. In 1950, at the height of the Korean War, that number was down to 483. The next year, it was 533. But in 1953, when the armistice was signed at Panmunjom, the Navy cracked down again with vigor, distributing 1,353 gay-related undesirable discharges in that year alone.
In conflict after conflict – from World War II to Desert Storm – the paradox has persisted: during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and a generation after Vietnam, when the United States went to war again in 1991. The gay exclusion policies were enacted ostensibly to ensure good order and discipline in the military. At no time is order and discipline more essential than in combat. History also demonstrates that at no time are the regulations banning homosexuality more routinely sidestepped.
— John (Average Gay Joe)