Navy Rescinds WWII-Era "Undesirable" Discharge for Gay Man

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on September 19 2011 1:55 PM ET

As the U.S. military  prepares to legally allow gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to serve openly starting Tuesday, one branch is making amends to a sailor who was ejected during World War II because of his sexual orientation.

Melvin Dwork, 89, was discharged and marked as "undesirable" by the Navy in 1944 when his boyfriend disclosed their relationship to the military, the Associated Press reports. He has since spent decades attempting to remove the "undesirable" charge from his record. Now the military will change the charge to "honorable."

Both Dwork and his boyfriend joined the Navy in 1943, and began writing love letters to each other. His colleagues, who were also gay, warned Dwork to stop corresponding with his boyfriend, in case the letters were intercepted. Shortly after, he was removed from officer training school at the University of South Carolina, where the instructor told the class that if he were Dworkin's father, he would castrate him. He was later thrown into a brig, and then evaluated by a psychologist who said he acted in an effeminate manner and had an "interest in female attire, household furnishings, and shopping."

Dwork, who is now a successful interior designer living in New York, told the AP that he had always resented the "undesirable" discharge.

"That word really suck in my craw," he said. "To me it was a terrible insult. It had to be righted. It's worse than 'dishonorable.' I think it was the worse word they could have used."

This will allow Dwork to use receive benefits like medical care and a proper military burial.

The Board of Corrections of Navy Records in Washington, D.C., heard his case on August 17, and pointed out that Dwork had an "exemplary period of active duty," and that his discharge change was "in the interest of justice."