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Picture of SOPHIE HARRINGTON
G.I. Bill Post
by SOPHIE HARRINGTON - Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 08:34 PM
 

Following World War II, many soldiers returned home to the United States from fighting in the Pacific and Atlantic Hemispheres. In 1944, while fighting continued in Japan and throughout Asia, the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, also known as the  G.I. Bill of Rights, was passed--dubbed as “one of the most important public policy innovations of the post-World War II era,” (Canaday 935.) The Bill was celebrated from moving millions of working-class Americans into the middle class by granting access to college-level education, and home ownership. In 1945 the Veterans Administration (VA) decided that veterans who returned home with an undesirable discharge because of “homosexual tendencies” would be excluded the benefits of the Bill. The Bill changed hundreds, of thousands of American lives, and was one of the most innovative social policies in the second half of the twentieth century. However, as positive of a change the Bill was for white working class American families, it did little to change, and may negatively affected, the lives of homosexual and non-white people.

During the war, many factories were in desperate need of labor forces so they recruited black workers for skilled labor. Once the war ended, blacks were put back into their low ranked, unskilled, low-paying jobs (Herbold 105.) When black soldiers finished their services they returned home to find out that the VA kept them from receiving unemployment benefits. Segregation was forced upon black people, limiting where they could attend school and how much financial aid they would receive--they key benefits of the Bill. Black people could not attend as many colleges, and so they could not get better jobs. Black people couldn’t even get into many competitive colleges because they had received no academic credibility in their public school education before adulthood. This vicious cycle is the main reason why the black middle class could not “keep the pace” with the whites, proving why the G.I. Bill did not benefit black people, or do much to change the discrimination they faced (Herbold 106.)

Racial minorities were not the only people who were excluded from the G.I. Bill benefits; homosexual people were also discriminated against. When soldiers left the army they were awarded a series of discharges, ranging between honorable and dishonorable. The most common in-between charge was a “blue discharge,” named because it was printed on blue paper, and was a VA discharge imposed after a hearing (Canaday 940.) Basically the “blue discharge” was one awarded to people who did not receive honorable, but were not entirely stripped of their benefits-- “under conditions other than dishonorable.” The wording of the document made granting benefits very subjective to different officers. The distinction between “dishonorable,” and, “under conditions other than dishonorable,” was either very similar, or quite different, depending on who was authorizing the benefits. As a result homoesexual people were caught between being labeled as “dishonorable,” or “honorable conditions.” Homosexuality was not supported nor accepted in the army, nor in many Americans lives at the time, so they were often awarded either dishonorable, or between honorable and dishonorable charges, because the prejudice and hatred towards them. The G.I. Bill did limit to benefit soldiers who were homosexual, because once they were awarded the “blue discharge,” it was hard to find employment, or attend school. It was like a scratch to their permanent record. Homosexuality was seen as a disease; mothers of homosexuals tried to convince their sons they were just going through a phase, and it was all a part of army life. It was hard to read that the “blue discharge,” was something a veteran could never get rid of, and damaged how they would be able to live the rest of their life. (Canaday 946.) It makes me upset that people were judged or limited to social-economic benefits because of their identity. No one can chose to be gay, or chose to be straight, or chose their race, so I feel that nobody should be judged for that. 

Picture of FREDERICK GOULD
Re: G.I. Bill Post
by FREDERICK GOULD - Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 10:08 PM
 

I agree with your thoughts on how tough it was to read about the outright discrimination against blacks and homosexuals. It is important to remember that in this era the majority of the US believed gays to be not even human, as the biggest disappointments in society. These twisted ideas of who deserved rights shaped American politics, notably in the GI Bill.