Out Ranks: GLBT Military Service from World War II to the Iraq War

Thu, 06/14/2007 - 10:00am - Mon, 05/26/2008 - 10:00pm

“To you who answered the call of your country and served in its Armed Forces,” President Harry Truman wrote to Lt. Robert Ricks in 1945, “I extend the heartfelt thanks of a grateful nation.” Ricks was an Air Force navigator who survived several months in Dachau as a prisoner of war, and he had certainly earned the nation’s gratitude. The note from Truman was mailed to millions of American GIs at the end of World War II. Hundreds of thousands of them, like Ricks, were gay.

With Out Ranks: GLBT Military Service from World War II to the Iraq War, the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco is honoring the historic service of veterans like Robert Ricks. This exhibit, the first in the country to focus on the history of gays in the military, will run from June 14, 2007 to May 26, 2008. Along with support from the Palm Center, Out Ranks is made possible by funds from the California Council for the Humanities, the Bob Ross Foundation, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and Small Change.

Dr. Steve Estes, author of Ask & Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out, is curating Out Ranks with assistance from several volunteers. Based on his own research as well as the pioneering work of Allan Bérubé, Randy Shilts, and others, Dr. Estes hopes “that this exhibit will give visitors an appreciation of the long history of gay and lesbian military service and a deeper understanding of the evolution of military policy on homosexuality.” For more information on the exhibit, go to