A Boy Scout’s Happy Day Washington DC Gay Pride Parade

 One of the Happiest Days of My Adult Life

Saturday 9 June 2018

Washington, DC Gay Pride Parade

 

Charles McCain (center) carrying the American flag with the Scouting for Equality Group, National Capital Gay Pride Parade, 9 June 2018. McCain was an Eagle Scout, Senior Patrol Leader of his troop, and member of the Order of the Arrow, a society for honor scouts.

Copyright © 2018 by Charles McCain

A Queer Boy Scout from the 1970s Finds Pride and Reconciliation at DC Gay Pride Parade

By

 Charles McCain

At the parade dispersal point, I sobbed when I hugged Stacey Capell, the woman who had organized the Scouting for Equality group. I had just experienced one of the happiest days of my life walking with the Boy Scouts in the DC Gay Pride parade on the Saturday of 9 June 2018.

At that moment I understood how deep within me ran the pain of having been a perfect Boy Scout— and then living with what the Boy Scouts of America had said about gay males in their brief before the US Supreme Court in February of the year 2000. After hearing the legal arguments, the highest court in the nation affirmed the right of the Boy Scouts to refuse membership to queers.

“We, [the Boy Scouts of America] believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed…” 

In these lines from the brief of the Boy Scouts of America v James Dale, the BSA spit out what they thought of homosexuals. They spoke of us as immoral deviants, spiritually dirty, unclean as lepers, not fit to associate with “regular” guys. That they had refused to allow gay youths to be scouts wasn’t news. But how they depicted us made me feel humiliated.

Then came Saturday the 11th of June 2018. The National Capital Gay Pride Parade. When it came time to leave my apartment, I didn’t want to go. I’m 62 for God’s sake. Hadn’t been a Boy Scout in 45 years. Had never walked in a Gay Pride parade. Had rarely watched one for more than a few minutes. Didn’t understand what LGBTQ people even got out of the hoopla of Gay Pride. But I had given my word to Stacey, and a Boy Scout is “trustworthy,” so I went.

After locating the Scouting for Equality group, I pinned my Eagle Scout medal to my shirt. Stacey loaned me a rainbow kerchief. Other people helped me with my Order of the Arrow sash and merit badge sash. One-third of the group were older men such as myself, most of them Scoutmasters, so I didn’t feel out of place; the remainder of the group were active Boy Scouts.

At 4:30, we moved off from our staging area. Being the tallest, I carried the American flag and—unexpectedly— led the group. I worried. Was there a point to this? Would the spectators even care about us? What the hell was I doing here?

 

Charles McCain in the staging area for the National Capital Gay Pride Parade held on 9 June 2018. He is giving the official Boy Scout sign which Scouts use when repeating the Scout Oath or the twelve points of the Scout Law. 

In 1968, I joined the local troop of Boy Scouts in my small hometown in South Carolina. At age 14 another scout and me fooled around. Fear stopped us after a handful of times. Were we queers? That would make us different from everyone else, and that difference was horrifying to contemplate.

You could not be a queer in South Carolina in the 1970s.  You would have had to shoot yourself. I later married and only at age 41 did I come to accept my homosexuality.

I became an Eagle Scout in 1971—a rank attained by less than 5% of Boy Scouts. I also became Senior Patrol Leader, the chief scout of the entire troop. Because I exemplified the best in scouting, I was also admitted to the Order of the Arrow, the national society of honor scouts. I revered my Scoutmaster and the Boy Scouts. When I put on my uniform with all my medals and patches proclaiming my accomplishments I was never so proud.

In my teenage years, the Boy Scouts had been the source of much of my self-esteem and stability. I was a fatherless boy, and at sixteen a motherless boy after cancer claimed my mother. I clung to the troop like a life raft. The Scouts were proud of me. I was the kind of boy they wanted. Except for one small item. I was a pansy. A homo.

I couldn’t admit this to myself in those years. Yet had the Boy Scouts known that deep down I was queer, their pride in me would have become disgust, and I would have been expelled. In the blink of an eye, I would have moved from exemplifying the best in scouting to exemplifying the worst.

How could I reconcile this? I couldn’t. Even as I got older, it gnawed at my heart. The Boy Scouts had meant everything to me. I buried the pain deep down, never realizing how much it still hurt.

