In the relatively innocent and emotionally charged days of the 1940s — long before the Kinsey Report detailed how many men were having same-sex sexual experiences — soldiers and sailors were encouraged to form close bonds with their fellow troops. They needed to trust and count on each other — their lives depended on it. Photographer Michael Stokes captured this all-male environment, and his work is compiled in My Buddy: World War II Laid Bare.
Most of these young men were just entering manhood. Many came from landlocked states and small towns and farms. They didn’t know the wicked ways of the world. And when it was time to relax, the tensions were explosive. Because you didn’t know whether you might live or die the next day, all the polite rules of behavior were shucked along with their fatigues and BVDs.
Cameras were rare, processing nude images even more difficult, so that Stoke’s massive collection of more than 500 images of horseplay and fraternity is a treasure. The book’s editor, Dian Hanson, is the tall, beautiful goddess of this sex-packed coffee table book for men. Its intro is written by Scotty Bowers, an 89-year-old ex-Marine who is also the author of Full Service, a best-selling memoir of his sexual exploits as a pimp in Hollywood. Bowers talks about how the war forever altered his attitudes about gay and straight.