Jerry Rosanbalm

In advanced training school, young Lieutenant [Jerry] Rosanbalm learned how to break into buildings, crack safes, and take photos surreptitiously. In orientation, he learned about the brutal tactics enemies employed on prisoners of war, particularly those thought to hold important information: ripping off toenails, wiring testicles. There were insidious psychological ploys, as well. A POW might be told his parents would suffer, or that his comrades had turned against him. To get information, enemies might threaten that the people the soldier loved most would be harmed, or would betray him, depending on which version was most plausible under the circumstances. It was chilling. After they were briefed, Rosanbalm's class was asked to write an essay describing how they would respond to such tactics. Rosanbalm had decided by now he did not want to spy, so he wrote, "Under such circumstances, I'd tell them anything they wanted to know."

It was the correct answer. These tactics were employed because they nearly always worked. The correct answer got Jerry assigned to Vietnam, where he arrived just weeks after the wrap-up of Operation Cedar Falls.

M E M O R A N D U M
Munich Station, 766th Military Intelligence Detachment
66th Military Intelligence Group
United States Army, Europe

On 10 March 1969, Munich Station 766th MID, 66th MI Gp was informed by the Munich Office of the 13th CID that [an informant] had indicated that he had knowledge of homosexuals assigned to the 66th MI Gp, but would not disclose the information to the CID. Munich Station contacted [the informant] and, after five hours of discussion [the informant] admitted he had seen [Captain Gerald Lynn Rosanbalm] participate in anal sodomy with a Czechoslovakian male national....

On March 18, 1969, a secret cable was sent from Captain Jerry Rosanbalm's commanding officer to the deputy chief of staff for intelligence for the United States Army in Europe:

This headquarters is presently conducting a Limited 
Counterintelligence Investigation to confirm or refute allegations of a 
serious nature against Captain Gerald Lynn Rosanbalm, 05 336 692, a member 
of this Group. The allegations concern Captain Rosanbalm's moral turpitude, 
financial responsibility and continuing association with foreign nationals 
who may be of questionable character with interest inimical to the United 
States.... Request that this headquarters be authorized to conduct a 
Subject Interview of Captain Rosanbalm and, if he is willing, a polygraph 
examination.

Within hours, the interview was authorized.

After a short break, MP interrogators resumed the questioning, focusing on gay issues. "Who else is queer?" they asked. He must know other queers in the Army, in intelligence. They would find out, anyway. He faced life in prison, they reminded him.

Rosanbalm refused to talk any more and the interrogation ended, after 17 hours. Army intelligence records show that after about 10 hours of questioning, Karel Rohan signed a statement saying he had participated in acts of sodomy with Captain Gerald Rosanbalm.

The next day, Rosanbalm was confined to his quarters. At the same time, cables flew across the Atlantic between Rosanbalm's commander, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army in Europe, and the Pentagon in Washington. "Subject's foreign service tour is curtailed and he will be returned to CONUS [continental United States] ASAP....This action is necessary to prevent possible defection and/or to limit his opportunities to continue as a definite security risk." Another cable warned, "Because he has occupied several extremely sensitive positions, his continued presence in the command could seriously jeopardize the accomplishment of the intelligence mission of this organization."

The orders were given to bring Rosanbalm home immediately and for his diplomatic passport to be seized in order to prevent him from traveling elsewhere. Two days after his arrest, handcuffed and escorted by two captains, Jerry boarded a train in Munich bound for Frankfurt. In Frankfurt, a jeep loaded with armed guards took him directly to a commercial jet on the airport tarmac. Armed guards walked him to his seat, with the rest of the plane gaping at the drama. Jerry would be met in New York City by more guards, they told him, and they left.

May 1, 1970
Valley Forge General Hospital
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

"You are not a homosexual," the psychiatrist told Jerry Rosanbalm confidently. "You're neurotic."

According to the doctor, whatever homosexual feelings the Army captain may have had were merely the aftereffects of the trauma he had suffered during the Tet offensive. With therapy, he would be cured.

With this pronouncement, the psychiatrist signed off on Jerry Rosanbalm's last physical in the United States Army. It was a strange conclusion, Rosanbalm thought. His file was full of his open affirmations of his homosexuality, but he saw the military logic behind it. If homosexuals were security risks and bad soldiers, as the Army insisted, then a decorated war veteran who, by their own barrage of polygraph tests, was not a threat to national security could not be a homosexual. That ruling allowed Rosanbalm to retire like an ordinary wounded soldier at 50 percent disability. The word came down on May 1, one day after President Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia and one day before Rosanbalm's 29th birthday.

Jerry felt relief but no jubilation. It had been more than a year since counterintelligence agents had broken through his door in Munich, and he had spent every moment since then on red alert. Though he believed he had beaten the system, he still felt fundamentally violated as he packed his belongings for his final exit from the Army. He knew that if he had been lying in bed with a Czech girl that March morning a year earlier, none of the ensuing trauma would have happened. Rosanbalm had entered the Army believing in his country. In college, he had earned a degree in government; but once he was a civilian again, he could never believe that politics really mattered. It would be another 20 years before he would vote in an election. The government had taken a year of his life and forever dyed it the color of misery in his memory, and that was bad enough. But the Army had also robbed him of his faith in America.

Copyright 1995 ApolloMedia (tm) Corporation. All rights reserved. Copyright 1993 Randy Shilts. Copyright 1994 Estate of Randy Shilts. All rights reserved. Published by arrangement with St. Martin's Press.