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"I was going to do…what I could to see to it that gay people here in Washington got a square deal." (Video interview, 45:25)

   Franklin E. Kameny
Collection image
Franklin Kameny [detail from video]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army
Unit: 58th Armored Infantry Battalion, 8th Armored Division, 9th Army
Service Location: Fort Benning, Georgia; Camp Polk, Louisiana; Tidworth Barracks, England; Normandy, France; Roermond, Netherlands; Germany; Czechoslovakia
Rank: Private First Class
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After serving with the 58th Armored Infantry Battalion in the European Theater during World War II, Private First Class Franklin E. Kameny returned home to pursue a doctorate in astronomy. Though no longer part of the military, he chose to serve his country through civil service, and was hired by the Army Map Service—and subsequently fired for being gay. Not only did he fight his own landmark legal battle, but also he became a de facto paralegal, helping civil servants challenge discriminatory rulings, and sitting on the DC draft board in order to protect the rights of gay draftees. The founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, he is considered one of the founding fathers of the gay rights movement. In addition to his Veterans History Project collection, the Library of Congress holds his vast collection of papers:

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (59 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Being asked at the time of his enlistment if he had homosexual tendencies; answering that he did not. (01:55) Stationed in England; seeing buzz bombs rain down over London; transfer to France; stationed in Normandy. (01:47) Heading into the Ruhr Pocket; seeing full-fledged, nonstop combat; sheltering in the basement of a local house. (02:29)
Transfer home; discharge; went back to college and majored in physics; entered PhD program in astronomy at Harvard. (01:53) Knowing that gay servicemembers could be thrown out; Army seemed to be finite part of his life; finished graduate work; entered the Army Map service; civil service had same policies as military. (02:35) Founding the Mattachine Society of Washington; becoming a paralegal; becoming an authority figure on security clearances for gay people; fighting cases of dishonorable discharges; becoming a member of the DC draft board. (06:05)

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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