The First SRS

The First SRS

By Melissa Tawn

The first successful male-to-female sex-change surgery occurred in December of 1952, when American ex-soldier George William Jorgensen was transformed by Danish doctors into Christine Jorgensen. (Two such operations had been performed by German doctor Magnus Hirschfeld in the 1930’s, but neither of them was considered fully successful and so they are generally not counted.) The Jorgensen case received extensive international publicity and led to SRS becoming an accepted medical procedure. Before her operation, Christine had been under the care of Johns Hopkins University endocrinologist Dr. Harry Benjamin. Earlier, there had been another such patient, but that case was classified “Top Secret”.


CHAPTER 1. GERMANY. It is January of 1952. The weather was as cold as the political climate in occupied central Europe. Along a road separating the American and Russian zones of occupation in Germany, an American truck moved slowly. In the front seat sat two soldiers, the driver and the armed guard. In the back, hidden by the truck’s canvas siding, sat a third soldier, Cpl. Bernard Doyle, surrounded by heavy and very secret equipment. Cpl. Doyle, aged 20 and from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was a communications specialist and the equipment he was supervising covertly recorded the radio messages sent by nearby units of the Red Army. These recordings would be dispatched to AFSA, the Armed Forces Security Agency, for possible decryption. Two months before, Director of Central Intelligence, General Walter Bedell Smith, had drafted a memo creating a new top secret agency, to be called National Security Agency, into which AFSA would be merged, though the formal creation of the NSA would not be completed until November.

Suddenly, a huge explosion rocked the truck. A large land mine, either recently planted by the Russians or washed down from the hills in last week’s torrential rains, exploded directly underneath. The driver and the guard were killed instantly. Cpl. Doyle, shielded from the blast by the equipment which surrounded him, was alive but severely wounded. Fortunately for him, the blast was also seen by an army jeep traveling half a mile behind, and within a ten minutes the area was swarming with American soldiers, who made sure that the top-secret equipment was not purloined. A chopper quickly evacuated Cpl. Doyle to a military hospital, and from there he was dispatched, still unconscious, back to the U.S.

CHAPTER 2. WASHINGTON, D.C. When Cpl. Doyle regained consciousness, all he could see was the white ceiling of a hospital room and the face of a nurse standing by his bedside. When she saw him open his eyes, she smiled and stroked his forehead. “We weren’t sure you would make it,” she said. “Welcome back to the land of the free.”

“Where am I?” Cpl Boyle asked. “You are in a hospital in Washington, D.C.", replied the nurse. "I will call Dr. Hazleton, and he will give you all of the details.” Cpt. Boyle tried to piece together what happened. He was clearly not in good shape. One of his legs was in traction, and the whole groin area was covered in bandages, with plastic tubes emerging from them. His abdomen was bandaged, covering the area which the surgeons had opened up several times. His head too was covered with bandages. But he was alive, and that was most important. The hospital that he was in was a very special one, though he did not know it at the time. It was a special closed-off area of Walter Reed Hospital, for the treatment of those patients who had a high security clearance (which Cpl. Doyle had, because of his connection with AFSA) who might, in their delirium, reveal national secrets. Three years later, in the very room where Cpl. Doyle was now lying, the great mathematician and one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, John von Neumann, would lose his fight with pancreatic cancer. All of the hospital staff and all of its doctors had been cleared by the CIA and, in some sense, were responsible to it.

Dr. Milton Hazleton, who now strode slowly into the room, was one of the younger staff. The son of a much-decorated admiral, he had studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University and was now doing his residency at Walter Reed. He had been totally briefed on Cpl. Boyle and was in charge of day-to-day care. In a slow and kind voice, he explained to his patient what had happened. The wounds were severe, but were treatable, and within a few months, should heal completely. There was only one area of damage which, unfortunately, the doctors could not save.

“What is that?” asked Cpl. Doyle.

“I am afraid,” replied Dr. Hazleton, “that your private parts had to be amputated. Your penis and scrotum were beyond saving, and had to be removed.”

Cpl. Doyle let his head fall back on the pillow, looked up at the ceiling, and whispered “Thank God”.