On that Saturday of June 9th at 4:45, we turned onto P Street, the starting point of the parade. Our group was small, but when the crowd caught sight of us, their cheers almost deafened me.

In the previous ten years, I’ve dealt with a series of difficulties; lost track of friends; given up being “in the life.” Only 18 months ago did I begin to crawl out of my emotional bunker. I haven’t smiled a lot. Suddenly, I had the widest smile on my face I can remember.

Through the entire parade route, the cheering and applause for us continued. “It’s the Boy Scouts!” people called. This shocked me. Gay people cared about us. Some guys in the crowd gave me the Scout sign or Scout salute. Occasionally the huge smile came off my face as I bit my lip to prevent myself from crying. Other gay people were proud of us? Really proud of us? Yes, they were.

A few people even yelled, “there’s an Eagle Scout!” The applause and cheering of thousands of LGBTQ people almost overwhelmed me.

In a moment of complete surprise, on that glorious day of Gay Pride, amid the cheering of my gay brothers and sisters, I found the reconciliation I had sought for so long. For the very first time, I knew in my heart that a queer like me could also exemplify the best in scouting. Best of all, young LGBTQ teens can now participate in scouting without the shame I felt.

Before the parade, Stacey had fastened a placard on the back of my shirt, which read “Proud Gay Eagle Scout.” And finally, I am.

 

 

Charles McCain is a financial writer, speaker, independent journalist, voice-over narrator, and published novelist. He holds a B.A. in history from Tulane University. Mr. McCain lives in Arlington, VA. His first novel, An Honorable German, was published in 2009 by Grand Central Publishing/Little Brown, Ltd. outside of US/Hachette Book Group.  AnHonGermanAmazonLink

 

Copyright © 2018 by Charles McCain. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gay Pride in DC One of the Happiest Days of My Adult Life by Charles McCain is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

4/5ths German Aircraft Battle of Britain destroyed by Hawker Hurricanes

dogfight (1)

Hawker Hurricanes fly in formation.

According to the history section of the Royal Air Force it’s estimated that Hurricane pilots were credited with four-fifths of all enemy aircraft destroyed in the Battle of Britain.

 

The Hawker Hurricane was the first operational R.A.F. aircraft capable of a top speed in excess of 300 mph. Delivery of the aircraft to front-line squadrons of Fighter Command only began in the fall of 1938. By the outbreak of war in September of 1939, Hawker Aircraft Ltd had built 497 Hurricanes from the intial RAF order of 3,500.

 

From RAF History site:

“A total of 1,715 Hurricanes flew with Fighter Command during the period of the Battle, far in excess of all other British fighters combined. Having entered service a year before the Spitfire, the Hurricane was “half-a-generation” older, and was markedly inferior in terms of speed and climb. However, the Hurricane was a robust, maneuverable aircraft capable of sustaining fearsome combat damage before write-off; and unlike the Spitfire, it was a wholly operational, go-anywhere-do-anything fighter by July 1940. It is estimated that its pilots were credited with four-fifths of all enemy aircraft destroyed in the period July-October 1940.”

 

hugh_dowding

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding (right) was the head of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, and the main architect of its success along with his deputy, Air vice-marshal Sir Keith Park. 

Park, a New Zealander, commanded 11 Group RAF Fighter Command

air vice marshal eqivalet to 2 star major general USA, UK,

 

US Bomber Emerging From Smoke After Raid

B-24 Liberator “the Sandman” Emerging From Smoke During raid On Ploesti Oil Field in Romania; THEN ALLIED TO NAZI GERMANY.
THIS FIELD SUPPLIED IMMENSE AMOUNTS OF PETROLEUM PRODUCTS TO WEHRMACHT 

The_Sandman_a_B-24_Liberator,_piloted_by_Robert_Sternfels

Aug. 1, 1943. The Sandman,  a US Army Air Force B-24 Liberator from the 98th Bomb Group of the 9th Air Force, piloted by Major Robert Sternfels, shown emerging from a cloud of smoke as it barely clears the stacks of the Astra Romana refinery during the disastrous American raid on the Romania oil fields at Ploesti.

(caption and photo courtesy of the National Museum of the US Air Force. The photo was taken by Jerry J. Joswick, the only survivor of the 16 cameramen of the operation)

 

Unfortunately, Not the Most Successful Action of the War

Since US Army Air Force doctrine stipulated high-altitude precision bombing, pilots had little experience in low-level missions. And this was a low-level mission.  Several months prior to the attack, aircrews and aircraft were sent to Libya and trained day after day in flying fifty feet off the ground or lower while in formation.

