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Aims and Assessment


By the end of this module students will:

  • Understand the multiple ways in which sex and sexuality - understood as a field of human behaviour, as gender identity, and as orientation - have structured US military service in the years since World War II

  • Critically assess how sex and sexuality have given rise to debates within and beyond the US armed forces over who is permitted to serve and on what terms

  • Historicize contemporary US debates about the military with reference to several decades’ past experience

  • Appreciate the ways in which class, race, gender, and sexuality intersect to complicate different individuals’ and groups’ wartime expectations and experiences

  • Make robust arguments, orally and on paper, using evidence to sustain an analytic interpretation

  • Carefully analyse a range of both secondary and primary source materials, including sources produced by active duty personnel and veterans

  • Develop skills writing in different genres with distinct audiences in mind


  • seminar participation (10%). This will be cumulatively assessed based on your contribution to weekly seminars and other evidence of active engagement with the module content, including one-to-one meetings with me to discuss upcoming assignments. I am happy to schedule appointments during my office hours and at other mutually convenient times. Please email me to book meetings.
  • 1 x 1,500 word primary source review (40%)

  • 1 x 3,000 word policy position paper (50%) 

Assignment Instructions

Before you start writing, review this handoutLink opens in a new window for guidance.

Assignment 1: Source review (40%)

Length: 1,500 words

Deadline: see Tabula

Select one of the following sources:

  • William Broyles, Jr., 'Why Men Love War,' Esquire, May 23, 2014 [first published 1984] [week 1]
  • Higashi Mineo, Child of Okinawa [week 2]
  • Betty Kinzer and Marion Leach, What Every Army Wife Should KnowLink opens in a new window (Stackpole Books,1966), ch.2, pp.28-39 [week 3]
  • Elizabeth Allen, oral history interview with Vincent Manta, Library of Congress, Veterans History Project [week 4]
  • Rhona Marie Knox Prescott, oral history interview with Judith Kent, Library of Congress, Veterans History Project [week 4]
  • Jennifer Lundberg, oral history interview with Kara Vuic, Texas Tech University, Virtual Vietnam Archive [week 4]
  • Jane Blair, Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer’s Combat Experience in Iraq (2009) *select one chapter [week 7]
  • Steve Estes, Ask and Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out (2007), ch.8, ‘The Ban’, pp.185-209 [week 8]
  • Bronson Lemer, The Last Deployment: How A Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived A Year in Iraq (2011), e-book, *select one chapter [week 8]
  • The Invisible War (2012; Amazon Prime) [week 9]

[NB: If you have identified a primary source of your own that you think would lend itself well to this exercise, feel free to run your idea by me and we can discuss its suitability as an alternative.]

Your task is to appraise your selected source as a piece of historical evidence. Your review must include a discussion of ALL the following elements:

  • Author: what do we know about the person(s) who produced this material?
  • Intended audience: who do we know/imagine was the intended audience?
  • Context: when was this source produced, and what do we need to bear in mind about the specific historical moment that gave rise to it/to which the author(s) were speaking?
  • Key points of historical significance: what are the most important points that scholars of sex and the US military can extract from this source?
  • Evaluation: how rich do you consider this material to be? Are there limitations to the source's utility? What particularities should we bear in mind about the author's perspective?

NB: The latter two elements are the most important parts of this assignment. So, devote no more than 500 words to establishing key issues of author, audience and context, and ensure that you allocate the bulk of the text to your own close reading and evaluation of the source. To establish what's especially revealing about the source, you should make reference to relevant secondary literature. You should engage with some assigned and/or recommended readings from the module website, though you can range beyond these.

Be sure to provide full references to both the primary source under discussion and any other secondary sources you've used-- whether you quote them verbatim or whether they more broadly informed your understanding of the topic.

Presentation: Essays should be double-spaced, with footnotes set out according to the History Department's preferred MHRA format, and include a bibliography.

NB: Notes and bibliography do NOT count towards the 1500 word limit. Please be aware that your essay must NOT exceed the word limit. History Dept. policy is to deduct marks for essay that run over.

For a guide to MHRA referencing style, see:

Assignment 2: Policy position paper (50%)

Length: 3000 words

Deadline: see Tabula

This assignment requires you to think yourself into, and articulate, the mind-set of a stake-holder in one of the policy debates that has roiled the US military since World War II over issues of gender, sex and sexuality in the armed forces.

The task has two parts. First, you should select one of the scenarios below and decide whose viewpoint you wish to articulate. This could be the vantage-point of senior army officers; of enlisted men or women; or of a civilian advocacy group (e.g. feminist and/or LGBTQ activists; faith-based social conservatives; civil rights lawyers). You will write a 2000-word long position paper to be submitted to the Department of Defense on the controversial topic at stake.

Your paper must include ALL the following elements, clearly sub-headed:

  • a definition of the problem as your interest group sees it

  • a brief historical account of how this problem has taken shape

  • a series of recommendations for tackling the situation/introducing policy changes

  • discussion of the implications: including, where appropriate, budgetary implications; likely opposition that will be encountered if your recommendations are followed; suggestions as to how the DOD best defuse hostility

  • a brief executive summary of your report

The paper should be written "in character" to the greatest possible degree. Although you should read recent scholarship to help inform your appreciation of the complexity of the situation, your paper should draw directly only from sources/evidence available at the historical moment in question. Be sure to consult the "Bibliography" page of the module website which includes links to many useful databases and websites.

The second element of this assignment is self-reflective: a 1000-word discussion of the process by which you researched your report; a brief survey of the academic (or other non-scholarly) literature you drew on; and an appraisal of the challenges of ventriloquizing a historical actor's viewpoint, with which you yourself may not agree.

Please double-space both elements, use footnotes where appropriate, and include a full alphabetized bibliography, listing primary and then secondary sources. All three components should form part of a single Word document or pdf when you upload this assignment to Tabula.

For a guide to footnoting and bibliographies, please consult these PowerPoint slidesLink opens in a new window. You can either look at the slides or, by click "play slide show" to listen to my narration.

NB: Ensure that you pick a scenario that does not overlap with the topic of your first assignment. If you're in any doubt about this, ask! Likewise, if you want to devise a scenario of your own dealing with a different topic covered by the module, please consult me well in advance of the deadline.

Scenario #1: 1946

The DoD is investigating the issue of service personnel overseas entering into relationships with non-US nationals, fathering children, and wanting to marry local women.

Scenario #2: 1968

The DoD is investigating the exponential growth of prostitution, and also soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases, in south Vietnam.

Scenario #3: 1992

The DoD is reconsidering the long-standing ban on gay and lesbian personnel serving in the armed forces.

Scenario #4: 2003

The DoD is reconsidering the issue of allowing female personnel to serve in all combat related capacities.

Scenario #5: 2010

After a string of highly publicized stories of sexual assault and rape within the armed forces, the DoD is conducting a review of policy with a view to tackling this 'epidemic'.

Scenario #6: 2021

As Biden enters the White House, the DOD is reviewing Trump's 'transgender ban'.