On This Gay Day: Allen R Schindler was killed in Japan

The death of sailor Allen R Schindler sparked a major change in US policy

On this day in October 1992 Allen R. Schindler, who was a Radioman Petty Officer Third Class in the US Navy was murdered in a public toilet in Sasebo, Nagasaki. Schindler had complained about being bullied and had requested to leave the Navy.

Schindler’s superiors ordered that he stay onboard his vessel until the separation process was complete.

While his vessel, the USS Belleau Wood, was on its way to Japan, Schindler made a prank announcement on the navy’s secure lines. He transmitted “2-Q-T-2-B-S-T-R-8” (too cute to be straight), the message was received by most of the Pacific Fleet.

When he was called to appear before officers for disciplinary action Schindler asked for his case to be heard privately, but his request was denied, and 200 servicemen heard of his misbehaviour.

He was murdered by Terry M Helvey who was a member of the ship’s weather department. Hervey brutally stomped on his head. His injuries were so brutal that he could only be identified by the tattoos on his arm.

At his trial Hervey denied he murdered Schindler because of his sexuality but the prosecution showed that he’d boasted about his motivation after the crime telling colleagues, “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again. … He deserved it.”

He avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to a lesser charge of unpremeditated murder, he received a life sentence and remains in prison. He is granted a parole hearing every two years, In March 2022 one member of the Parole Commission, a branch of the US Justice Department, recommended that Hervey, now in his 50’s, who be released. The other four members of the board disagreed, and he remains incarcerated.

The case became a focal point for ensuring better protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the military. The following year there was debate about changing the laws, but military officials argued that it would not be possible to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve openly in the military.

A compromise was reached, harassments based on perceiving someone to be same sex attracted would no longer be tolerated, and officers would no longer launch investigations into personnel they suspected of being gay, but service personnel who were gay, lesbian or bisexual would be required to keep it a secret.

The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy remained in place from 1993 until 2010. In 2008 President Barrack Obama pledged during his campaign to repeal the policy. After a protracted negotiation the law removing the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ approach was signed on December 22nd, 2010, seventeen years and one day after it was first implemented.

OIP Staff

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