This was, needless to say, not the response that Dr. Hazleton expected, and he just sat there for a moment without reacting. Cpl. Doyle saw the quizzical look on his face, and opened up. “I had better tell you the story of my life, doctor. I know that it is hard for you to understand, but my deepest prayers have just been answered.”

And so it all came out. Bernard Doyle had been born in Oklahoma in the early 30’s, in the depth of the depression. His father was a mechanic, unemployed most of the time and drunk at those times when he had money to buy hootch. Even during the war years — when undrafted mechanics were in great demand -- he was unable to hold a steady job because of his drinking problem. His mother was a part-time barmaid, who supplemented her income by casual prostitution. Home life for Bernard and his two older sisters ranged from chaotic to terrifying. Bernard himself was a sensitive child who could not endure the constant beatings or threats of beatings from his parents. He ran away several times and was twice placed in temporary foster care. Somehow, he managed to stay in school and graduate, just before he was drafted into the postwar army. When he said goodbye to his parents, he wished them, under his breath, good riddance as well. He had no intention of ever seeing them again.

Throughout his childhood, Bernard had one fixation — one pole, if you wish, around which all his world turned. He was convinced that he was really a girl “inside”. That conviction, in some sense, helped him remain sane and focused. He hated his penis and testes, and once almost tried to cut them off (he backed off at the last second). When he could, he would steal and wear his sisters’ underwear, often suffering beatings if he was found out. Fortunately for him, the army psychometric tests showed that he had an aptitude for electronics and he was selected to work in that area. That kept him away from the more macho types who might have abused him, had he been in a combat unit. It also allowed him to fantasize about being a woman while sitting before his tape recorders and other secret devices.

Cpl. Doyle was sure that his story was unique, but in fact Dr. Hazleton had heard similar stories before. When studying at Johns Hopkins, he had come under the influence of endocrinologist Dr. Harry Benjamin, a pioneer in the study of what he later called “transsexuality” and had attended several of Dr. Benjamin’s seminars at which similar cases had been discussed. Unlike most doctors, including most of his colleagues at Walter Reed, he did not dismiss them as the ravings of perverts or psychos, but was inclined to look at such situations as areas of treatment. Dr. Benjamin had speculated that, based on the work of Magnus Hirschfeld, it would be possible to create a viable facsimile of a vagina and that, along with the administration of large controlled doses of female hormones, it could be possible to change a genetic male into a socially-accepted woman who, though she could not bring children into the world of course, would be able to live a more-or-less normal female life.

It seemed that Cpl. Doyle was a perfect candidate for such a procedure, both physically and psychologically. In a detailed memorandum and case summary which he compiled that evening, he wrote out a recommendation to the effect that Dr. Benjamin be consulted and that, if he concurred, that Cpl. Doyle be operated on to turn him into a woman. The next morning, he submitted his recommendation to his section chief who read it and, in the best military tradition, bucked the decision up to a higher level.

And so, while Cpl. Doyle slowly recovered from his wounds and Dr. Hazleton had long and probing talks with him, the recommendation moved up the bureaucratic ladder echelon by echelon, with each doctor in turn refusing to take a definite stand one way or another. Finally, the file landed on the desk of General Milland Rosenhaus, Surgeon General of the United States Army.

And he exploded!

“How dare you write this drivel?” General Rosenhaus screamed at the startled Dr. Hazleton, whom he summoned to his office.

“The United States Army turns boys into men. We do not turn them into women!” “I am thinking of the good of my patient,” Dr. Hazleton replied, “it is all explained in the report.” “And I am thinking of the good of the Army,” yelled General Rosenhaus. “Just think what would happen if this story got out. We would be the laughing stock of the world.”

“We could keep it secret,” said Dr. Hazleton.

“How?” replied General Rosenhaus. “Once you turn Cpl. Doyle into Miss Doyle, you are going to have to discharge him and once he or she or whatever, is a civilian, you have no way of knowing that he is not going to run to the nearest yellow press and sell his story to them. You will have no control over things.”

