Josephus Daniels, FDR and their ‘unprintable’ scandal

“In 1919, Navy Secretary [Josephus] Daniels – whose crusade against sin went far beyond banning wine in the officers’ mess – became concerned about homosexual behavior among sailors in Newport, Rhode Island.

“This was almost 75 years before ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and almost a century before being gay was removed as a barrier to military service. Then, homosexuality was a very serious offense.

“Daniels ordered the base commander to clean things up, and the solution he found was to set up a sting operation, using new sailors as bait. To be certain the men they entrapped were indeed homosexuals, the recruits – some as young as 16 – were allowed to submit to fellatio – and praised for their ‘zeal’ in the investigation when they did so. As assistant secretary of the navy, FDR had signed off on the sting while Daniels was abroad, but denied knowing the sordid details.

“The case erupted…. Headlines laid the scandal at Roosevelt’s feet, with the story on the front page of the New York Times declaring the details to be ‘unprintable.’”

— From “The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency” by Kathryn Smith (2016)
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