Lenny Bruce’s Gay Naval Ruse

From The Smoking Gun:

AUGUST 31–After serving 30 months in the Navy and participating in four overseas invasions during World War II, comedian Lenny Bruce went to the sick bay on the U.S.S. Brooklyn in May 1945 to report that he was feeling a little gay.

In a handwritten letter, Bruce stated that he was “normal in all aspects” when he came aboard the ship in late-1942. But the “fellows on board,” he claimed, gave him much “abnormal attention,” including “feeling my body” and “kissing me.” After 15 months overseas, Bruce became “attracted physically to a few of the fellows,” one of whom he “kissed a lot but committed no sex act although I had a strong desire to.” It was the “knowledge that it was a crime against society and the navy” that kept Bruce, 19 at the time, from committing homosexual acts, he wrote.

Within days, a Navy medical officer reported to the ship’s commanding officer that Bruce told him of “suppressing homosexual tendencies and the desire is becoming stronger,” according to a May 1945 Navy memo. Bruce noted that he had been propositioned by two fellow shipmates “to be a partner in a homosexual act,” but had declined, though “the temptation was strong.”