“But what if we don’t discharge her,” replied Dr. Hazleton. “I have thought about that, and have come up with an idea.”

Dr. Hazleton’s plan was roughly the following.

(1) Cpl. Doyle would be assessed by Dr. Benjamin and, if approved, would undergo the necessary surgery, which would be done at Walter Reed to insure security.
(2) In return, Cpl. Doyle would agree to reenlist in the Army and to continue to reenlist until the Army felt free to discharge her.
(3) Cpl. Doyle’s personnel file would be altered so that all traces of “Bernard Doyle” would be destroyed. Instead, a new persona, “Brenda Doyle”, would be created with all of the appropriate backdated paperwork. The army could truthfully claim that it had no record of a “Bernard Doyle” from Oklahoma City ever having served in the military.
(4) Cpl. Doyle would be assigned to permanent duty at the new top-security communications center being built at Ft. Meade Maryland. This would, on one hand, leave her in close contact with the medical people at Johns Hopkins so that her life progress could be monitored. On the other hand, it would also keep her out of contact with any unauthorized civilians whatsoever. She would live on base and leave it only when accompanied by appropriate guards.
(5) All files, including medical records, pertaining to this affair would be given the highest possible security classification.

This plan somewhat mollified General Rosenhaus, especially when he was assured that Cpl. Doyle would willfully cooperate with it. Reluctantly, he gave his approval.

CHAPTER 3. FT. MEADE, MARYLAND. On the morning of a warm day in late June, 1952, Cpl. Brenda Doyle descended the stairs of Walter Reed Hospital into a waiting Army car. She wore a smart WAC dress uniform, adorned with a Purple Heart ribbon. At the top of the steps, she smartly saluted General Rosenhaus, who had come personally to see her off, and gave a quick peck on the cheek to Dr. Hazleton, who stood beside him. Then she was gone, on her way to Ft. Meade, her future home.

Ft. George Meade, named after the Union general during the Civil War, is located in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Since it was established during World War I, it served various purposes, including that of a prisoner-of-war center during World War II. After the war, it was chosen to be the site of the headquarters of the National Security Agency, formally authorized by President Truman only weeks before, and was to become one of the most closely-guarded and secret military bases in the world. The fort was to become a small city unto itself, and Brenda Doyle became one of the “founding mothers” of what was to become a complex employing tens of thousands of people. Not only did she do spectacular (and highly secret) work in cryptography and signals analysis, but she also worked diligently to create a townlike atmosphere for those who lived on the base, serving for many terms as a member of the “city council” that dealt with the quality of life of the workers. She was known to all as a cheerful and delightful woman, who was always ready to help people in need. She often worked 12-15 hour shifts, but still found time, especially in the early years, to participate in the amateur theatricals (including a never-to-be-forgotten performance as Buttercup in the production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H. M. S. Pinafore”, which included William F. Friedman, himself, playing Sir Joseph Porter) and other community affairs which kept up the morale in a very small and closed society.

Over the years, she rarely left Ft. Meade for other than NSA business, except to go to Johns Hopkins for regular checkups and, as she would later put it, “having my software upgraded”. Dr. Benjamin, whom she always called “my angel from heaven” and who became a close personal friend, always regretted that he could never reveal her case, which he considered his most successful.

EPILOGUE. In 2002, at the age of 70, Brig. General Brenda Doyle, generally known among those in the know as the “mother of post-war American cryptography”, retired from active duty in the United States Army. In a secret ceremony held in the Oval Office of the White House, President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Merit for her outstanding contributions to national security. She still looked smart and professional in her dress uniform, the same as she did when she first left Walter Reed hospital. She planned to travel abroad, something that she had never been allowed to do before (though she would still have to have security escorts), and in particular visit a particular site on a road in Germany, to say a very personal prayer of thanks.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This story is fiction, and is not based on any living person. The names of several real people, such as Dr. Harry Benjamin and William F. Friedman, are included as a literary device. However, the events in which they are purportedly involved are all fictional and not based on real events. They are not to be taken as an assertion of fact. The photograph used to illustrate this story is just intended to show a typical WAC of the postwar era. The person in it has no connection with the story.

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