9 Stories Of Brave LGBTQ Soldiers Who Were Nearly Forgotten By History

Published December 21, 2021
Updated December 23, 2021

Johnnie Phelps: Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Driver

Gay War Hero Johnnie Phelps

Wikimedia CommonsJohnnie Phelps was a lesbian and General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s driver.

In 1947, a Woman’s Army Corps (WAC) driver named Johnnie Phelps allegedly received an urgent request from her commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, while in Germany.

“It’s come to my attention that there are lesbians in the WAC,” Eisenhower reportedly told her. “We need to ferret them out.”

Phelps, a lesbian herself who had seen action in the South Pacific and even earned a Purple Heart, paused before answering. According to her, she responded:

“If the General pleases, sir, I’ll be happy to do that, but the first name on the list will be mine.”

Before Eisenhower had a chance to react, his secretary piped up from across the room. “If the General pleases, sir, my name will be first and hers will be second.”

To the dumbfounded general, Phelps said that she added, “Sir, you’re right, there are lesbians in the WACs – and if you want to replace all the file clerks, section commanders, drivers, every woman in the WAC detachment, I will be happy to make that list.”

She continued, “But you must know, sir, that they are the most decorated group – there have been no illegal pregnancies, no AWOLs, no charges of misconduct.”

Eisenhower, realizing the devastating aftershocks of dismissing all the women who were lesbians from WAC, changed his mind. “Forget that order,” he told Phelps.

Wac Women

Mariners’ MuseumTwo WAC women holding hands during World War II.

Though some have accused Phelps of fabricating this exchange, it’s true that lesbians serving in the WAC found a sort of haven there.

Phelps herself later declared that almost the entire WAC was made up of LGBTQ soldiers. “There were almost nine hundred women in that battalion,” this gay war hero said. “I could honestly say that 95 percent of them were lesbians.”

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a double degree in American History and French.