Coming in at low altitude was the key tactical element in the plan of attack on the refineries and associated facilities at the oil fields in Ploesti, Romania. These oil fields were Nazi Germany’s main source of oil, supplying almost 40% of the total. As such, Ploesti was the most heavily defended target against air attack in the entire Nazi empire. (Romania was a staunch ally of Nazi Germany).

The USAAF suffered terrible losses. Of the 177 B-24s on the raid, 53 were lost, most on the raid, some of which crashed and a handful interned in neutral Turkey. Official US Air Force casualty figures are as follows:  310 aircrewmen were killed, 108 were captured by the Axis, and 78 were interned in Turkey.

 

Despite the extreme heroism of the airmen and their determination to press the mission home, the results… were less than expected…. the attack temporarily eliminated about 3,925,000 tons (of petroleum production), roughly 46 percent of total annual production at Ploesti.

Unfortunately…these losses were temporary and much less than the planners had hoped for. The Germans proved capable of repairing damage and restoring production quickly, and they had been operating the refineries at less than full capacity, anyway.

Ploesti thus had the ability to recover rapidly. The largest and most important target, Astro Romana, was back to full production within a few months…”

 

Source: Fact sheet on low level bombing of Ploesti August 1943, US Air Force Historical Office. You can find the entire fact sheet here:

http://www.afhso.af.mil/topics/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=17993

Gay Genius Alan Turing Critical to Defeat Nazi Germany

Brilliance of gay man Alan Turing Key in the defeat of nazi germany

Whenever the “Greatest Generation” is mentioned let all LGBTQ people remember Alan Turing, the greatest of them all.

by Charles McCain (c) 2012.

 

ALAN TURING: The Greatest Warrior of Them All

Copyright (c) by Charles McCain. Originally written and published on 7 June 2010 by Charles McCain and reposted by GayPolitics.com. 

In 1952, the man who discovered the Ultra Secret was convicted of “charges of committing acts of gross indecency with another man.” The defendant was a rumpled Cambridge mathematics professor who had done something important in the war. Still did a bit of secret work for the government. He looked a regular sort of chap but he wasn’t – he was a poof, a Nancy boy, a queer.

The judge gave him two choices: prison or chemical castration through the injection of female hormones. This to one of the handful of men responsible for Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two – a man whose ideas changed our world. He chose the humiliation of being injected with estrogen – the doses so high he developed breasts.

Upon conviction, his security clearance was revoked by the British Government and he was dismissed. Men, straight men – the ones who ran the intelligence establishment – were happy to see him go, no doubt. Don’t need that sort around. Did something very hush-hush during the war. Not sure what exactly. Good riddance to bad trash.

Alan Turing

But they couldn’t let this man just wander off. He knew too much – about what, no one actually knew. What this man had done in the war was so beyond ‘top secret’ the British government had created a fourth level of secrecy. Prime Minister Winston Churchill is thought to have said, “this is so secret it must ever be the Ultra Secret.” And Ultra it became, the very highest level of security in Great Britain. Only a very few men in the world knew the entire scope of this mind-boggling secret. Alan Turing was one of those men.

Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces in Europe, considered the Ultra Secret, “decisive” to our victory over Nazi Germany. Yet only a few of his subordinates ever saw intelligence from Ultra and while they knew it was absolutely reliable they had no idea where it came from. It was so secret, so critical to victory, we still don’t know the lengths to which the Allies went to protect it.

Did we assassinate men and women in German-occupied Europe who may have known one small detail of the Ultra-Secret? Most certainly. Mount hundreds of military operations to protect the secret by deceiving the Germans as to the origin of our intelligence? Yes.

Did our most senior political and military leaders lie, violate the ‘rules of war’, deceive our own commanders,  authorize the pilfering and reading of diplomatic mail, order the death of anyone who may have been able to tell the Germans we knew the secret? Yes. Do we know the details? No, they have never been released to this day. The only thing we know for certain is this: the Allies did everything and went to every length to protect the Ultra-Secret uncovered by Alan Turing.

