“Instructor gives conditioning exercises to aviation cadets at pre-flight school, Iowa City, Iowa.” September 1942; Iowa City, Iowa; photograph unattributed; 80-G-473132

Hi –

Earlier this year BLUE magazine of Australia commissioned me to review a newly published book of old photos titled AT EASE.

AT EASE sold extraordinarily well to men who (like me) derive a particular kick from “iconic” vintage images of sailors and Marines in and out of uniform. But it bothered me that few, if any, other reviewers found it at all disturbing that conspicuously censored from this 160-page pictorial subtitled NAVY MEN OF WAR WORLD II is any unpleasant reminder of, you know, WAR.

The above photo is not from AT EASE. Obviously?

It’s in color. Not to mention the telltale late-20th-century barracks-as-motor-lodge furnishings.

But it’s fascinating to consider how much these photos have in common. Beyond the seemingly “classic,” “timeless” apparently inherently homoerotic aspect of buddy portraits among brothers-in- arms, there is the unsettlingly seductive anonymity:

The photos in AT EASE are “public domain” images inexpensively obtainable via the National Archives.

The digital “pics” of the two Marines have been so widely circulated on the internet that it’s “fair use” to publish them in an essay addressing similiarities with and differences from combat zone photos taken 60 years previous.

The most instructive difference between then and now? I would suggest: who’s behind the camera.

BATTLE BUDDIES

. . . is the working title of the third volume in Alex Buchman’s AUTHENTIC ACCOUNTS OF SEX IN THE ARMED FORCES series. The theme is love among (/ with) military men in wartime.

By the way, if you were hoping to contribute to Buchman’s book but missed the deadline, don’t feel too badly — so did I! And the deadline has now been extended to 31 DEC 05. To download the call for submissions in .rtf format click buchman-call-III

Apropos Alex, a couple months back he made his first-ever bookstore appearance, reading Dink Flamingo’s chapter from BARRACKS BAD BOYS, in our ex- adopted hometown San Diego, in a double bill with Rich Merritt — author of SECRETS OF A GAY MARINE PORN STAR.

And apropos Rich — not until he got back in touch with me last year did I even remember the roll of film he asked me to shoot of him . . . that Sunday he took me to brunch at the Officer’s Club on Coronado? In any event, I’m very honored that he chose to include this “vanity shot” in his first book.

Ironically, I took relatively few photos in San Diego — and only began to play at being a professional photographer after I moved to Bremerton. Some of the messier details of how this came about are confessed in my contribution to BARRACKS BAD BOYS. It’s a huge honor for both Alex Buchman and me that this story, “Trouble Loves Me,” has been singled out for inclusion as the final chapter in BEST GAY EROTICA 2006. (Thank you, Editor Richard Labonté and this year’s judge mattilda!)

The same month — next month, November 2005 — sees the publication by Simon & Schuster of a special US edition of Mark Simpson’s wonderful SAINT MORRISSEY. Not merely “reissued/ repackaged,” but augmented by a photo insert with captions to live by….

“The third sex has been tried and failed” happens to be one of the themes of my own new book-in-progress. . . .

“Use photography as a weapon” was the motto of John Heartfield, creator of this anti-Nazi propaganda image from 1934.

As some of you know, at age 21 I left my hometown Grand Rapids, Michigan to “chase” the first great love of my life — my best friend from high school — who was stationed at a US Army base near Frankfurt. With the unexpected result that Germany became a second home, and which I only left nine years later, after the end of the Cold War and the start of the Gulf Wars.

In Frankfurt, concomitant with acquiring a passion for American military men, through the inadvertent influence of my friend Heinz I also came to love . . . cognac! And, slowly, the German language.

Fast forward: last year I accepted a commission to author a book on the nightmarishly complex / contradictory history of homoeroticism / homosexuality in National Socialist Germany.

Surpisingly, or maybe not, more than a little of my research so far has a lot to tell us about today.

Thanks for your support and patience: Bill, DC, DF, DG, DL, DTS, DVZ, EG, HK, JLB, KJ, KO, MS, MBS, RHF, RM, RR, SL, SK . . .

– Steve