This article examines the confinement of Liberian women by US Army Forces in Liberia (USAFIL) for the purpose of regulated prostitution during World War II. The racial makeup of USAFIL as an overwhelmingly African American unit and its deployment to the only sovereign Black republic in Africa created what US Army officials called “an exceptional situation.” This essay explores what army leaders meant by “exceptional” and the resultant creation of “exceptional measures” to control sexual liaisons between American soldiers and women in Liberia. Sexual relations between Black GIs and Liberian women defied the racist segregationist logic used by American military leaders to police Black GIs’ sexuality elsewhere during the war. USAFIL officials consequently racialized venereal disease and prostitution to justify confining and regulating Black Liberian women’s bodies in the name of soldiers’ health, as well as to uphold their racial and military authority. Shifting perspectives, this case study then considers how women in Liberia resisted army regulation of their sexuality and what they gained and lost through sex work, despite their confinement. Finally, this essay analyzes USAFIL’s regulation of prostitution in a transnational comparative context to illuminate the exceptional authority US Army officials assumed and asserted over women and prostitution in Liberia.

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