The Naval Intelligence Service spent millions hunting a woman called Dorothy who was a friend to lots of gay men
In the 1980’s, Mel Dahl, an openly gay sailor, told a reporter that a great many gay men served at the Great Lakes base.
The Navy launched a purge of a presumably massive homosexual network at Great Lakes.
The Naval Investigative Service agents made a startling discovery.
Homosexuals sometimes referred to themselves as friends of Dorothy.
The NIS believed this Dorothy to be the hub of a ring of military homosexuals in the Chicago area.
They were prepared to do anything to hunt Dorothy down and convince her to name names.
Investigators were forced to frequent gay bars and ask pointed questions about this “Tokyo Rose”.
When one sailor acknowledged he was gay (in order to get out of the Navy), he was quizzed about Dorothy’s location.
The sailor, who was too young to know the code, was baffled.
One Air Force captain estimated that forcing him to resign cost the navy lost $4 million – $5 million (the amount required to train him).
Friends of Dorothy
Of course, there was nothing behind the Wizard’s curtain.
This “friends of Dorothy” code term originated in the 1940s and 1950s.
Ever since Judy Garland’s character in “The Wizard of Oz”, gay men had been identifying as “friends of Dorothy.”
Some believe that the phrase is derived from The Road To Oz (1909), a sequel to the original Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Polychrome (Oz) says: “You have some queer friends, Dorothy”,
She replies: “The queerness doesn’t matter, so long as they’re friends.
The Wizard of Oz is arguably the quintessential gay film.
The Scarecrow is unable to frighten anything – crow or otherwise; the Tin Man constantly needs lubing up; and the Cowardly Lion seems to prefer mincing to roaring!
Female friends of Dorothy weren’t exempt.
In the late 1980s, Vice Admiral Joseph S. Donnell sent out a memo urging the ferreting out of lesbian sailors.
He offered this helpful tip for identifying lesbians:
“Experience has shown that the stereotypical female homosexual in the Navy is hard-working, career-oriented, willing to put in long hours on the job and among the command’s top professionals.”
Wouldn’t want their kind!
Happy International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.