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WWII Gay G.I.s recounts tale of losing their Lovers

Excerpt from the book Coming out under fire The history of gay Men and Women in World War Two: Combat soldiers often responded to each other’s personal losses with the deepest respect and understanding, allowing gay GIs to express openly their grief over the death of boyfriends or lovers. 

Jim Warren’s boyfriend was hit while trying to knock out a machine-gun nest on Saipan. “They brought him back,” Warren recalled, “and he was at the point of death. He was bleeding. He had been hit about three or four times. I stood there and he looked up at me and I looked down at him and he said, ‘Well, Jim, we didn’t make it, did we.’ And tears were just rolling down my cheeks. I don’t know when I’ve ever felt such a lump and such a waste. And he kind of gave me a boyish crooked grin and just said, ‘Well, maybe next time.’ And I said, ‘I’m going to miss you. And I’ll see your mother.’ There were people standing around, maybe seven or eight people standing there, and I was there touching his hand and we were talking. Somebody said later, ‘You were pretty good friends,’ because I had been openly crying and most people don’t do this. I said, ‘Yes, we were quite good friends.’ And nobody ever said anything. I guess as long as I supposedly upheld my end of the bargain, everything was all right.”

Ben Small was even less able to control himself when his boyfriend was killed in the Philippines. But he, too, was surprised by the other men’s compassion towards him. “We had a funny freak attack of a Japanese kamikaze plane,” he recalled, “and I guess he was getting rid of his last load of these baby cutter bomb, these little bombs that explode at about three feet high so if they went off through a tent they exploded at bed level. I had just been in the tent of a guy I had been going with at the time. He crawled into bed, and I said goodnight and walked out the tent. And this plane came overhead and all we heard was explosions and we fell to the ground. When I got up too see if he was all right, the trust of the bomb had gone through his tent and he was not there. I went into a three-day period of hysterics. I was treated with such kindness by the guys that I worked with, who were all totally aware of why I had gone hysterical. It wasn’t because we were bombed. It was because my boyfriend had been killed. And one guy in the tent came up to me and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you were gay? You could have talked to me.’ I said, ‘Well, I was afraid to.’ This big straight, macho guy. There was a sort of compassion then.”

After a raid in the Philippines, Ben Small remembered, a lieutenant who had been injured was being shipped back to the States, so the men “all went to the plane to see him off that night. It was an amazingly touching moment, when he and his lover said goodbye, because they embraced and kissed in front of all these straight guys and everyone dealt with it so well. I think it was just this basic thing about separation of someone you cared for, regardless of sex.” Small described this tender parting as “a little distilled moment out of time” when men’s “prejudices were suspended” and gay soldiers “could be a part of what this meant.”

How to fold your Gi

So here’s how to properly fold your uniform to save space, and how to tie a knot that allows you to carry your Gi over your shoulder.

Pictures pretty much speak for themselves, so I’m not gonna waste your time making you guys read long explanations, but if anyone has any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know. 

Also, not my Gi. This one is my niece’s medium weight Gi. The lighter it is, the easier to fold, but it’s the exact same process for a heavyweight.

01. Spread out the Jacket as shown.

02. Fold pants as you would any other, and place with the top of the pants right where the jacket lapels meet.

03. Fold right side on top of pants.

04-05. Fold the sleeve. If the sleeve is shorter, you may not need to fold it twice.

06. Repeat same fold with left side.

07. Fold what remains of the pants, upwards.

08. Fold the top down from where the top of the pants is.

09-10. Fold the bottom part upwards, more or less in half. Now here, especially with a heavyweight Gi, make sure you leave that gap in the center, so that the space allows for the final fold.


For reference on how small the Gi ends up, that tile is 18 x 18 inches, so the Gi ends up being about a 10 x 8, more or less, depending on the Gi size and weight. This saves a lot of space in your bag, especially when traveling, and even more when you have more than one Gi.

Here’s mine (Heavyweight 14oz) folded, compared to my niece’s (7.5)

No more huge bags, just to carry one Gi, and if you, in fact, only carry one Gi (no equipment), you can use the knot below, and you can discard using a bag at all, as you can just throw the Gi over your shoulder.


Important note: If you fold your uniform after class, and don’t plan on washing it as soon as you get home, please don’t forget to spread it out and let it get some air. You don’t want a sweaty Gi to spend too much time folded up like this, trust me, hahaha.

Happy folding, guys!