Alan Turning MemorialAfter Turing had his security clearance revoked, MI5, the British Internal Security agency, as ignorant as they were small-minded, watched him constantly because he knew the Ultra-Secret – although they didn’t use that term since the designation of Ultra was itself Ultra Secret. They trailed him, harassed him, treated him with the worst kind of contempt – because he was a fruit, a homo, a faggot. Treated him so badly, in fact, that in March of 2009, just over one year ago, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official apology on behalf of the British Government for the way Alan Turing had been treated simply because he was gay.

Unfortunately, Her Majesty’s Government was fifty-five years too late. On 7 June 1954, police reported that a Cambridge mathematics professor named Alan Turing had committed suicide by biting into an apple laced with cyanide. Was he so depressed he committed suicide? His mother and his brother said no nor did they ever accept the explanation given by the police. So the speculation continues: did he kill himself or was he killed? If so, who killed him?

In 1974 the British government authorized the publication of a book simply titled The Ultra Secret. What the book revealed was so shocking, so incredible, so unimaginable it changed everything we knew about the Second World War. And what it revealed was this: during World War Two the British, and later the Americans, read almost 90% of all top secret German radio traffic – and the Germans used radio as their primary method of communication.

Because of gay activists in London, we also learned something else: the key player in the Ultra Secret was a gay man named Alan Turing.

Enigma MachineAnd this is how it helped us: “During the great campaigns on land or in desperate phases of the war at sea, exact and utterly reliable information could thus be conveyed, regularly and often instantly, mint-fresh, to the Allied commanders.” wrote historian Ronald Lewin in Ultra Goes To War.

Often we decrypted Ultra messages as fast as the Germans did. And what did we learn? Almost everything: battle plans, dates of attack, the position of every ship, plane, U-Boat, soldier – we knew almost all. And we knew it all because of a homosexual named Alan Turing.

To prevent anyone from understanding the secret information they were broadcasting, the German armed forces used a coding machine so complex the British called it the Enigma. It was unbreakable. Completely and totally secure. Only it wasn’t. Why? Because in one of his many flashes of genius, mathematician Alan Turing, who was working for the British military, figured out how to crack messages coded by the Enigma.

There was a small hitch. In order to perform the actions required to crack the Enigma, Turing had to invent a machine of some sort – a machine which had never existed before. The Oxford Companion to World War Two gives this bland explanation: “Turing, Alan (1912-1954). British mathematician whose theories and work … resulted in the modern computer.”

Today, the ‘Nobel Prize’ of the computing world is the Turing Award—so named to honor Alan Turing as the father of the computer age. It is awarded annually by the Association of Computer Manufacturers and carries a prize of $1 million dollars.

He changed the world. Yet few gay men or gay women know of him.

Turing worked for the British military and naturally had clearance for Ultra since he created it. Yet even with Turing on our side, even knowing all we did, it still required the combined might of the three strongest nations in the world – Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union – to defeat Nazi Germany.

What if we hadn’t known as much as we did? What if Alan Turing hadn’t cracked the Enigma, invented the computer, and given us the Ultra-Secret? What if the British military had not hired Turing because of his homosexuality? The alternative is unthinkable.

Somehow gay people are left out when the ‘Greatest Generation’ is honored. Let us therefore insist, beginning from this very moment, that whenever the ‘Greatest Generation’ is remembered, we remember Alan Turing, the greatest of them all.

You can read more about Alan Turing on the BBC here:      BBCAlanTuring

 

[This article first appeared on 7 June 2010 before the repeal of DADT on GayPolitics.com 

[Editor’s note from GayPolitics.com: In light of the ongoing debate over whether openly gay people should be able to serve in the U.S. armed forces, it’s worth remembering that gay people already serve with distinction, and that some of those discharged for being gay may have taken with them extraordinary skills or talents necessary for success in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Author Charles McCain, a World War II expert guest posting here, contributes the following commentary about one such hero, whose incalculable contribution to the Allied effort to defeat Hitler’s Germany is not widely known.]

Images courtesy of TechFest–AV Techonology Blog, and Wikipedia. More information can be found at Alan Turning’s biographer’s website at http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/

Author, financial writer, historian, and speaker, Charles McCain, is an authority on World War Two. As a proud gay man, he often speaks and writes about Alan Turing’s incredible contribution to Allied victory. He is the author of An Honorable German, a World War Two naval epic published by GCP/Hachette in 2009.